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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ronny wants to be Euro king

Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed his burning desire to lead Manchester United to Champions League glory this season and emulate the club's European Cup-winning heroes of 1968 and 1999. Sir Alex Ferguson has repeatedly claimed, with some justification, that a club of United's history, stature and vast resources should have more than two European Cups to their name. And after inspiring United to a 2-0 win at Roma - which all but secured their semi-final place - Ronaldo echoed his manager, declaring his aim to deliver the continent's greatest club prize to Old Trafford for a third time. "Many times on television I've watched United winning the Champions League in 1999," said Ronaldo. "It looked incredible and it's something I want to do as well. I was only young at the time, but since then I have watched the match time and time again on TV at my home in Manchester and thought about winning it myself. We have the players to win the European Cup this year, we have the experience and we have the team. So we must have a great chance."
David McDonnell, Daily Mirror

Pally: Rio's grand

Ex-Reds defender Gary Pallister praised Rio Ferdinand for yet another imperious display at the heart of United's back four in Rome.

The 29-year-old skipper for the night has been a rock at the back this season. He impressed again on Tuesday night, which was made even more important after Nemanja Vidic was forced off with an injury late in the first half.

"Rio was fantastic," said Pallister, a pundit on MUTV's matchday live programme.

"I wondered how he would react after Vidic went off injured, but he was absolutely superb."

Pallister feels that Ferdinand's growing maturity has lead to a blossoming of his leadership qualities, which have become an increasingly vital asset for United.

"Rio bosses the back four now," added Pally. "That's why he was captain against Roma and why Fabio Capello made him England captain.

"It's something he does a lot more now. At the start of his United career he didn't really do that.

"I think Gary Neville's absence has meant that he has had to come forward. Gary not being in the team has seen Rio come out of his shell."

Defence on for record

United's entertaining attacking football has won plenty of plaudits this season, but the Reds' impressive defensive record should not be overlooked or undervalued.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men are on course to record their leanest Premier League campaign in terms of goals conceded.

The Reds have conceded just 15 in the league this term and, amazingly, on just five occasions at Old Trafford - Manchester City (2), Everton, Derby, and this weekend's opponents at the Riverside, Middlesbrough.

It's a proud record that has been equally as influential as United's attacking exploits in firing the Reds to the top of the Premier League.

Chelsea should hang on to their record though, with just 15 goals conceded when they won the title in season 2004/05.

That topped Arsenal's previous Premier League record of conceding just 17 goals in a league campaign.

United's best previous attempt came in season 1997/98, leaking 25 goals. With six games to go, the Reds will surely beat that tally, and it could be crucial if United are to retain the title.

Vidic out for 2-3 weeks

Nemanja Vidic has been ruled out for two or three weeks with a knee injury.

The Serbian centre-back, who fell awkwardly after an aerial challenge against Roma, came off after just 31 minutes of Tuesday's 2-0 quarter final first-leg win.

He was sent for a scan on Wednesday, the results of which showed the injury not to be serious.

A club spokesperson told "There is no major damage to the left knee, and Nemanja will be out for around 2 or 3 weeks."

Vidic will therefore miss the Premier League matches against Middlesbrough and Arsenal and Wednesday's Champions League quarter final second leg clash with Roma.

He could return to face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on 19 April, and will certainly hope to be involved should United reach the Champions League semi finals, before the Reds visit Chelsea on 26 April.