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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fergie hails unsung Fletcher

Sir Alex Ferguson has praised his Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher as "a terrific example to any young player." The 24-year-old may not have the high profile of team-mates such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, but his United manager has held him up as an example of "a true professional". Fletcher has been in and out of the side this season, such is the vast array of talent at Old Trafford. But he marked his return to action against Lyon on Tuesday with a sound, workmanlike performance in the engine room as United clinched a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. "Darren's shown he's a true professional," said Ferguson. "When you give people good contracts you hope they will become like that. He is a terrific example of a professional to any young player. I keep talking about Bobby Charlton's book, and his frustration when he was not in the team at 19 and had to be patient. Darren Fletcher epitomises that patience and now he's back in the squad and everyone recognises his abilities. It's a great credit to the lad."
Ken Gaunt, The Independent

Rooney a Red for life

Wayne Rooney is so committed to United that he cannot see himself ever being lured away to any of Europe's top clubs.

The 22-year-old striker has confessed his love of playing for the Reds and doesn't foresee a time when he will ever decide to leave.

Of course, things can rapidly change in football, but Rooney feels the lure of the Premier League and the chance to win trophies with United makes Old Trafford feel more and more like home.

"I have no desire to play abroad," he says. "I love playing for Manchester United and I'm pretty sure that will never change.

"Our game in England has improved so much in the past few seasons I think we have proved now that we have the best league in the world. We attract the best players and, in my eyes, it's by far the best league. It is up to other players if they decide to play abroad but, for me, English football is better than anything else."

Rooney's claims can be substantiated by the fact that English clubs make up almost half of the teams remaining in the Champions League.

"It'd be nice if all the English teams could stay apart," he said. "It would be better for English football if we all progress."

While the United striker is keen for United's English counterparts to do well in the Champions League, he is desperate that the Reds prove to be a force in Europe this season.

"Last season we had injuries and a few tired players, but this is a bigger squad and, hopefully, the rotation policy will help," he added.

"If we get to the last four again, we should be a lot fresher because a lot of the players won't have played as many games as they did last season.

"But if we want to win the Champions League we'll have to improve on the performance against Lyon. We got a bit edgy in the second half. We're looking for better performances than that." Read more...

Ronaldo targets trophies

Cristiano Ronaldo is delighted with his goalscoring form - but admits it will count for nothing if United fail to win any silverware this season.

The Portuguese winger hit his 30th goal of the season against Lyon on Tuesday but, rather than focus on personal plaudits, he is focused solely on a collective strong finish to a promising campaign.

"At the moment I feel very good," he told MUTV. "I've scored a few important goals and I want to keep going like that. I want to score more goals.

"But the most important thing is for the team to win games and trophies. We're playing really well and we're in three competitions. Now we need to be strong for 15 more games to finish the season."

Next up for United is Saturday's FA Cup visit of Portsmouth, and Ronaldo feels home advantage gives the Reds a great chance of reaching next month's semi-finals at Wembley.

"Portsmouth are a strong team and always difficult to beat," he said. "But we are playing at home, and I think we have a great chance to go through to the semi finals." Read more...

Foster set for Reds comeback

United goalkeeper Ben Foster is set to make his return from knee ligament damage in the Reserves' clash with Middlesbrough tonight.

The 24-year-old underwent knee surgery last summer and, after a gruelling recovery process, has been named in the Reds' squad by Brian McClair and Jim Ryan.

Foster's United career to date has been a strange tale. Despite joining three years ago from Stoke City, his injury and two seasons on loan at Watford have prevented him from making a single competitive appearance for the Reds.

The England international has resigned himself to waiting until next season for a first team opening at Old Trafford, but Thursday's match against Boro will be a welcome step in the right direction.

Foster is the oldest member of a strong squad for the Teessiders' visit. Chris Eagles, Gerard Pique and Danny Simpson are also included, alongside the highly-rated Rodrigo Possebon and Danny Welbeck.

Thursday's match takes place at the Marston's Arena, Northwich, with a 7pm kick-off. The game is live on MUTV, with coverage starting at 18:30 GMT.

United squad: Foster, Zieler; Pique, Lea, Simpson, Eckersley, Chester, James;
Hewson, Cleverley, Eagles, Possebon, C Evans; Bryan, Welbeck, Fagan. Read more...