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Friday, April 11, 2008

Duo win March awards

Sir Alex Ferguson and Cristiano Ronaldo have been named Manager and Player of the Month for March.

The duo received their awards on Friday after what was a near faultless performance from the Reds over the last four weeks. Sir Alex's monthly prize was the 21st of his career.

United won every one of their five league games in March (keeping clean sheets in every match), netting 13 goals. Five of those strikes came from Ronaldo, who bagged his fourth Player of the Month honour.

The Portuguese winger claimed both goals in the 2-0 win over Bolton and scored again in the 3-0 home thumping of Liverpool. A 4-0 triumph over Aston Villa finished the month, in which Ronaldo netted a contender for goal of the season, cheekily back-heeling the ball past Scott Carson for the opener.

Ronaldo’s goals have not only seen him break George Best’s record of 32 goals in a season from midfield, but now leave him odds on to win the Golden Boot Award.

The 23-year-old is currently six goals ahead of Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and ahead of Sunday’s crucial clash against Arsenal has 27 league goals to his name.

Conquering Europe is priority

Owen Hargreaves has revealed winning the Champions League is United's priority this season, ahead of retaining their Premier League title. While United remain on course to win both, with a three-point lead in the title race and a semi-final date with Barcelona, midfielder Hargreaves claimed Europe is now his side's main focus.

Hargreaves said: "From a distance you associate United with the Premier League title, which is probably the most prestigious in Europe. But I've read Roy Keane's book and he says the most important thing at United is the Champions League. There was a conversation with him and the manager, who said that without him they could win the Premier League but they need him fit to win the Champions League. And the manager pulled Jaap Stam up when Stam said the priority at United was the league, telling him it was Europe. There's a totally different atmosphere at Old Trafford for European games than for domestic fixtures. United now considers itself a global brand and it needs success in Europe to strengthen that position."
David McDonnell, Daily Mirror


Eric backs double bid

Eric Cantona says the Reds are on for a glorious league and European Cup double this season, claiming "this will be United's season".

The Frenchman was a special guest for United's midweek 1-0 win over AS Roma, which sent Sir Alex Ferguson's men through 3-0 on aggregate.

Barcelona await the Reds in the semi finals, while this weekend Arsenal visit Old Trafford in a crucial league encounter. But Cantona is confident United will get past both sides and go on to clinch the double.

"Manchester United will win both trophies, I am sure of that," said Eric. "It will be tough, the title is close and Barcelona are a great team, but United have everything right now; this will be their season."

Key to United's success is the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who Cantona believes is head and shoulders above any other player in the world.

"Cristiano Ronaldo has skills which no other player has, he is the best player in the world," Cantona told the Manchester Evening News. "It's important he plays as many games as possible.

"I am happy he is wearing my shirt. It was special for me, I hope it is special for him too."

Wes eyes Arsenal scalp

Wes Brown is confident United will prove they are the best team in the country with victory over Arsenal on Sunday.

The Reds go into the Old Trafford clash knowing a win would extinguish the Gunners' title ambitions, whilst edging United ever closer to a tenth Premier League triumph.

Despite seeing their lead chopped down to three points last weekend following the 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough, Brown says the Reds remain confident over their title chances, but maintains victory is a must against Arsenal.

"We always knew we’d need to win this game no matter what happened at Middlesbrough last weekend," he told Sunday's edition of United Review.

"In a way the point at Boro has given us a bit of a boost because we didn’t play well, yet we still managed to get something out of it.

"I think both teams will go for it on Sunday because neither side really gets anything out of a draw.

"It'll be one of those days when everyone has to be on form and up for the game. We have to prove to them that we’re the best team in the country."

Rio fit, Vidic on the mend

Rio Ferdinand will be fit to face Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday, while Nemanja Vidic is on course to return against Blackburn next Saturday.

Ferdinand had to have three stitches in a cut on his right foot at half-time during Wednesday's 1-0 win over Roma. The injury was unrelated to the problem that forced him off against Middlesbrough last week. The good news is that the 29-year-old has suffered no further ill-effects from this latest complaint.

Vidic, Rio's central defensive partner, was forced off in the first half of the first leg against the Italian side in Rome ten days ago. He was given a two-three week recovery prognosis, and looks set to be back in double-quick time.

"Vidic is doing very well," said Sir Alex Ferguson. "He's not available for Sunday, but he should be back for Blackburn."

Nani, who has been suffering with a thigh problem, may struggle to play a part against Arsenal, but he will definitely be available to face Mark Hughes' side at Ewood Park.

Elsewhere, Gary Neville is in contention for the first-team after his cameo appearance on Wednesday. But Sir Alex admits competition for places is tough with "players playing well in defence". He added: "Nevertheless, it's great to have him back."

United's only other injury concerns - Darren Fletcher (knee) and Louis Saha (hamstring) - are doing well in their recovery and will both be back before the end of the season.

Ronaldo to retain PFA double?

Cristiano Ronaldo could do the PFA awards double again this year - but the absence of any team-mates from the senior shortlist may surprise United fans.

The Reds winger has been nominated for the PFA Players' Player of the Year 2008, alongwith two players apiece from Liverpool and Sunday's opponents Arsenal plus Portsmouth and England goalkeeper David James.

Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are the Anfield men nominated by their fellow professionals, while Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas represent the Gunners.

Torres and Fabregas also join Ronaldo on the PFA Young Player of the Year shortlist which is completed by Aston Villa pair Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young and Manchester City defender Micah Richards.

Wes Brown penalty or not video clip