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Monday, April 21, 2008

Star Ronaldo full of praise for 'talented' United

Cristiano Ronaldo believes the end of the season will provide 'a definite answer' to whether the current Manchester United team is the best ever.

Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed recently that this was probably the best United squad 'in terms of completeness' he has had under his command since taking over at Old Trafford in 1986.

Ronaldo also believes the current crop of players is packed with talent, but the Portuguese superstar believes the team needs to prove it over the next few weeks as they chase a Premier League and Champions League double.

'It makes me feel good. He (Ferguson) has been at the club for 17-20 years, he has signed great players, incredible goalscorers,' Ronaldo told Spanish newspaper Sport.

'I also think that this is the most talented team, but you can only confirm this at the end of the season, seeing what the team has won.

'There is a lot of talent, I think that we are going along the right path.

'Game after game we have shown that we have a fantastic team, with a lot of talent and magnificent players, but at the end of the season we will be able to provide a definite answer if this team is the best Manchester United side of all time.

'If we win the Champions League or the Premier League we will have a better idea.'

Ronaldo was speaking ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

United are favourites heading into the tie, but Ronaldo is taking nothing for granted against a Barca side who were European champions just two years ago.

'At this stage there are no easy games. They are all very important matches where the pressure is very high for both teams and you need the maximum concentration. Anything can happen,' said Ronaldo, who is looking forward to locking horns with Barca ace Lionel Messi.

'Messi is a very good player. It is a pleasure to play with players like him. We seem similar - we always want to score and win.

'Our objective is to win as quickly as possible. We will play to find the best result in the Nou Camp. I want to win.'

On a personal level, Ronaldo admits he is thoroughly enjoying life at United, who he joined from Sporting Lisbon in 2003.

'I feel very proud to represent this club, for whom I have been playing for five years,' he explained.

'I feel privileged to have played so many games at this stadium for so many years. It is a great honour for me to show my ability on the pitch, in front of the 60,000 or 70,000 people who go there every weekend, it is amazing.

'I am at a club which allows me to work well and win all the competitions that we participate in. I want to win both trophies with the team and individually.'

Ronaldo is enjoying a remarkable season at United and has netted 28 league goals already as the Red Devils look to defend their Premier League title.

That form has seen the 23-year-old emerge as one of the favourites to walk off with a host of individual awards this year, but the flying winger insists his main aim is to help United to silverware.

'My objective at this point is to win all the competitions that I am still playing in,' he added.

'The Premier League is a reward for the whole year but they are all very important. I am not obsessed with the best player award. What I want is to play well and to always win.'


Pique earns Rio praise

Nemanja Vidic returned against Blackburn but Rio Ferdinand says he has every confidence in Gerard Pique should the young Spaniard be required to step in against his old club on Wednesday.

Pique, a versatile defender who can also push into midfield, arrived at Old Trafford from Barcelona in July 2004 after spending seven years in the Catalan club’s junior ranks.

First-team opportunites at United have been limited, although with Vidic recently sidelined with a knee injury the 21-year-old partnered Rio Ferdinand in the heart of the Reds’ defence.

And Ferdinand saw enough to convince him Pique has what it takes to perform consistently at the top level.

“Gerard Pique is a class player,” Ferdinand told

“Remember, he spent a whole season on loan at Real Zaragosa [in 2006/07] and after that spell there were a few clubs interested in him because of his quality.

"But the manager wanted to keep him, which shows how good he must be.

“There’s absolutely no question that Gerard Pique is a very good player. He’s extremely technically sound and he’s comfortable with the ball at his feet.”

Press reports have linked Pique with a possible move back to Spain at the end of this season, but Ferdinand is adamant there’s a future for the defender at Old Trafford.

“Like anybody, Gerard wants to play regularly and he might not have played as often as he’d have liked this season,” he said.

“But the manager showed great faith in him by playing him against Arsenal recently.

"He slotted in terrifically in that match. It was a massive game and he showed he could play on the big stage when it was necessary.

“That game was really significant to the title race, so he would have had a confidence boost by being selected for that match. He’ll know just how highly the manager rates him.”

Sir Alex: Show your colours

Sir Alex Ferguson is calling on United supporters attending the Barcelona home game on Tuesday 29 April to make Old Trafford a "sea of red and white".

The Reds boss believes fans have a real part to play in the remainder of this season and says that, with the help of United’s support, the home leg of the Champions League semi final against the Barca could be a memorable occasion.

Many of Old Trafford’s greatest atmospheres have come in European games – Barca ’84, Porto ’77, Inter ’99, Roma last season – and Sir Alex is urging fans to help add Barcelona 2008 to that list.

“There have been so many occasions over the years, we’ve always referred to it time and time again, of the crowd being the 12th man in the way they create such great encouragement,” the boss told MUTV.

“If it’s like that on that night with our supporters bringing their red and white scarves it should be fantastic. We want to make sure it’s a real sea of red and white, and if we can do that we have a big, big chance [of reaching the final].”

We know that not all fans are keen on wearing a scarf to the match but we’re calling on all Reds to make an exception for what is the biggest game of the season so far.

Sir Alex believes the backing of the fans really gives the players a lift – so show your colours, exercise your vocal cords and let’s roar the lads to Moscow.

Carrick hails fan force

Michael Carrick says it wasn't just Carlos Tevez who the Reds had to thank for rescuing a point at Ewood Park, it was as much United's 8000-strong support who ensured the Reds' title destiny remained in their own hands.

There was a constant cacophony of noise coming from the away end throughout Saturday's tea-time clash and Carrick insists the supporters played a crucial part in helping the Reds claim a vital point in the 1-1 draw.

"The fans were unbelievable again and they probably sucked the ball in for us in the end," he told MUTV.

"They're always great at Old Trafford, but when we come away from home the fans are something else."

The Reds now travel to Chelsea safe in the knowledge that even a defeat would keep them top of the pile.

On the flipside, three points for the Reds would all but secure the title and Carrick says winning at Stamford Bridge is upper most in the players' mind.

"We're in a good position," he insisted. "We know we've got a good cushion over Chelsea, but we're not thinking about going there and losing or drawing. We want to win and cement our place as the best team in the country."

Robbo backs Reds

Former United captain Bryan Robson is tipping the Reds' fine form to take them past Barcelona and into this year's Champions League final.

Robson, who recently agreed to take on an ambassadorial role at Old Trafford, concedes that the Catalan giants will ask questions of Sir Alex Ferguson's side, but feels that United are on the crest of a wave going into the season's climax.

"They’ll be tough games because Barcelona have got outstanding players," Robson told "They’ve got the likes of Eto’o, Messi, Ronaldinho and Henry, and they’re a great attacking team.

"But I’m sure United can trouble their defence with the forwards they’ve got. I think there will be goals in the games because of the style of the two teams, and I’ve got United down as favourites for the way they’re playing at the moment."

With the Reds five points clear at the Premier League summit, Robson is hopeful that they will have wrapped up another league title before Barcelona's second-leg visit to Old Trafford, allowing Sir Alex Ferguson to focus on masterminding a Double.

"Hopefully United will have tied up the Premier League before the second leg has come around. If they win both then it would definitely be deserved, after the way they’ve played," said Robson.

"In every game they've played in Europe this season, they've deserved the result they've got. In the league they’ve been playing some great football, and you can tell how dominant they’ve been just by looking at the goal difference and points tally they’ve racked up."