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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rio won't get carried away

Rio Ferdinand conceded that United were short of their best against Lyon on Tuesday evening, but was delighted simply to have sealed a berth in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo's goal gave the Reds a narrow 2-1 aggregate win over the French champions, and the England international defender admits that each tie will be tricky in the latter stages as the cream of European talent comes together.

"These nights are always tough," Rio told MUTV. "You've got to defend well as a team and then take your chances when they come. We did that, maybe could have finished the game earlier, but we'll take what we're given.

"It's tough every year, there are always good teams. This is the Champions League and we expect tough games, whatever part of the competition we're in. As long as we're in the next round we're happy, and that's what we are."

The Reds now move onto FA Cup duty against Portsmouth in Saturday's next match, but Ferdinand is ignoring the inevitable talk of repeating 1999's Treble.

"We'll take each game as it comes. Today it's the Champions League, Saturday it's the FA Cup and the following game is in the league so it's just each game as it comes.

"Last year we got caught a little bit with injuries and stuff, but we've got a lot of numbers at the moment with great quality, and long may that continue." Read more...

Manchester United Vs. Olympique Lyon Result Report

United may not have been at their flamboyant best, nor even their most devastatingly ruthless, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal three minutes from half time was enough to see the Reds through to the Champions League quarter finals at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo's 30th goal in 30 games gave the Reds a tenth straight Champions League win at Old Trafford. Lyon, solid and tactically tight but, to their detriment, unadventurous, set the tone for this game. But United broke the mould – if only once – in a game of few chances.

It’s always difficult to second-guess Sir Alex’s team selection, especially with the multitude of options currently available to him. But the Reds boss still managed to spring a surprise by picking a side that did not contain three of his most experienced outfield players. Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves, a winner in the competition with Bayern Munich, both took up places on the bench, while a calf injury ruled Ryan Giggs out of the tie.

At the start of the season, it might have been difficult to picture a midfield trio of Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Anderson going into such critical last 16 second leg tie. But, that is in itself a signal of just how strong United’s squad has become.

Most crucially, no player in Sir Alex’s front six had played the full 90 minutes against Fulham on Saturday. It’s a freshness that the United boss has sought in recent weeks. The Reds started brightly enough in the opening minutes, the fans vocal and United attacking with purpose. With Sir Alex opting again for a 4-5-1 formation, Ronaldo and Nani became increasingly important figures going forward, with Anderson pushed ahead of Fletcher and Carrick. The sense was the game was there to be taken.

Karim Benzema again looked dangerous when in space, and Juninho had a few early free-kicks to test United’s rearguard. But Reds, marshalled by Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, looked solid. More and more the game was played out tactically; Lyon content not to concede, looking for a breakaway through Benzema; United probing for a way through but not going full pelt with a valuable away goal already in their armoury. It was less the clich├ęd chess match, more who blinked first.

Fortunately for United, it was Lyon. When the French side failed to clear Anderson’s shot, Ronaldo’s delicate touches eight yards out drew him clear of Francois Clerc, and his shot sneaked inside Gregory Coupet’s near post.

Referee Roberto Rosetti seemed somewhat pedantic at times, needlessly overexcited at the thought of showing a yellow card. Having already booked Patrice Evra early in the game, Nani was the second United player to enter the book on the stroke of half time when he fouled Sidney Govou. Juninho’s delivery from wide on the right was of near mechanical precision, but Vidic preserved United’s advantage with a typically brave header to clear the danger.

Lyon’s game-plan changed very little in the second half. Keeping it tight and hoping to snatch a goal on the counter remained their aim. United chose a similar tactic. After 65 minutes Nani had a shot that arrowed narrowly over, but other than that United were quiet in front of goal.

Knowing that Lyon would eventually have to come searching for a goal, United played without desperation in their play. The introduction of Carlos Tevez, scorer in the first leg, in place of Anderson may have seemed a bold attacking move. But Tevez was instructed to drop deep and keep possession, providing on the break.

United, in control, were not home and dry though. Substitute Kader Keita found space in the Reds’ penalty area and struck the post on 74 minutes. The Reds weren’t without chances to put the game out of reach. Rooney had a chance to score when Hatem Ben Arfa’s mystifying back-pass found him through on goal, but he couldn’t beat Coupet. Then Nani burst through down the right channel and elected to cross the ball when he should have shot.

With ten minutes remaining, Lyon boss Alain Perrin brought on Fred and went to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation, but in the end their own negativity worked against them. For United this may not have been a resounding victory, but against well-organised and tactically stubborn opponents, the Reds did the job that was required.

