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Friday, January 11, 2008

Trio suffer knocks

Owen Hargreaves and Gary Neville are major doubts for United's Barclays Premier League clash with managerless Newcastle United on Saturday, but Louis Saha has an outside chance of making the squad.

Neville strained his hamstring during his comeback for the Reserves in mid-week, while Hargreaves injured his ribs in training.

Saha also picked up a knock in the build-up to Saturday's tea-time clash, but Sir Alex Ferguson says the striker could be involved against the Geordies.

"Louis got a knock in training, but hopefully he'll be okay - we're going to have a look at him later," revealed the boss at his pre-match press conference.

"Gary's hamstring was a bit tight at half-time in the Reserves game the other night. The weather conditions were appalling and the pitch was very heavy so we decided to take him off. Nevertheless, it was a good start for him.

"Owen got a knock in training in the ribs and is doubtful for Saturday. Chris Eagles is definitely out after picking up a thigh injury also in training. The number of training injuries we've had is amazing. But everyone else is fine."

Earlier this week Sir Alex was looking forward to facing his big pal Sam Allardyce, but after just eight months in charge at St. James' Park Allardyce left the club by mutual consent on Wednesday evening.

Sir Alex admits he finds it hard to believe he's discussing yet another managerial casulty this season.

"Eight times this season I've had to talk about a Premier League manager leaving their jobs and every time I say there's a lack of patience from clubs," he explained.

"I think it's a modern day trend - people today have not got the patience and the unfortunate thing for Sam was he was appointed by a different chairman [Freddy Shepherd] to the one that's there now. That was probably the most dangerous part about the situation he found himself in.

"I don't really know what to make of the game itself," he added. "Sometimes when a team loses a manager and appoints a new one it can be difficult [for the opposition] as we found when we played West Ham last season [after Alan Curbishley took over].

"But obviously in Newcastle's case they don't have a new manager yet, Nigel Pearson is taking the team for the day. Hopefully, we can do what we have to do and get the win." Read more...

Gill: Ronny's here for good

Cristiano Ronaldo will not be sold to Real Madrid, United chief executive David Gill has insisted.

Tabloid reports have surfaced in recent weeks linking the reigning La Liga champions with a £50million bid for the Portuguese superstar, but Gill is adamant that no amount of money would convince United to part with the 22-year-old.

"There’s no chance of us selling him," said Gill. "Absolutely no way, whatever the money. He signed a new contract last season to 2012 and we are not a selling club. Alex Ferguson has never let a player go when he was not happy to do so."

Ronaldo has been repeatedly linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu in recent seasons, but Gill insists that the winger is already at the right club to showcase his incredible talent.

"Cristiano is happy here," he said. "Alex and Carlos Queiroz know his mind and what he’s about. Everything about him is Manchester United. He’s like George Best, Eric Cantona. You can’t sell players like that and we are not going to sell players like that." Read more...

Manchester United Vs. New Castle Match Preview

Striker Wayne Rooney is convinced the current Manchester United squad is stronger than any he has been involved in since his arrival from Everton in 2004. Rooney expressed a similar view at the start of the campaign and since then Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed the present group of Red Devils has more strength in depth than any squad in his 21 years at Old Trafford.

Although United head into Saturday's clash with Newcastle two points adrift of Premier League leaders Arsenal, they have done so by withstanding a number of long-term injuries, including Paul Scholes, who has been out since mid-October and captain Gary Neville, who has not played a first team game all season. With Arsenal now about to embark on a period without key defenders Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, who have gone to represent the Ivory Coast at the African Nations Cup, it is the Gunners' turn to be tested, with Rooney believing United have already proved their durability.

``This is definitely the strongest squad I have been involved in,'' Rooney told Inside United. ``I think that has been proved by the way in which players have come in and performed when someone has been out with an injury. ``We have dealt with setbacks like that very well. That is when you see the strength of the squad. ``I think being champions has given us a lot of confidence. The pressure to succeed is still there especially as every team we play always wants to do well against us. But there is a real belief in the dressing room.''

The summer arrivals of Nani, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves has had a major impact on Ferguson's squad, although of all the new arrivals, it is Carlos Tevez who has dazzled the most. Many pundits predicted Tevez and Rooney were too alike to form an effective partnership but those views have long since been dismissed. Nineteen goals between them so far this season may be only the same figure as Cristiano Ronaldo has managed on his own but considering Rooney has suffered a broken foot and an ankle injury already this term, the figure is hugely impressive.

``I definitely believed our partnership would work out,'' he said. ``Carlos is a great player. He has done really well since he joined the club and I think we are working well together. ``Our partnership proves that all good players can play together no matter how similar you are.'' Not that Rooney is entirely happy with his own form this season. Given his first injury came in the opening match of the campaign against Reading, it is little wonder the 22-year-old views this year as a 'bit stop-start'.

Even before he got the second problem, in a freak training ground accident, when he was on a blistering run of nine goals in nine games for club and country, the Merseysider did not feel he was on top form. ``In terms of goalscoring, it was the best period of my career,'' he said. ``When you are on a run like that you go into every game believing you will get chances and that you will put them away. ``But overall, I don't actually think I was playing at my best.''

Now though, Rooney is hoping to remain fully fit for the remainder of the season, which would certainly be a major boost to Ferguson as he looks to steer United towards back-to-back titles and the 10th during his time as manager. After picking up just two points from their opening three matches, Rooney admitted the situation did not look great in mid-August. But a couple of familiar United surges have brought them back into contention and if they can record a 12th straight home win in the league this term against the managerless Magpies, Rooney and his team-mates will begin scenting championship glory again.

``We had a poor start to the season and even after the first month or so I think we were all worried that we had already dropped quite a few points,'' he said. ``But since then, we have gone well and got ourselves into a good position in the league. ``We have also seen that the other top teams around us like Arsenal and Liverpool can drop points as well, so that gives us confidence going into the second half of the campaign.'' Read more...