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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hat-trick for Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo won the treble at United's end of season awards, just hours after the Reds wrapped up the Barclays Premier League title with a thrilling win at Wigan.

Victory at the JJB Stadium made for an electric atmosphere at the Old Trafford party, where individual players at senior, reserve and academy level were rewarded for their efforts.

Ronaldo retained the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year gongs - and added the Goal of the Season award to his collection.

The Portuguese winger actually occupied the top two spots in the Goal of the Season award, taking first place with his stunning free kick against Portsmouth and second for his impudent backheel against Aston Villa.

The treble completes a remarkable campaign for Ronaldo, who earlier this month retained the PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Season awards for his exertions.

The club's other awards were won by Richard Eckersley - the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year - and striker Danny Welbeck, who was named the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year.

Ronaldo retained the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year gongs - and added the Goal of the Season award to his collection.

The Portuguese winger actually occupied the top two spots in the Goal of the Season award, taking first place with his stunning free kick against Portsmouth and second for his impudent backheel against Aston Villa.

The treble completes a remarkable campaign for Ronaldo, who earlier this month retained the PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Season awards for his exertions.

The club's other awards were won by Richard Eckersley - the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year - and striker Danny Welbeck, who was named the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year.

Wayne: What a privilege

Wayne Rooney raised a toast to Sir Alex Ferguson after helping the Reds to retain the Barclays Premier League trophy.

The United striker, now savouring his second championship, has nothing but admiration for the man who has won ten titles during his Old Trafford tenure.

"He’s brilliant. It’s a privilege to play for him every week," said Wayne.

"He’s been in the game for so long but his determination to win is stronger than ever. All credit to him for staying with the club for so long."

Reflecting on a long, hard league campaign, Rooney admitted the final furlong had been difficult. In the past month, United dropped points at Chelsea and Blackburn and Wayne was injured in the process, to the point that he was only expected to be on the bench at best against Wigan.

"We were under a little bit of pressure towards the end of the season," said Wayne, "but we hung in there.

"We knew that coming into the last two games, if we got six points we’d be champions. We could see the finish line. It was in our hands and we weren’t going to let it slip. We were so determined to retain the title."

Sir Bobby full of pride

Reds legend Sir Bobby Charlton hails Sir Alex Ferguson a genius and says he couldn’t be happier that Ryan Giggs has equalled his record of 758 appearances…

All in all, it’s been an excellent day for the club...
It’s just brilliant. Alex Ferguson’s record is simply sensational. The man is a genius. It was excellent, Ryan Giggs came on today and did something that just seemed so natural, putting the game beyond Wigan’s reach. We could relax then. That was a really important goal, he took it with such aplomb. You have to look at the record – ten Premier League titles! It’s fantastic.

Ryan has won all ten and today equalled you appearances record. What did you make of that?
I don’t mind. If there is anyone I would have liked it to happen to, it’s Ryan Giggs. He’s a credit to his family, the club, the game and himself. I am pleased for him.

Sir Alex has masterminded another title success and shows no signs of his ambition diminishing…
Nothing is beyond him. If he gets a team and he’s in any position he knows what to do. He gets the best out of his players and it was tricky against Wigan with the rain. But we came through it and won. It’s brilliant, absolutely sensational. I am soproud.

Can you sum up what it feels like to be a part of this club on a day like this?
It’s an unbelievable club. You have to be here for a period of time to understand it. The people here love the club and want to make it work. Manchester United will progress forever. It’s a marvellous club.

And now onto Moscow, are you confident about the Champions League final?
I put nothing past these players, I put nothing past them. It’s not far away now, it’ll soon be upon us. But we will be ready for it. We will give it our best shot, which we always do.

Sir Bobby was speaking to MUTV.

