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Monday, February 18, 2008

Don’t blame Nani

Not far behind Wayne Rooney as Man of the Match was fellow scorer Nani. It was easily his best game for the club and I don’t believe he should have been criticised for his ball juggling towards the end that so angered Arsenal. Arsene Wenger said Nani had incensed his players and that it was disrespectful. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he’d had a word with his Portugal player. Why? What Nani did was simply skilful. Taking the mickey is when you blatantly try and show that your opponents are inferior. Nani’s skill and control needs to be encouraged and I just hope the rollicking doesn’t send him into a shell.
Brian Woolnough, Daily Star

Fletcher: Prepared to wait

With United still firing in three competitions, Darren Fletcher will be hoping for more time on the pitch between now and the end of the season.

The Scotland international made only his seventh start of the campaign in Saturday’s FA Cup victory over Arsenal, a match in which Fletcher scored twice to cap a breathtaking performance in the heart of United’s midfield.

But despite Fletcher’s starring role, he knows he could find himself back among the substitutes for the Reds’ Champions League clash with Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday.

“It’s a squad game and you have to be patient,” Fletcher reasoned after the FA Cup victory.

“We have a talented squad with a lot of players in it and against Arsenal I was called upon to do a job.

“I always go out there and do my best in every game, whether that’s as a substitute or from the start.

“Fortunately for me, I got a start on Saturday and hopefully I’ll get a few more before the end of the season.

“Everyone wants to play all the time. It’s no different whatever level you play at. When you’re not playing regularly you just have to keep yourself fit, train hard and your chances will come.”

Darren Fletcher was speaking to MUTV.

Bodmer has no fear

Lyon midfielder Mathieu Bodmer believes the French champions have what it takes to knock United out of the Champions League.

Bodmer, who joined Lyon in the summer, knows all about the Reds from his time as a Lille player. Despite Lyon being out of form - they lost 1-0 to Le Mans at the weekend - he thinks they're capable of edging past United.

"The worst possible draw would have been Internazionale, they are very strong," Bodmer told "In England, United and Arsenal are above the others. But I have played United with Lille, and I'm sure we have a chance of going through."

The defensive midfielder didn't play in Lille's second-leg trip to Old Trafford last season but did play a key role in the previous campaign's group stage matches. In those games, Lyon earned a 0-0 draw in Manchester before winning 1-0 at Stade de France.

United had no trouble scoring goals on the weekend, however. The Reds smashed four past Arsenal in the FA Cup and Bodmer admits United's strikeforce is of most concern. "Cristiano Ronaldo is key, and the Rooney-Tevez duo works very well," he said. "They have lots of attacking assets but they hate to defend. Our aim will be to force them to defend." Read more...

Rested stars set to return

United's squad should be bolstered by the return of four key players for Wednesday's Champions League clash with Lyon.

Sir Alex Ferguson left Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves out of Saturday's squad to face Arsenal, and restricted Paul Scholes to a 20-minute runout in the Reds' 4-0 win.

That key quartet should all be in contention to start, however, as United resume their European campaign against the French champions.

"I gave them a rest, although Ronaldo had a bit of a tummy upset," Sir Alex said after Saturday's win. "I was thinking about resting him anyway and perhaps put him on the bench, but when we found out he wasn't well, we decided to give him a complete break.

"The likes of Ryan and Paul Scholes - players with great experience - will play in Lyon on Wednesday. They'll be very important for us."

While United warmed up for Tuesday's trip to France in stunning fashion against Arsenal, Lyon slipped to a shock 1-0 defeat at Le Mans.

Manager Alain Perrin rested several players ahead of United's visit, and the result sees Les Gones' lead at the top of Ligue 1 cut down to just one point. Former Reds defender Laurent Blanc guided his second-placed Bordeaux side to a 6-0 win at Monaco. Read more...