Custom Search

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Rio hails Wazza impact

Rio Ferdinand says the introduction of Wayne Rooney swung the FA Cup third round tie at Aston Villa in United's favour.

Up until Rooney's arrival as a substitute in the 70th minute, the Reds had struggled to create any real openings during a somewhat dull match.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck the killer blow, however, nine minutes from time, bundling home Ryan Giggs' cross, before Rooney sealed a 2-0 victory with a low drive past Scott Carson.

"Wayne is a fantastic footballer with bundles of energy. He may have missed the last couple of games [with a virus], but he looked very fresh when he came on and I think he was the difference," Ferdinand told BBC Sport.

"We always knew it was going to be a tough game, but I thought we were grinding them down gradually in the second half and we had a lot of possession.

"When Wayne came on, the openings started to come and thankfully we managed to stick the ball in the back of the net."

Some in the football world have questioned the importance of the FA Cup in the build-up to this season's third round fixtures, but Ferdinand insists it's a special tournament and remains one of United's major priorities.

"The FA Cup is up there with the top trophies to win," he declared. "We don't go into any competition thinking that we don't care about the tournament - I think that's very disrespectful.

"No matter what team goes out there to play for Manchester United, we want to win. We never go anywhere and try and settle for a draw. It's not in our nature to do that and the manager wouldn't settle for that either.

"We came here to win and thankfully we did that. Hopefully we can go on a run in the Cup because to win it would be fantastic." Read more...

Rooney salutes away fans

Wayne Rooney praised United's away supporters after more than 7,000 of them helped the Reds to win a tight FA Cup tie at Aston Villa.

Like his manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the goalscoring substitute feels the noise generated by the fans is a key factor in the club’s excellent record of 11 straight wins at Villa Park.

Rooney told MUTV: “It (the support) is brilliant. Some teams struggle to fill the away end in a Premier League match. Obviously we get more tickets in the Cup but we’ve filled it again.

"It’s a fantastic effort from the fans. The atmosphere’s always good. I enjoy playing at Villa Park and we’ve certainly deserved our wins here.”

United deserved their latest victory at Villa Park by virtue of being more clinical in front of goal. But Rooney believes the game could have gone either way until Cristiano Ronaldo finally drew first blood in the 81st minute.

"It was an even game and towards the end, it looked like going to a replay," said Wayne.

"We did well to keep going and Ronaldo did well to get in the box and put us in a winning position. We were so thankful to get the first goal because we knew then the game would open up a bit more for a few more chances."

When Rooney converted one of those chances, it took his tally for the season to 11 goals for club and country - not bad in a campaign blighted by breaks for injury and illness.

"It’s been a stop-start season for me. But I’m looking forward to getting in a full week of training before the Newcastle game.

"Hopefully I’ll be playing regularly again now and helping us to win trophies."

Rooney would certainly love the FA Cup to be on his list of trophies won, having lost his two finals so far in 2005 and 2007.

"To lose an FA Cup final is horrible, it’s disappointing," said Wayne, recalling the agonisingly unlucky defeats to Arsenal and Chelsea.

"Hopefully we can go all the way this time, it’s a boyhood dream of mine to win the FA Cup." Read more...

Boss salutes dogged defence

Sir Alex Ferguson took time to praise his back four after the Reds' defence stood firm at Villa Park to help United book their place in the FA Cup fourth round.

Edwin van der Sar had little to do during a lacklustre 90 minutes, thanks in the main to the dogged displays in front of him from Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra.

Sir Alex was delighted with the 2-0 victory over Martin O'Neill's side - earned through late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and substitute Wayne Rooney - and saluted a resolute performance from his defenders.

"It was an absolutely magnificent performance from all of them," he told MUTV. "We never looked like losing a goal which is crucial in a tight cup tie. And especially when you look at the good form Aston Villa have been in.

"So it was important that we didn't give them any encouragement and the defence can take great credit for that.

"There was nothing in it in the first half and to be honest as the game went on I couldn't see a goal coming," added Sir Alex. "We didn't have any really great chances up until the first goal from Ronaldo.

"Villa had doubled-up on him all day and never made it easy for the boy. But he's always likely to do what he did and that goal opened things up for us because it forced them to try and get back into it. It's a great result and we're very pleased."

Wayne Rooney's introduction in the 70th minute made the difference and Sir Alex was delighted with the striker's contribution.

"He changed the game," declared the boss. "He brought a sudden thrust of enthusiasm and direct play through the way he attacked their defenders.