ManUtd4 Fan's Pool Best Player

The pool about the best Manchester United player has already closed. According to the sample of 232, 60% of the responses voted Christiano Ronaldo. It is not surprising at all to most of United Fan. Wayne Rooney ranked the second with 15% of the vote. Rio Ferdinand, Carlos Tevez, and Anderson shared the third with 3% of the vote. Detailed of pool responses are as below.
36 (15%)
140 (60%)
7 (3%)
7 (3%)
4 (1%)
9 (3%)
4 (1%)
3 (1%)
Van Der Sar
4 (1%)
5 (2%)
3 (1%)
4 (1%)
6 (2%)

Sir Alex: 18th title will come

Sir Alex Ferguson is ecstatic after landing his 10th Barclays Premier League title as United manager. Here is a transcript of his immediate post-match quotes:

Tough title race to win
“It was a tough one alright and being away from home today made it more difficult. In fairness for most of the game we played well. There were some nervous moments and then the rain came and we were wondering what’s going to happen now, because anything can happen on a rainy surface. Just after half-time we started to get a grip of it. We missed a few chances and the goalkeeper made some great saves. I was saying to myself, “Please give us that second goal.” Of course, my oldest player, ten medals today, gets it – Ryan Giggs. Fantastic."

Scholes fortunate not to be sent off?
"I think Paul rode his luck a little bit. I thought his first tackle was reckless and he deserved to be booked. The second one was nothing, a shove and it didn’t merit a booking at all. But there was one a few minutes before that one which puts the case in doubt."

Nervous when Chelsea went 1-0 up?
“You’ve got to try and dismiss all the stuff round about you, forget what was happening at Chelsea and concentrate on our own game. I think we did that okay. But there was a guy behind us who kept telling us it was 2-0 to Chelsea after just one minute. So he was playing his part for Chelsea!"

Turning point in the league campaign?
"It ebbed and flowed a bit. Arsenal, for long periods, looked like they were going to win it. Then they dropped a few points after we knocked them out of the FA Cup and that told for them. We then dropped a few points at Blackburn and Middlesbrough and that allowed Chelsea to close right in. But the two points they dropped against Wigan probably won the title for us."

How does it feel to have won 10 titles?
"Fantastic. I’m very proud. Proud to have survived for so long. It’s a great club and it’s much easier for me than it is for anyone else. How would I do without this? Tell me."

Targeting Liverpool's record of 18 titles overall
"I think it will come. This side’s young. It’s developing all the time. It’s a good young team and there are plenty of years left in them. They’ll do it in their own time."

And now for Moscow...
"The great thing is we’re bouncing into the (Champions League) final. We can look forward to it. If we’d lost the title today, it would have been difficult. When we lost the title at West Ham in 1995, we lost the FA Cup final the following week. We were dead then. We’re not dead now, we’re alive. If we win the European Cup, this has to be my best team."

Sir Alex was talking to Sky Sports.

Giggs delight at ten titles

Ryan Giggs couldn’t contain his delight having scored the goal that sealed United’s tenth Premier League crown.

But the Reds’ winger, who was a second-half substitute for Ji-sung Park, says doing it in a game where he equalled Sir Bobby Charton’s appearance record is a mere aside.

“It feels great,” he said of his record-extending tenth title. “I’m not bothered about individual records, this is what it’s all about – championships.

“We knew it would be a tough game, and it was. We did well in the first half and got that first goal. Then it was a case of holding on.”

Giggs’ goal nine minutes from time ended any hopes of a late Wigan intervention, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving player.

“It was a great goal just to settle us down,” added the Welshman. “We felt a little more comfortable after that.”

The 34-year-old is now targeting a double in Moscow a week on Wednesday. The Reds travel to the Russian capital to take on Chelsea in the Champions League final, and Giggs says: “Winning the league feels great, and hopefully we can win another trophy in ten days’ time.”

A Perfect Ten

After a dramatic final day of the 2007/08 season, puts forward ten reasons why United are ten-time Premier League champions…

Home Rule: Sir Alex Ferguson's wish in recent seasons was to re-establish Old Trafford as a fortress. Safe to say, it's mission accomplished. Aside from the opening day bore draw against Reading and February's defeat to Manchester City, United have beaten all comers to M16, winning 17 out of 19 home matches.

