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Monday, March 3, 2008

Rio: Not all Euro champs are great

Rio Ferdinand says winning the European Cup would be the "stuff of dreams" but insists it isn't the only criteria when determining a team's greatness.

The Reds defender said: "I think teams who are considered great teams have normally won the European Cup but I don't think it's the be all and end all. Some teams that have won the Champions League are not considered great teams, but if you do well domestically and then go on to win it, then obviously that adds to your being a good side.

"Before I came to this club, I watched many a time when I expected United to win the Champions League but they didn't, and the same thing's happened a couple of times while I've been here. Last season, for example, we had a great opportunity to go on and at least be part of the final but for whatever reason that didn't happen again.

"We'd like to change that. This club has a great history domestically and in Europe but obviously we'd like to be a bit more fruitful in this competition because we've got talent, we've got the numbers at the moment and we've got the desire to do well in it this year.

"When you are a United player you have to want to win every competition you play in or you shouldn't be here. Not many people have the opportunity to win the European Cup, or even play in the final, and we dream like everybody else."

Ferdinand could captain the Reds against Lyon. Club skipper Gary Neville resumed playing for the reserves only last week and Ryan Giggs has missed United's last two matches. Read more...

Sir Alex lauds timely Tevez

Cometh the hour, cometh Carlos Tevez... so goes the story of the Argentine striker's first season at United.

The Reds' number 32 has demonstrated a talent for scoring goals at decisive times, as appreciated by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson on the eve of Lyon's visit to Old Trafford.

"I think he's proved that this season," said Sir Alex. "That one in Lyon (1-1) was obviously really important to us, as were his goals at Liverpool (1-0), Tottenham (1-1) and at home to Chelsea right on half-time when we were searching for that first goal (United won 2-0).

"He's proving to be an important player for us, no question. He's now on 15 goals. I think that's a great return in his first season with us so we're delighted with him."

Tevez's 87th minute goal at Lyon's Stade Gerland was his third in the Champions League for United, giving him the same tally in this European campaign as Wayne Rooney. Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way with five.

Tevez's two other goals in the competition were both scored at Old Trafford - he scored the second in the 4-0 drubbing of Dynamo Kyiv and netted United's second-half equaliser against Sporting Lisbon after coming on as substitute in the eventual 2-1 win. Read more...

Patrice in Euro warning

Patrice Evra says it will be a catastrophe if Manchester United fail to beat Lyon in the Champions League last-16 second leg tomorrow. But the France star insists they cannot take for granted a place in the last eight despite snatching a 1-1 draw away from home in the first leg. He said: “If we go out of the Champions League on Tuesday it would be a massive blow for the club — it would be catastrophic. I have a big respect for Lyon because they are a good team. As a Frenchman, I am fully aware of their qualities.
They played very well in the first game and we had to work very hard for a draw. But we are Manchester United and that means we simply have to go through."
Mark Irwin, The Sun

Edwin relishing rush of games

United are in for a hectic few months as they continue their quest for silverware on three fronts, but Edwin van der Sar says everyone relishes the rigours of the run-in.

Hot on the heels of the league victory at Fulham on Saturday, the Reds entertain Lyon in the Champions League on Tuesday, before hosting Portsmouth in the FA Cup quarter final at the weekend. And van der Sar is confident the squad will thrive on the challenges that lie ahead.

"Every game is big now, but that's how you like it as a player. You want to be competing for trophies," he told MUTV. "If you have three games every week, it shows you're doing something right."

The 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage took the Reds to within a point of league leaders Arsenal, who could only manage a draw at home to Aston Villa, courtesy of a last-gasp injury-time equaliser.

"Things keep changing," says van der Sar. "We were five points behind a couple of weeks ago and thought it would be difficult because you're relying on them dropping points. Thankfully for us they've drawn their last two games and we're right back in there."

The Dutchman's solid display against his former team ensured the Reds' 16th clean sheet in the league, equalling their total tally for last season.

"As a goalkeeper you take pride from clean sheets," he admits. "But the whole team deserve credit when we don't concede. I make the saves, but the defenders, midfielders and strikers all work hard. They all play their part too." Read more...

Juninho: Don't rule us out

Brazilian playmaker Juninho has warned United: "do not rule us out" of the Champions League last 16 tie, despite the Reds snatching a crucial late goal in the first leg.

The French champions are in Manchester on Tuesday with the tie tipped slightly in United's favour after Carlos Tevez's goal earned a 1-1 draw in Lyon two weeks ago.

Lyon appeared headed for victory after Karim Benzema's excellent opening strike just before the hour mark. But Juninho says the Reds would be ill-advised to think the second leg is cut and dry.

"We were disappointed not to win after taking the lead," he tells United Review. "But we knew that, along with Inter Milan, Manchester United were the best team in Europe and have many players who can do you damage.

"Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez – what an attacking line-up! Against a team like United, you have to play perfectly. We nearly did it – but not quite. But the Lyon squad is still calm. The pressure is on United to progress to the quarter finals."

Lyon have been used to battling against the odds in this season's Champions League. After a terrible start to their group campaign, they pulled out all the stops to progress to the knockout stages, a lesson Juninho says could serve them well at Old Trafford.

"We are still in this tie," he says defiantly. "Do not rule us out yet. You need technique and strong characters to win silverware and we have those. We have proved a number of times our capacity to achieve in big matches at stadiums in Glasgow, Stuttgart and Paris." Read more...

Owen: Squad is finely balanced

Owen Hargreaves feels the victories over Newcastle and Fulham have demonstrated United's quality in-depth, which he believes could be a decisive factor in the title race.

For the trip to Craven Cottage, Sir Alex Ferguson made five changes from the side that thrashed Kevin Keegan's men, but there was no disruption to the team's flow as the Reds cantered to a 3-0 win.

"It was a good performance from everyone in the team after a great display at Newcastle last weekend," Hargreaves told MUTV. "A different team played that game so I think the balance of the squad is very good at the moment.

"We are all part of the jigsaw puzzle. Nobody is going to play in all the games at United. You trust the boss with all the experience he has. So far this season, as far as I'm concerned, he has picked the right team pretty much every time.

"I think all our players have something different to bring to the table. So, depending on how we want to play, we can perform in different formations.

"You only need to look at the win at Fulham - to have Rooney, Ronaldo and Anderson all coming on late from the bench is quite remarkable. And I think the depth and balance in our squad could make the difference in the end."

Hargreaves himself opened the scoring in the win over the Cottagers with a superbly executed free kick which marked his first goal for the club.

"Sometimes you feel good about a free-kick and other times you don't," he admits. "I decided to take it because I thought I'd have a chance to score and thankfully it went in." Read more...