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Monday, April 7, 2008

Giggs: We're on countdown

Ryan Giggs believes United’s comeback against Middlesbrough may prove crucial as the Reds move into countdown mode for the final five games.

An April blizzard wasn’t the only surprise at the Riverside. Two goals from Afonso Alves put the home side in front after Cristiano Ronaldo had given the Reds the lead. It took Wayne Rooney’s late strike to haul United level and edge into a three-point lead over second-placed Chelsea.

“We hope it will be a crucial point,” Giggs told MUTV. “After going 2-1 down, it's probably a point gained. Some people before the game were saying the title was done and dusted. We’ve always said there are tough games coming up, for us and Arsenal and Chelsea.

There will be a few twists and turns yet. We’re on countdown now. There are five matches to go and we’ll be up for each one. We want to win every game and we’re capable of doing it. But we’ll have to be at our best.”

With Nemanja Vidic missing, John O’Shea took the Serbian’s place alongside Rio Ferdinand. But Middlesbrough’s all-out attack really tested the newly-formed central defensive partnership. Giggs gave full recognition to Afonso Alves, scorer of both Boro goals, and Jeremie Aliadiere.

“We had good players coming in," he said. "You have to give credit to Boro. They didn’t have anything to lose, so they went for it. Not many teams do that against us. They kept two up front and they were always dangerous on the break.

“We started well, with good movement, passing, and taking the lead through Cristiano’s goal. When Middlesbrough scored, it was a case of they attack, we attack. It was an open game. It could be a good point because it’s one of the toughest grounds to come to.”

Roma leave Totti at home

Roma captain Francesco Totti will miss Wednesday's Champions League return at Old Trafford after being omitted from the travelling squad.

The 31-year-old striker sat out Saturday's 3-2 home win over Genoa in Serie A. Roma coach Luciano Spalletti admitted then: "I would be happy to have him back next weekend."

Totti was conspicuous by his absence last Tuesday when United took a big stride towards the semi-finals, winning 2-0 with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

Another first-leg absentee, Greater Manchester-born midfielder Simone Perotta, is recalled to the Roma ranks after completing a one-match suspension.

Spalletti named the following squad for the second leg, as listed on AS Roma's website:

Goalkeepers: Gianluca Curci, Doni, Carlo Zotti
Defenders: Christian Panucci, Marco Cassetti, Cicinho, Juan, Philippe Mexes
Midfielders: Gabriel Antunes, Alberto Aquilani, Matteo Brighi, Daniele De Rossi, Simone Perrotta, David Pizarro, Rodrigo Taddei, Max Tonetto
Forwards: Mauro Esposito, Ludovic Giuly, Alessandro Mancini, Mirko Vucinic.

Rio suffered no break

United received some good news on the injury to Rio Ferdinand on Monday afternoon as it was confirmed the defender has not suffered a break to the foot he injured against Middlesbrough.

The 29-year-old defender was forced off after 70 minutes of Sunday's 2-2 draw at the Riverside. However, any concerns that he had broken a metatarsal in his left foot have been allayed.

A club spokesperson told "Rio went for a scan on Monday and we can confirm that he has not suffered any break."

United's medical team have not confirmed how long the defender will be out of action.

Sir Alex Ferguson will provide a further update at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter final second leg clash with Roma.

United Injury Crisis

Manchester United are facing a defensive crisis which could jeopardise their Premier League and Champions League hopes after Rio Ferdinand left Middlesbrough wearing a protective cast on his left foot. United are already without Nemanja Vidic for Wednesday's second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Roma and now look to be without Ferdinand after the defender limped off with 20 minutes to go. Boss Sir Alex Ferguson said: "Hopefully it's not serious with Rio but he was limping for too long. The danger was to keep carrying on with him." Ferdinand will have a scan on his injured foot this morning but it seems certain the 29-year-old will miss the Roma game and is also a major doubt for the Premier League visit of Arsenal to Old Trafford next Sunday.
David Anderson, Daily Mirror