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Friday, January 25, 2008

Boss wary of buoyant Spurs

Tottenham will go into Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie at Old Trafford on the crest of a wave, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Juande Ramos’ side hammered bitter rivals Arsenal 5-1 on Tuesday to book a berth in the Carling Cup final, and the United manager expects the Londoners to be galvanised by their morale-boosting victory.

“You saw from their performance on Tuesday night, they’re on the up,” Sir Alex told his pre-match press conference. “There’s an increase in their performances. The result on Tuesday will have them buoyed, there’s no question about that.

“It wasn’t Arsenal’s strongest team, but it was nevertheless an emphatic 5-1 victory. I thought Tottenham were better. They could have scored more goals. It was an emphatic victory and I don’t think Arsenal could complain about it.”

With Spurs improving by the week and goals usually at a premium when the two sides meet at Old Trafford, Sir Alex is wary of a tough test on Sunday.

“Funnily enough, the goalscoring statistics at Old Trafford aren’t great, they’re usually 1-0 or something like that,” he said. The goals are usually reserved for White Hart Lane, there have been some very big scores down the years.

“It’ll be tight cup tie again, I would think, but I can’t complain – I have a home draw in the FA Cup. What more can you ask for? You’ve got to perform, you can’t take things for granted and we don’t either. But our team is in good form.” Read more...

Scholes touch and go for Sunday

After three months on the sidelines with a knee injury, Paul Scholes has an outside chance of playing a part in Sunday’s FA Cup clash with Tottenham.

The veteran midfield schemer has been training for the last month to build his fitness, and resumed competitive training with the rest of the first team squad on Friday.

“His rehabilitation went fantastically well, he’s been training fantastic the last four weeks on a physical and endurance side,” Sir Alex Ferguson told his weekly press conference.

“That’s all perfectly ok. It’s just a decision on how he comes through today’s training session. I don’t think he’ll be involved on Sunday, but he is a consideration simply because he’s such a great player.

“He could be on the bench, it really depends on how he comes through today. Other than that, I’m sure he’ll be involved against Portsmouth.”

If the decision were down to Scholes himself, there’s no doubt he would be lining up against Juande Ramos’ side, according to the United manager.

“He’s champing at the bit, as you would expect with him,” said Sir Alex. “All week he’s been begging the coaches for a game. But we’ve adhered to the guidance from our specialists and the 24th (of January) was his deadline on the medical side.”

While Scholes is itching to play some part against Spurs, Sunday’s match comes too soon for Louis Saha and Gary Neville. Striker Saha should be ready for action in time for Manchester City’s visit early next month, while club captain Neville begins training again this Saturday.

With Scholes' return imminent, however, Sir Alex is in no doubt that his squad will benefit immensely from having the midfielder back in action.

"He’s a great player," he said. "At this time of the season he’s going to bring his experience, because we’re going into the tricky part of the season, the important part. We’ve got 15 league games left, hopefully we’ve got a few European ties and FA Cup ties left. Him coming back fresh at this time of the season is brilliant for us.

"It happened when he was out with the eye injury. He came back and the season he had last season was fantastic after it. So we’re very buoyed by Paul coming back, it’s almost like a new signing at a very important time with the Champions League and FA Cup starting." Read more...

Owen: Onus is on us

Owen Hargreaves says United must make home advantage count in Sunday's FA Cup fourth tie against Tottenham at Old Trafford.

Having faced Premier League opposition in every round of the competition last season, including the final, the Reds are once again up against a top flight opponent having already successfully by-passed Aston Villa in the third round.

Hargreaves, who is set to feature on Sunday, would love the opportunity to help United book their place at Wembley in this season's tournament, but says the players must first focus on getting past a Spurs side buoyed by their Carling Cup semi-final win in mid-week.

"To play at Wembley against one of the top teams would be brilliant. But we will take step by step, focus on Tottenham and take it from there," he told MUTV.

"They have some fabulous players and I think it is just a case of them trying to find the right balance.

"I look forward to every game and the atmosphere against Tottenham will be exceptional. As it is a home game for us, it becomes a must-win situation." Read more...

Fabio will cap Becks, says Fergie

Sir Alex Ferguson has backed calls for David Beckham to be awarded his 100th England cap. The pair have long made up since Becks’ bitter departure from Manchester United. And former boss Fergie said: “To deny him his 100th cap would not be right and I think Fabio Capello has made up his mind about that. In fact, I don’t think there is any doubt about that.” Becks, 32, will reach that milestone if he plays in the Switzerland friendly at Wembley on February 6.
Neil Custis, The Sun