Leaving It Late: Opposing teams expect to be on the rack in the closing stages, and stats show United are deadliest in the final 15 minutes of games. Most tellingly in this season were dramatic strikes from Carlos Tevez - a tap-in at Tottenham and a priceless header at Blackburn.

That Boy Ronaldo: While the Ronny is ever-eager to point out that it’s not a one-man show, United fans have been privileged to watch a genius at work. Almost always at his unplayable best, Ronaldo has plundered goal after goal, overtaking records in the same way he plays - left, right and centre.

Defence: For all the plaudits lavished upon the Reds’ star-studded attack, the platform for success has been built on a miserly defensive record. Despite being without skipper Gary Neville all season, United’s backline registered 20 domestic clean sheets - the finest defensive record in the Premier League.

Big Game Hunters: Until April's defeat at Chelsea, United's record against the other members of the 'Big Four' - Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool - was virtually unblemished. Ever able to raise themselves for the big games, United beat Liverpool twice, took four points off Arsenal and beat Chelsea at Old Trafford, taking 13 points from a possible 18.

New Boys: The near-instant assimilation of summer arrivals Anderson, Nani, Owen Hargreaves and Carlos Tevez has been key to United’s title triumph. The young Portuguese-based duo proved themselves as players for now, not just the future, while the more experienced Hargreaves and Tevez were integral to United’s late-season surge.

Squad Depth: Last season’s bid for a second Treble was left in tatters by injuries. Eager to avoid a repeat, Sir Alex made new signings and brought back a host of youngsters to bolster his squad. The move worked wonders, with every squad member contributing when injuries have hit – remember Ben Foster’s heroics at Pride Park?

Experience: For all United's free-spirited youthfulness, the calmness of some sage old heads has been crucial. Off the field, Sir Alex and his coaching staff have been there, done it enough times to keep everybody grounded, while experienced players like Ferdinand, van der Sar, Scholes and Giggs brought vital know-how at fraught times.

Bouncing Back: The mark of champions is to respond positively to setbacks - exactly what United did all season. Every time questions were posed by a domestic defeat – Manchester City (twice), Bolton, West Ham, Chelsea – the Reds responded with a victory.

Attack, Attack, Attack: Much was made of the contrast in the title chasers’ styles. Pragmatic, robotic Chelsea doing battle with swashbuckling, easy-on-the-eye United for the grand prize. In the end, goal difference was the difference between the two, proving that merging substance and style is a winning combination.

Wigan Vs. Manchester United Result Report

It was nervous, tense, nail-biting stuff at times, but Manchester United are league champions for the 17th time, after beating Wigan at the JJB Stadium.

Goals in either half from Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs sealed the trophy for United, who have now won 10 titles since the inception of the Premier League.

It was only fitting that the goals came from Ronaldo, from the penalty spot for his 41st goal of a prolific season, and Giggs, who joined Sir Bobby Charlton as United’s joint all-time appearance-maker.

The Reds’ victory rendered irrelevant Chelsea’s victory over Bolton, as United’s far superior goal difference saw them pip the Blues despite finishing level on points.

United went into the make-or-break clash buoyed by the return of Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney from injury, as Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a strong attacking side.

For all the attacking intent evident in the Reds’ line-up, however, it was the hosts who showed the most promising early signs, as Jason Koumas twice shot wastefullty off-target from decent positions outside the area.

United were undoubtedly on the back foot, but could have sneaked ahead after 15 minutes if Wayne Rooney’s close-range effort hadn’t been deflected wide. Paul Scholes then lashed comfortably wide of Chris Kirkland’s post from 20 yards, but Wigan should have opened the scoring shortly afterwards, passing up two decent chances from corners.

First, Titus Bramble could only fire over the bar after the loose ball had fallen to him, then Marcus Bent planted a free header over the bar. Wigan, although they had nothing to play for other than pride and prize money, were giving it everything they could. Having been in the media spotlight all week, they knew anything less would be scrutinised endlessly.

