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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ronaldo magic steals the show

For Cristiano Ronaldo, the Champions League remains the one territory he has not truly conquered during his short, startling career. Maybe this is his time. Having failed to reach his customary high standards in crucial ties against teams such as AC Milan and Porto in previous seasons, United's talismanic forward still has much more to offer his team on the grandest stage in club football.
Ian Ladyman, Daily Mail

Carrick supports rotation policy

Michael Carrick feels the benefits of Sir Alex Ferguson's squad rotation system are plain to see, after United booked a berth in the last eight of the Champions League on Tuesday.

The England midfielder played a key role against French champions Lyon alongside Darren Fletcher and Anderson, a totally different central midfield to the Paul Scholes-Owen Hargreaves axis which started Saturday's win at Fulham.

With such a range of quality options throughout the squad, Carrick is confident that the Reds have a vitality and quality which bodes well for the season's run-in.

"It's going really well," he told MUTV. "It's brilliant when you're winning. Everyone looks really good and is hitting good form, and as long as it keeps working I think we're all happy.

"Even with the different players everyone gels really well, and hopefully that's going to benefit us in the final stages of the season when the really big games turn up."

Having secured passage through the quarter-finals in Europe and clawed back most of Arsenal's lead in the Premier League title race in the last fortnight, United's attentions switch to FA Cup duty this weekend.

Only Portsmouth stand between the Reds and a fourth semi-final in five years, but Carrick expects a stern test from Harry Redknapp's side.

"It'll be tough," he said. "They've been in good form away from home this season. They've got a lot of pace and attacking threat, but if we are on our game then we should win." Read more...

Fletcher comes to the fore

Sir Alex Ferguson has praised Darren Fletcher’s patience and determination to be an important squad member for United after turning in another impressive performance, this time against Lyon in the Champions League.

Fletcher went about his work quietly but effectively, breaking up Lyon attacks and displaying his wide range of passing, reason enough for Sir Alex to feel justified in leaving Paul Scholes on the bench.

“It was a big decision because Scholes’ performance against Fulham was vintage,” he said. “If the game had been on Wednesday I would have played him. But I had to ask the question with it being three days after the Fulham, especially given the time he has been out injured and his age.

“Darren came in to do a job, which he did very effectively. He's not easy to play against. I wouldn’t like to play against him. He has such a long stretch, which means he can close players down quickly and he wins possession without conceding many fouls. That was important to us, because Juninho’s ability from set-pieces could have been a threat to us.”

The 24-year-old really grasped his chance in the 4-0 FA Cup win over Arsenal. Before then he had made just six starts all season – in part due to injuries. Ever since, he has been outstanding.

“Darren emerged from the Arsenal game with great credit, and since then he's come into the frame,” said the boss. “It’s a great credit to the lad and the patience he's shown.

“He shows something we always admire at this club: true professionalism. That’s why you give players good contracts. You hope they get the first part right and obey the laws of being a professional. He is a very good example of that.” Read more...