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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Scene set for Giggsy

The discovery of a statistical error in Sir Bobby Charlton's appearance record has given Ryan Giggs the chance to become United's record appearance-maker this season, if he features in the Reds' remaining two games.

Sir Bobby has held the club record of 759 appearances since ending his United career in 1973, but that tally included an outing against Bolton Wanderers in January 1962 - a match in which he actually played no part.

Following his substitute appearance against West Ham on Saturday, Giggs can now equal Charlton's record against Wigan next weekend, and overtake it against Chelsea in the Champions League final.

While the veteran winger is proud of the impending achievement, he prefers to focus on ensuring a successful end to United's season rather than dwell on the monumental landmark.

"I'm more concentrating on winning the Premier League next weekend, and after that winning the Champions League," he told MUTV.

"Personal records really don't mean a lot to me while I'm still playing. They're things that I'll look upon when I'm finished and obviously be proud of doing. At the moment I'm just concentrating and thinking about winning trophies."

Sir Alex salutes OT faithful

Sir Alex Ferguson took his players on a lap of honour after the Reds' 4-1 win over West Ham to pay tribute to the Old Trafford faithful.

The fans were once again in fine voice on Saturday afternoon as United moved to within one victory of title glory, and Sir Alex was keen to salute the part they've played throughout the campaign.

"The fans were fantastic again," he told MUTV. "It's sometimes a bit strange to do a lap of honour when you've not won anything, but the fans deserved that.

"We wanted to honour the supporters because they've been superb for us throughout the season. On Tuesday night [against Barcelona] they were out of this world. Hopefully we can all celebrate in a big way next Sunday at Wigan."

A Cristiano Ronaldo brace, which took his tally for the season to 40 goals, and further strikes from Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick gave the Reds a deserved victory in their final home game this term.

Sir Alex praised his side's professionalism to stand firm after the Reds had been reduced to ten men following Nani's head-butt on Lucas Neill.

"The game was marred by immaturity from Nani, real immaturity," conceded the United boss. "He retaliated when he didn't need to and the referee didn't have any option but to send him off after he'd spoken to the linesman. Nevertheless, I'm sure he'll learn from it.

"Getting the three points was the most important thing today," added Sir Alex. "To do that we had to endure quite a bit of pain and agony especially when they scored and we went down to ten men.

"There were a few nervous moments before half-time, but thankfully we kept it at 3-1. We changed things around tactically to ensure that we kept possession in the second half. We're as good as anyone in the game at doing that when we keep our concentration and the fourth goal finished it for us."

Ferdinand keen to keep England captaincy

Rio Ferdinand wants to retain the England captaincy but insists he will not 'shrivel up and go into a shell' if he is overlooked by Fabio Capello.

Ferdinand captained England for the friendly with France in March and also donned the Manchester United armband during Gary Neville's long-term absence through injury.

Capello appointed Steven Gerrard as captain in his first match in charge of England while John Terry, the skipper under Steve McClaren, is also a candidate.

Ferdinand told The Sun: 'Being the captain of England can never be a hassle.

'It's an honour and privilege. It's not the be-all and end-all for me.

'If I'm not the captain I won't shrivel up and go into a shell.

'It won't affect the way I play or my relationship with the other players.

'If something needs to be said in the dressing room, I'll say it.

'I'll still play with 100% commitment. But I'd be lying if I said I would not like the captaincy on a regular basis.

'Of course I want it. Any player would.'

The 29-year-old also recalled his shock at being handed the captaincy by Capello, saying: 'We were having lunch when the manager stood up and everyone went quiet.

'He just said `Captain for the game is Ferdinand' and sat down again.

'I didn't know what to do or what to say.

'It was a bit embarrassing really.'

The former West Ham and Leeds defender admits the team are still adapting to Capello, who succeeded former boss McClaren at the end of last year.

'We're all walking on eggshells.

'We all knew Steve McClaren before he got the manager's job but no-one had had any contact with Mr Capello when he took over.

'No-one knows his personality and it's too early to say what the differences will be in terms of tactics and the football he wants.

'The vibe I get from all the lads is that Capello has won just about everything and we need to be like sponges to soak up all the information he gives out.