Ronaldo mustered United’s first effort on target after 25 minutes, but Kirkland was able to paw away his 30-yard free kick in relative comfort. The England goalkeeper was scrambling four minutes later, however, as Ronaldo lobbed a superb cross into the six-yard box, but Carlos Tevez was unable to apply any sort of finishing touch.

Just after the half-hour mark, Ronaldo was handed the chance to settle United nerves from the penalty spot. Wigan failed to clear a long punt forward and, amid the confusion, Emmerson Boyce fouled Rooney and referee Steve Bennett pointed straight to the penalty spot.

After a lengthy delay, soundtracked by a shrill home support, the Portuguese winger stepped up and side-footed a shot inside Kirkland’s left-hand post, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

The home contingent were incensed at the penalty’s award and conversion, and they had a further grievance to air shortly afterwards when Scholes, already booked for an earlier poor challenge on Wilson Palacios, escaped with a stern lecture after barging the same player to the ground to end a promising Latics break.

Shortly afterwards, by which point the sun had turned to heavy rain, Nemanja Vidic was required to make a superb back-post clearance, with Heskey waiting for a certain tap-in behind him.

By half-time, thunder and lightning was adding an unnecessary extra touch of drama to proceedings. However, a goal to the good, and with Chelsea being held at home by Bolton, things were going largely to plan for United.

The Reds almost had a two-goal cushion just after the restart, but Kirkland managed to palm Ronaldo’s powerful 25-yard free kick over the bar. The United fans amassed behind Kirkland’s goal were vocally demanding a penalty some five minutes later when Scholes was felled inside the box, but referee Bennett declined to award a second kick. From the resultant corner, Ronaldo powerfully headed past Kirkland, but also past the post.

The Latics goalkeeper then made a superb one-handed save to keep out a low shot from Rooney, as United sought to put the game, and the title race, beyond their rivals. Just before the hour mark, he produced another fine block, this time from Tevez, to keep United nerves jangling.

Any anxiety will not have been helped by the news that Chelsea had taken the lead at Stamford Bridge. Nor that Wigan, who had barely had a touch of the ball in the opening stages of the second half, were suddenly alive again.

Set-pieces continued to be the hosts’ best outlet, and Heskey was terrifyingly close to levelling the score with 22 minutes remaining. The England striker powerfully met Koumas’ inswinging free-kick, only for his header to land on the roof of van der Sar’s net.

That scare was a timely wake-up call for United, who gradually began to re-assert their authority on the game. Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves were introduced for Scholes and Park, allowing Giggs to become United’s joint all-time leading appearance maker.

The veteran Welsh winger struck the telling blow for the Reds with 11 minutes remaining. Rooney cut in from the left wing, advanced and slid a ball through to Giggs, totally unmarked, in the centre of the penalty area.

Totally unflustered, the experienced campaigner simply took a touch, slotted low past Kirkland and sparked scenes of unabashed delirium among the writhing Reds supporters.

“We’re gonna win the league,” they bellowed, as one. Although Wigan did mount a spirited late response, with Giggs clearing off the line, Figueroa striking the post and Heskey passing up countless late headers, they were right.

As ever, United did it the hard way. Now, it’s onwards and upwards to Moscow, where the champions will meet their nearest challengers.

Team Line-ups

WIGAN ATHLETIC: Kirkland; Boyce, Bramble, Scharner, Figueroa; Brown (King 81), Koumas, Palacios, Valencia; Bent (Sibierski 70), Heskey
Subs not used: Pollitt, Taylor, Skoko
Booked: Palacios, Heskey, Valencia

MANCHESTER UNITED: Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Park (Giggs 68), Scholes (Hargreaves 67), Carrick; Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Saha, Silvestre
Booked: Scholes, Rooney

Attendance: 25,133 (Stadium record)

Wigan Athletic Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clips

Wigan Athletic [0 - 2] Manchester United
33' [0 - 1] C. Ronaldo (pen.)
80' [0 - 2] R. Giggs