"We've been looking for a new Solskjaer to come off the bench for a few years now," joked the boss. "No really though, he made a heck of a difference when he came on."

The manager was also keen to heap praise on United's travelling faithful, around seven thousand of whom made the journey to the Midlands.

"They were absolutely fantastic," he said. "Every time we come to Villa Park whether it be for an FA semi-final or a league match they're always really up for it and that makes a difference to the team.

"I made that point last week [after the Birmingham game]. And when our fans are like they were today we don't let them down." Read more...

Aston Villa Vs. Manchester United Result Report

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney both scored in the last ten minutes as United bucked up to book their place in the FA Cup fourth round.

The Portuguese star stole in front of Aston Villa full-back Wilfred Bouma to prod home the first goal from Ryan Giggs's low cross in the 81st minute, just when a dour tie seemed destined for a replay at Old Trafford. And when Ronaldo's 89th minute shot was initially blocked, substitute Rooney drilled the rebound past Scott Carson - this just moments after the Villa keeper had made a double save from Michael Carrick.

With only stoppage time remaining, there was really no time for Martin O'Neill's side to recover - especially a side that seemed devoid of any real attacking threat. United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar had even less to do than he did in his previous appearance, when he kept a clean sheet at Liverpool in mid-December.

Van der Sar's return was one of four changes to the team which narrowly defeated Villa’s arch-rivals Birmingham on New Year’s Day. Ryan Giggs replaced Nani, Louis Saha deputised for the injured Carlos Tevez and Wes Brown - the subject of a rejected bid from Newcastle - returned at right-back at the expense of John O’Shea.

Anderson fired the first shot across Villa's bows when he burst forward from midfield in the fifth minute. The Brazilian travelled a similar distance to Giggs in his epic ’99 goal on the same ground but unlike Arsenal, Aston Villa didn’t present a string of defenders for the United attacker to slalom around. Carson blocked Anderson's shot, although it was too strong for the Villa keeper to clutch it at the first time of asking.

With Giggs operating through the middle to support Saha, it made room for Ji-sung Park to catch the eye on the left flank in the first half. Moments after delivering one menacing cross which Carson did well to claim, the Korean laid a neat pass into the path of his pal Patrice Evra. The French left-back fizzed the ball into the box and Giggs met it with a header that packed a punch but lacked precision.

Giggs had a more clear-cut opportunity on the brink of half-time when Ronaldo drove in a fierce shot from the left. England goalkeeper Carson could only parry the ball into his opponent's path but unlike the Croatians in November, the United captain couldn’t capitalise and his clumsy half-volley crawled wide of the far post.

At the other end, any hopes that Gabriel Agbonlahor had of impressing new England coach Fabio Capello were crushed by the experience and strength of Nemanja Vidic. The Italian will have scribbled down Rio Ferdinand's name, however, after the England defender restricted Villa's John Carew to one shot into the side netting.

The first 45 minutes were surely the poorest half seen in the four recent meetings between United and Villa at this stage of the competition. And the cagey tie barely improved after the break, at least not until Sir Alex Ferguson gave the noisy away fans the personnel change they were chanting for.

Rooney came on for Park in the 70th minute and was soon involved in United's best move of the match, a long one-two with Ronaldo which ended with the sub striking a great shot just over the crossbar.

Another of Villa's young England hopefuls Ashley Young may have fired a shot just inches wide but United looked much the better - and fitter - side as the game entered its decisive final phase. The introduction of Rooney - scorer of two league goals at Villa Park in October - made all the difference. It even seemed to perk up his sidekick Ronaldo who scored the first goal and then assisted the second.

In the brief spell between United's goals, Villa sub Craig Gardner went close with a header from Gareth Barry's superb left-wing cross but van der Sar and the visitors were not to be beaten. Certainly not at Villa Park, where the Reds remain undefeated since 1995 in all but one League Cup tie. With the firepower of Ronaldo and Rooney and a water-tight defence in which Ferdinand and Vidic excel, few would bet against the Reds returning to their favourite away ground next April for another FA Cup semi-final.

Aston Villa: Carson; Mellberg, Laursen, Davies, Bouma (Gardner, 83); Petrov (Maloney, 75), Reo-Coker, Barry, Young; Agbonlahor, Carew (Moore, 64).
Subs not used: Taylor, Knight.

Bookings: None.

United: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Carrick, Anderson, Park (Rooney, 70); Giggs (O'Shea, 90), Saha (Hargreaves, 79).
Subs: Heaton, Nani.

Bookings: None.