Team Line-ups

Manchester United: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo (Hargreaves 90), Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (Tevez 70), Nani; Rooney.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Saha, Park, Scholes, O'Shea.
Booked: Evra, Nani

Olympique Lyonnais: Coupet; Clerc, Squillaci, Cris, Grosso; Govou (Keita 68), Juninho Toulalan, Kallstrom (Fred 79), Ben Arfa; Benzema.
Subs not used: Vercoutre, Bodmer, Delgado, Mounier, Boumsong.
Booked: Grosso, Squillaci

Sir Alex left frustrated

Sir Alex Ferguson was disappointed that his side did not take advantage of second-half chances to kill off the tie against Lyon, despite being pleased at reaching the last eight.

Cristiano Ronaldo's 30th goal in 30 games was enough to send the Reds through 2-1 on aggregate. But Sir Alex feels it should not have been such a tight and tense finish to the match.

"We should have made more of the chances and the possession we had in the second half," he told ITV Sport.

"We made it difficult for ourselves. But we're into the next round and that was, of course, the object of the exercise.

"Defensively we did very well. I don't think Lyon really had any chances in the game. That is a plus for us."

Ronaldo's fantastic goalscoring record was one of the most pleasing aspects of the victory, which sees United in the last eight draw on Friday 14 March.

"It's a fantastic record," added the boss. "For a wide player to do that is incredible. He drifts into the middle at times, as he did tonight. He took the goal very well. We're very pleased, it's a great contribution."

The game also saw another impressive feat - a tenth straight home win in the Champions League.

"It's a marvellous record, and I think it equals a record held by Juventus," said the boss. "The supporters have a lot to do with that. They were fantastic again tonight." Read more...

Manchester United Vs. Olympique Lyon Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United 1 - 0 Olympique Lyon
41′ [1 - 0] C. Ronaldo


Cantona backs Euro charge

Eric Cantona is backing the Reds to overcome Lyon at Old Trafford on Tuesday night and go all the way in this season's Champions League.

United hold the upper hand in the last 16 tie thanks to Carlos Tevez's late leveller in the 1-1 draw at the Stade Gerland.

Having fallen at the semi-final hurdle last season, the Reds are determined to go one better and emulate their previous two triumphs this time round. And Cantona believes Sir Alex can inspire his troops to glory.

"I really hope United will win it this season. And, if they do, I hope they will win another one next year," declared the former striker in an interview with Sky Sports. "I'm sure Sir Alex will find the words to help the team win it. That is the key.

"He has to find goals all the time. If he wins it this year, then he will find another goal for next year. It's why he's still at Old Trafford after 21 years. He always finds something more after winning something - that's why he is the greatest."

Cantona, who retired from the game in 1997, maintains that his four-and-a-half years with the Reds remain a hugely memorable period of his life and an experience he'll always treasure.

"I will never forget anything about my time there and the way the fans treated me, and until the last minute of my life I will have this club in my heart," he insisted. Read more...

Evra banks on OT fear factor

atrice Evra hopes United can make home advantage count against Lyon on Tuesday evening and is urging the Old Trafford faithful to send the French champions running scared.

The Reds hold a slender, yet crucial, advantage in their Champions League last 16 tie thanks to Carlos Tevez's late leveller at the Stade Gerland two weeks ago.

Evra admits the tie is far from over, but believes the 'Old Trafford effect' will see the Reds through to the last eight.

"Playing at this stadium, the atmosphere is not the same as anywhere else on a European night. The fans really lift the team from the first minute until the final whistle," he told United Review.

"When I play at Old Trafford I feel I have more power, more energy in my legs, more character.

"It's strange, but teams can be scared when they come to here. We shouldn't underestimate the effect it can have.

"It's a big stadium, the pitch is wide, and we play with pace. Teams don't like that. It can be hard for them to cope. It's called the Theatre of Dreams - but that's only for United, not for any other team!" Read more...

Barca join race for Ron

Barcelona last night dramatically joined the race to sign £40m-rated Cristiano Ronaldo. The Spanish club are scared their arch-rivals Real Madrid could have stolen a march in trying to lure the brilliant midfielder from Manchester United. The Nou Camp plan to sell off some of their fading stars, like Deco, Ronaldinho and former Chelsea striker Eidur Gudiohnsen to finance new deals. But Barca’s influential sport director Txiki Begiristain revealed his club’s serious interest in Ronaldo. He said on Spanish TV programme Gol a Gol at the weekend: “Cristiano Ronaldo is a player we think we can sign in the summer. Cristiano Ronaldo is a key player for any club, but I still think it will be complicated to persuade Manchester United to sell in the summer.”
Danny Fullbrook & Bill Thornton, Daily Star