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Friday, May 2, 2008

Manchester United Vs. West Ham United Match Preview

Wayne Rooney could be on the bench for Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United against West Ham on Saturday but defender Nemanja Vidic is definitely out.

The England striker injured his hip against Chelsea last weekend and missed the Champions League semi-final victory over Barcelona.

But United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said Rooney could be involved at Old Trafford.

Patrice Evra is also available after being carried off on Tuesday after being kicked in the face.

Ferguson said: "Vidic is not fit as with concussion you are out for 10 days but he should be fit for next Sunday.

"Rooney has given himself a chance but I don't know if he will start, maybe he will be on the bench.

"There has been a lot of improvement in the lad and the bruising on his hip has broken up, but we will still have to see whether he can make tomorrow.

"We have got a cup final of major importance and we want to make sure he is available for that, so we are not rushing him. We need to make sure he is 100%.''

Defender Mikael Silvestre is relishing the end-of-season showdown with Chelsea.

He said: "I have been working hard to get back in shape and anything that happens from now until the end of the season is a big bonus for me.

"In football, you can lose everything or win everything. It is really important we do our job until the end and win the double.''

West Ham expect winger Julien Faubert to have shaken off a slight hamstring problem to be fit to face the leaders.

Midfielder Freddie Ljungberg (cracked rib) has been added to the long list of injuries.

Defender Anton Ferdinand (hamstring) has returned to light training, but is not expected to feature - and neither is fellow centre-half Matthew Upson (calf).

Alan Curbishley insists the Hammers will not be at Old Trafford just to make up the numbers.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men are top of the table with just two games left and victory over the Hammers would hand them a huge step towards retaining their title.

However, Curbishley has masterminded three wins over United in their previous three meetings, including a famous triumph on the final day of last season which kept his side up.

And he knows the stakes are just as high this time around, but for United now rather than his 10th-placed side.

"The whole world will be watching the game on Saturday and we want to show what we can do,'' Curbishley said.

"It is uncanny how the fixtures have worked out, similar to last year - although this time the tables have turned somewhat.

"The Premier League has been massively competitive, there are no `gimmes'.

"If you look at why Man United are battling out this weekend its because Middlesbrough and Blackburn took them to the wire and Wigan came back in the last minute at Chelsea.

"The integrity of the Premier League has always been there and this is the most competitive I have ever been involved in.

"We have been accused of packing up and going on holiday and that sort of stuff - it is frustrating when comments like that come out.

"Every week we have had at least six or seven first-teamers out, and the players have done fantastically to get where they are and we want to stay there.

"There are a few things going on on Saturday, obviously one of them is getting that top-10 finish we want to secure and we want to go there and let people know who we are.''

Owen ready for final push

There's been little time to savour Tuesday’s epic win in Europe - now it's eyes down in the sprint finish for the domestic title, starting with West Ham at home.

However, the 1-0 victory against Barcelona could well play its part in lifting the squad after a gruelling eight matches in April, and Owen Hargreaves says United’s talent and team spirit will carry the Reds through.

“The most important thing is we have the ability and the belief in each other to do it,” Hargreaves tells United Review ahead of Saturday’s 12:45 kick-off at Old Trafford.

“We are all very confident that, even with the setback against Chelsea last week, we can win our final two games and clinch the title.”

For Hargreaves, the Reds' squad has the perfect blend of experience and youth, which he feels puts United in a strong position to hold off Chelsea's challenge.

“There’s a great combination of qualities,” he says. “The experience we have in the squad from Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar and Mikael Silvestre is vital; there’s also the young guns like Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Nani, Anderson - some of whom are chasing their first title.

“We’ve also got the most experienced manager in the business, a manager that has been in this situation on many occasions before. That gives everyone confidence.”

Fergie's £15.8m bid for Bos

United have bid £15.8million for Portugal right-back Jose Bosingwa. SunSport can reveal Porto received the offer yesterday but want no less than £22m. United boss Alex Ferguson sees him as the successor to Gary Neville. Bosingwa, 25, is similar in style to Patrice Evra and a £55k-a-week deal with the player and his agent has been agreed. Fergie first made a move in January and No2 Carlos Queiroz was sent to open talks.
Ian McGarry, The Sun

Ronny reigns again

Cristiano Ronaldo has retained the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award.

Having retained the Professional Footballers' Association award last weekend, the winger become only the second player to win both the FWA and PFA awards in successive seasons, after former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry (2002/03 and 2003/04).

The United winger saw off the challenges of Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and Portsmouth goalkeeper David James, who finished second and third respectively.

FWA chairman Paul Hetherington said: "Ronaldo's award is no surprise after his brilliant form this season and incredible goal-scoring record and he is, of course, essentially a winger.

"Cristiano was an overwhelming winner and, given his age, he has the potential and ability to dominate this award for years in an unprecedented way."

Ronaldo will be officially presented with his award on May 15, when the FWA holds its annual dinner.

You ain't seen nothing yet

Despite scooping the PFA and Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year awards, Cristiano Ronaldo still hasn’t hit top form, according to his manager.

Sir Alex admitted the winger has been “sensational” this season, but promised fans there's still more to come.

“I expected him to win the Football Writers’ Association award,” Sir Alex told Manchester United Radio on Friday morning. “His form this season has been absolutely sensational.

“He’s become a real top-class player. And remember, he’s only 23 years old. When he gets to 25 or 26 we’ll see the finished article.”

Ferguson says Ronaldo’s development into one of the world’s best players stems from the Portuguese player’s strong work ethic and self-belief.

“In his early days he tried to hit his shots a little too hard but he’s improved as a result of his own practising. He scored 23 goals last season and now, with three games left, he’s got 38. Hopefully he’ll reach 40 goals by the end of the season.

“Some players are just born confident and Cristiano certainly has that. When you look back to his debut against Bolton in 2003 he lit up Old Trafford. He had such a big impact and you could see the confidence he had, even then.”

Vidic out, Rooney sub?

Wayne Rooney could be among the substitutes for United's vital Premier League clash with West Ham on Saturday at Old Trafford, but Nemanja Vidic will be missing.

Rooney has been struggling with a hip injury sustained in the 1-1 draw at Ewood Park last month.

He featured in Barcelona and at Chelsea last weekend, but was substituted in both games and subsequently sat out the Champions League semi-final, second leg victory over Barca last Tuesday.

Sir Alex says he is making good progress with his recovery, but with a Champions League final looming large, the United boss will not be taking any chances.

"Wayne may be on the bench," revealed Sir Alex at his pre-match press conference. "But we've got a major final to think about and we're not going to rush him."

Vidic, meanwhile, should be fit to face Wigan next Sunday after spending the next few days recovering from concussion sustained in an accidental collision with Didier Drogba last weekend.

Sir Alex also confirmed Patrice Evra, who was stretchered off in injury time against Barca, is fit to face the Hammers.