'I'm sure we'll have a better idea of what he wants after spending a few days with him in Trinidad at the end of the month.'

Manchester United Vs. West Ham United Result Report

One win down, one to go. United are just three points away from retaining the Premier League title after a scintillating first half attacking display against West Ham at Old Trafford.

Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo (2) and Carlos Tevez gave the Reds an unassailable lead inside the opening half-hour, although a stunning overhead kick from Dean Ashton and the dismissal of Nani were enough to set nerves jangling.

Just before the hour mark, Michael Carrick became the second former Hammer to score to put the result beyond doubt, meaning that a victory over Wigan next weekend will make United league champions for the 17th time.

Despite their exertions on Tuesday evening, Sir Alex Ferguson named the same starting eleven which overcame Barcelona, while Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea and Tomasz Kuszczak remained on the bench.

That meant no return for Nemanja Vidic, still sidelined on doctor’s advice after suffering a concussion against Chelsea, and Wayne Rooney, who continued his recovery from a hip injury.

Despite the absence of their main striker, the Reds were ahead after just three minutes as Ronaldo ended a goal drought – lengthy by his standards – of four games.

Picking the ball up on the right flank, the winger bamboozled Hammers skipper Lucas Neill, advanced into the area and fired a low shot inside Rob Green’s near post, via a slight deflection off George A thrilling game continued apace, and West Ham quickly established a foothold with a brilliant goal of their own. Brown couldn’t fully meet a chipped pass from Hayden Mullins and, as the ball looped up, Dean Ashton contorted brilliantly in mid-air to lash an overhead kick past the motionless Edwin van der Sar.

With West Ham reducing the deficit, there was still room for nerves, and they were heightened further when United were reduced to 10 men shortly before half-time. Nani tangled with Neill off the ball, the Hammers skipper pushed the young winger, who responded by nudging the Australian with his head. Both players fell theatrically to the ground and, after seeking the advice of his assistant, referee Mike Riley brandished the red card to Nani.

Sir Alex Ferguson responded by sending Ronaldo to his traditional role on the wing, leaving Tevez as the lone striker in a 4-4-1 formation. The goal plundering would have to wait, preserving the advantage was now the name of the game.

It took the Hammers until the 50th minute to test the Reds’ resolve. Ferdinand did well to clear under pressure after the impressive John Pantsil had fizzed in a low cross, and Scott Parker drilled the rebound well wide from 20 yards.

The Reds’ plan of containment rarely wavered, until just before the hour mark when Michael Carrick became the second ex-Hammer to score against his former side.

Taking advantage of acres of space in the centre of the park, Carrick strode into space and hit a low shot goalwards. Sweetly for United, the effort again took a deflection and bypassed the helpless Green. As an added bonus for the home contingent, the telling nick came off Neill.

Nerves now banished, United retained the attacking mantle. Scholes almost added to his midweek strike against Barcelona, but was thwarted by a last-ditch challenge from Parker, while Darren Fletcher sidefooted against the post after lovely approach play from fellow substitute Ryan Giggs.

West Ham’s attacking ambitions were almost extinguished, save a fierce pot-shot from striker Bobby Zamora which van der Sar did well to hold, and United were able to see out the remainder of the match in relative comfort.

Second-placed Chelsea travel to Newcastle on Monday, looking to make up United's three point lead. Whether they do or not, the Reds know that victory over Wigan at the JJB Stadium next weekend will be enough to retain the Premier League title.

Team Line- ups

MANCHESTER UNITED: Van der Sar; Hargreaves, Ferdinand, Brown, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Scholes (O’Shea 73), Park (Giggs 61); Ronaldo (Fletcher 64), Tevez.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Anderson

WEST HAM UNITED: Green; Pantsil, Neill, Tomkins, McCartney; Noble, Mullins (Sears 75), Parker, Boa Morte (Solano 52); Ashton (Cole 57), Zamora
Subs not used: Walker, Collinson

Attendance: 76,013

Manchester United Vs. West Ham United Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [4 - 1] West Ham United
3' [1 - 0] C. Ronaldo
24' [2 - 0] C. Ronaldo
26' [3 - 0] C.A. Tevez
28' [3 - 1] D. Ashton
59' [4 - 1] M. Carrick