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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Resilience pleases Edwin

Edwin van der Sar was happy to come away from the Riverside Stadium with a point after United were given a stern test by Middlesbrough in torrid conditions.

The goalkeeper made a string of fine saves as Boro, roared on by a rare full house and inspired by Afonso Alves' double, threatened to cause an upset in a near-blizzard before Wayne Rooney’s late leveller.

Van der Sar told MUTV: “We knew it was a hard place to come. After we took the lead [through Cristiano Ronaldo] they changed their formation to 4-4-2 and created more problems for us. We didn’t have as much possession.

“We conceded a sloppy goal and then went behind, but we showed great resilience to come back into the game.”

The veteran Dutchman insists it was imperative United avoided defeat and maintained a three-point lead over Chelsea at the top of the table.

“A draw is not bad but losing was out of the question,” he said. “We want at least a three-point difference between us and them before we go to Stamford Bridge.

“The boss has already said it’s going to be very tight – it’s a three-horse race. Arsenal visit on Sunday, but Chelsea have a difficult run-in and it’s not certain that they’ll win all their games between now and the end of the season.”

Boss satisfied with point

Sir Alex Ferguson believes United's 2-2 draw on Teesside could turn out to be a valuable point in the Reds' quest to retain the league title.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with his 37th goal of the season on nine minutes, but Afonso Alves drew the home side level 10 minutes before the break.

The Brazilian then put the hosts in front in the 56th minute, before Wayne Rooney fired a vital equaliser 16 minutes from time.

"We could have lost the game," admitted Sir Alex afterwards on MUTV. "They had some chances and our defending was a bit haphazard at times.

"But on the other side of it, we could have won the game. Some of our football was terrific and we looked very strong and in control when we took the lead.

"Wayne Rooney was wrongly flagged offside when he was clean through just after that and when they got their equaliser it became a great game of football.

"It was end-to-end and both teams deserve great credit for producing a performance like that at this stage of the season."

The result leaves the Reds three points clear at the top of the table with five games to go. Although disappointed not to have left the Riverside with a victory, Sir Alex remains upbeat over his side's chances.

"The nature of our football club is we never give in and that's a great quality to have at this time of year," he insisted.

"It could turn out to be an important point and our goal difference is very good as well. But we can't take anything granted.

"I said some weeks ago that the most consistent team will win it and hopefully it turns out to be us."

Reds to assess Rio injury

Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping Rio Ferdinand has not suffered a serious injury after the United defender was forced off in the second half at Middlesbrough.

With Nemanja Vidic already on the sidelines and crunch games coming thick and fast for the Reds, it was a worrying sight to see Ferdinand limping off with 20 minutes left at the Riverside Stadium.

The United manager told MUTV: ”We got a few bumps and bruises, but we'll assess things on Sunday.

“Hopefully Rio's injury is not serious. He was limping for quite a while and the danger with carrying on with him was we weren't going to get a full performance level from him.”

Gerard Pique replaced Ferdinand and five minutes later Wayne Rooney salvaged a 2-2 draw which leaves United three points clear of Chelsea at the top with five games left.

Ferguson added: “Pique came on and did brilliantly. He was marvellous. The lad's a terrific player and I think that actually helped us.”

Middlesbrough Vs. Manchester United Result Report

Wayne Rooney rescued a point for United after Afonso Alves’ double had looked set to give Middlesbrough a shock win at a wintry Riverside Stadium.

Rooney converted from close range with 16 minutes left after good work by substitute Ji-sung Park to ensure the Reds extended their lead over Chelsea at the top of the table to three points.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 37th goal of the season had given United an early lead but Alves produced two superb finishes in each half to put Boro in command in an end-to-end game.

United’s defence, shorn of Nemanja Vidic, was frequently made to look uncharacteristically shaky by a lively Boro outfit and only a series of last-ditch tackles prevented the Teessiders from extending their lead in the second half.

Rio Ferdinand came off with what looked like a leg injury with 20 minutes left and, although United also had chances to win it, Sir Alex Ferguson will perhaps settle for a point after a testing encounter in the driving north-east snow.

As so often this season, United began brightly and took the lead inside 10 minutes. Ryan Giggs, in his 750th United appearance, swung over a deep corner to Michael Carrick, who fired back across goal for Ronaldo to convert left-footed from close range.

It was the winger's 27th league goal of an extraordinary campaign and it looked set to give United the platform to go on and dominate. Indeed, had the Reds taken one of several more chances in the opening 20 minutes, the game could have been safe.

Firstly, Giggs hit the side-netting after a flowing move involving Rooney and another Ronaldo backheel; then Carrick fed Rooney inside the box but Luke Young made a good tackle to deny the striker as he was poised to pull the trigger.

But Boro were looking dangerous themselves and, instead of wilting, they upped their tempo and Jeremie Aliadiere missed a glorious chance to equalise 23 minutes in when he sliced wide after being played in by Julio Arca.

Ronaldo almost extended United’s lead on the half-hour mark but, after beating three Boro defenders with a lightning burst of pace, he surprisingly failed to hit the target from the left-hand side of the box.

Two minutes later Alves, who had earlier headed an Andrew Taylor cross just wide, gave United a scare with a vicious, swerving free-kick which Edwin van der Sar parried nervously. But soon after Boro were level.

Gary O’Neil thumped the ball forward, Aliadiere headed it on and Alves held off Ferdinand to calmly slot home his first Boro goal in only his second start.

Van der Sar then blocked Stewart Downing's close-range shot before United had a penalty appeal turned down on the stroke of half-time when Ronaldo’s powerful shot appeared to hit Taylor's hand inside the box.

The Reds were given a scare immediately after the restart when Alves headed a long ball across goal to Emanuel Pogatetz, who was denied by a Carrick block.

But it wasn't long before things got worse as Alves bagged his second of the game. Wes Brown's attempted headed clearance from George Boateng's long ball forward hit Aliadiere and bounced into the path of the Brazilian, who controlled and curled superbly past Van der Sar.

Boro’s record signing could have made the game safe a couple of minutes later but his point-blank header was blocked by Ferdinand.

In an attempt to salvage something from the game, Ferguson brought on Park and Owen Hargreaves for the anonymous Carlos Tevez and John O'Shea, before Ferdinand limped off and was replaced by Gerard Pique.

And it was Park who fashioned the equaliser, cutting inside Taylor and squaring the ball to Rooney, whose shot took a deflection off Pogatetz and evaded Mark Schwarzer's dive.

United poured forward in search of a winner, with Paul Scholes and Rooney going close, but they were unable to find it and almost lost the game at the death when Van der Sar made a last-ditch block to deny Boro substitute Tuncay on the goalline.

Team Line-ups

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer; Young, Wheater, Pogatetz; Taylor; O'Neil, Boateng, Arca, Downing; Aliadiere (Johnson 90), Alves (Tuncay 77).
Subs not used: Turnbull, Cattermole, Grounds.
Booked: Young, O'Neil, Boateng

Manchester United: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand (Pique 70), O'Shea (Hargreaves 67), Evra; Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs; Rooney, Tevez (Park 65).
Subs not used: Anderson.
Booked: Rooney

Attendance: 33,952

Middlesbrough Vs. Manchester United Highlighlits Video Clip

Middlesbrough [1 - 1] Manchester U.
10' [0 - 1] C. Ronaldo
35' [1 - 1] A. Alves