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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Charitable Reds irk Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson admits United’s charity in front of goal is concerning him, following Saturday’s unexpectedly tight victory over Derby County.

The Reds passed up chance after chance at Pride Park, just as they did in last weekend’s FA Cup defeat to Portsmouth, and the manager concedes it is beginning to irk him.

“Last Saturday, of course, it (missing chances) knocked us out of the cup,” he told MUTV. “Today we made it hard for ourselves because we missed so many chances.

“We were really charitable - it was a lot of chances. Maybe it’s a little sticky spell, but we want to get over that. We’ve got big games, Bolton at home on Wednesday and then Liverpool on Sunday, so they’re important games coming up and we want to start taking chances.

“We are making them, and I suppose that’s the biggest bonus of all. If we keep making them, you know at some point someone’s going to suffer. We just have to keep going with that.”

Cristiano Ronaldo was repeatedly thwarted at Pride Park before eventually bagging the winning goal with 14 minutes remaining, and Sir Alex was quick to salute the ease with which the winger converted a potentially difficult finish.

“We needed something special and Ronaldo’s taken his chance very, very well. It’s not easy when it comes off the turf like that and he connected really well to score a really important goal for us. He had to control it to keep it down, it was a very good finish.”

United host Bolton on Wednesday before Liverpool’s visit on Easter Sunday and, after omitting Rio Ferdinand, Nani, and Carlos Tevez from Saturday’s squad, Sir Alex admits there will be changes for those games.

“I think that we’ll be changing on Wednesday again, but not too much,” he said. “We wanted to win this game and be top of the league. We’ve got our game in hand, we want to get those three points and then we can look forward to a real battle against Liverpool.” Read more...

Foster feels part of the team

Ben Foster admitted it was a “fantastic” feeling to finally make his first-team debut in the narrow 1-0 victory at Derby.

The goalkeeper was thrust into action at Pride Park due to the enforced absence of Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak, just a week after returning from an eight-month injury lay-off himself.

The 24-year-old, who joined the Reds in 2005 but spent the last two seasons on loan at Watford, told MUTV: “I finally feel like a United player now!

“I’ve been here nearly three years and it’s good to finally get on the pitch for the first team in a competitive game.

“I’m not one for nerves – I just take things in my stride and try not to think about things too much. It’s a big thing to come back from injury and to be thrown straight into the first team, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – though it was a bit harder than I thought!”

Many pundits predicted a cakewalk for United against rock-bottom Derby, but the Reds spurned chance after chance and would have fallen behind in the first half had Foster not made two fine saves from Kenny Miller.

The keeper added: “The first one was a reaction save to my left and Kenny Miller was through one-on-one for the second, but I stopped it and I went in at half-time feeling good.

“The second half was the same as the first half – we looked the more dangerous team but they had some chances as well.”

Cristiano Ronaldo finally broke the deadlock against the battling Rams after 75 minutes, slotting home Wayne Rooney’s cross as United moved ahead of Arsenal at the top of the table.

Bolton are next up at Old Trafford on Wednesday and, despite his assured debut, Foster does not expect to retain his place if Van der Sar recovers from a groin injury.

“I wouldn’t have thought the manager would have too much of a dilemma,” said Foster. “Edwin’s probably going to be fit for the Bolton or Liverpool game and I’ve no qualms about him going straight back in.

“He’s been fantastic this season and if I were him I’d be pretty disappointed if someone came in for one game and took my spot!” Read more...

Derby Vs. Manchester United Result Report

United made heavy weather of it, but procured three more precious points against Derby County after Cristiano Ronaldo struck a late winner at Pride Park.

Paul Jewell's rock-bottom Rams frustrated the Reds all afternoon as a string of chances went begging, before Ronaldo was on hand with 14 minutes remaining to stab home from close range.

The winger's intervention spared United the embarrassment of dropping points against a side with just one league win to their name all season and, but for two fine saves from debutant Ben Foster, the hosts could even have snatched all three points.

An afternoon of frustration looked far from likely in the early stages as United dominated. Ryan Giggs, making his first appearance in four matches, almost scored within seconds of kick-off as he rose above the home defence, but Rams keeper Roy Carroll managed to plunge to his left and grasp the ball just in front of his line.

The former United goalkeeper was helpless two minutes later as Evra slid Ronaldo on the left side of the area, only for the winger to lash his left-footed effort off target. Ronaldo's mood was not helped by the attentions of Darren Moore, who earned the first yellow card after six minutes for raking his studs down the Portuguese star's left leg.

Derby conceding a string of corners as they clung anxiously to parity. The hosts had the woodwork to thank after 10 minutes when Ronaldo's low shot curled onto Carroll's right-hand post, while Anderson came within close moments later with a drilled effort.

Giggs then had another chance after 20 minutes but, having half-rounded Carroll, the veteran winger could only skew his shot wide under the attentions of Dean Leacock.

The Reds' pressure was incessant, and more really should have come of a break after half an hour, but Ronaldo underhit his pass with Rooney free in the centre of the park. Moments later, Carroll had to be at his best to claw away Ronaldo's outside-of-the-boot effort.

With last week's smash-and-grab defeat to Portsmouth still fresh in the mind, United were all too aware of the cost of spurning so many chances - a price that was almost reaffirmed by Derby shortly before half-time.

Foster, a virtual spectator throughout, twice denied Rams striker Kenny Miller with superb reaction stops - first tipping away a close-range volley, then brilliantly turning the Scot's low shot around the post.

Those quickfire efforts brought the simmering Pride Park crowd to the boil, but both Rooney and Ronaldo came close again as the half ended as it began - with United on top, but unable to make their dominance count.

After a sluggish start to the second half, the Reds' tale of frustration resumed - particularly for Ronaldo. His long-range free kick was parried away by Carroll, who then blocked the winger's point blank header from the subsequent corner.

Truth be told, clear cut chances were few and far between. Sir Alex Ferguson threw on Louis Saha, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher at the expense of Park, Scholes and Anderson in a bid to gain a vital breakthrough. Ronaldo again came close in the 70th minute, dragging his shot just wide from fractionally inside the area, before United finally found the net six minutes later.

Rooney, with a hint of offside surrounding his position, was released by O'Shea down the left wing and pulled back a cross for Ronaldo. Despite an awkward bounce, the winger managed to contort himself to volley down and past the exposed Carroll.

The goal sparked scenes of utter, unabashed relief from United players, staff and fans alike. Ronaldo had been repeatedly frustrated all afternoon, and his joy at finally nudging the Reds ahead was near-tangible.

There were no more scares as a deflated Derby side played out the remainder of the match with few ideas, and Carroll had to be alert again to thwart Ronaldo.

So there was nothing like the anticipated avalanche of goals, just the one was enough. Win pretty or win ugly - at this stage of the season, all that matters is the three points.

Team line-ups

Derby County: Carroll; Edworthy (Todd 55), Moore, Leacock, McEveley; Sterjovski (Robert 80), Savage, Jones, Lewis; Earnshaw (Villa 76), Miller
Subs not used: Price, Ghaly
Booked: Moore, Jones, Savage

Manchester United: Foster; O'Shea, Brown, Vidic, Evra; Park (Saha 62), Scholes (Carrick 62), Anderson (Fletcher 72), Giggs; Rooney, Ronaldo.
Subs not used: Heaton, Hargreaves.

Derby Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Derby County [0 - 1] Manchester U.
76' [0 - 1] C. Ronaldo