Custom Search

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Neville eyes battle with Brown

Gary Neville is braced for the most important pre-season of his United career.

The defender not only has to prove his fitness after missing almost the entire 2007/08 campaign, he also to oust the man who replaced him as the Reds' regular right-back.

"I've got a number of challenges ahead of me and the ultimate one is to try and get back into that team ahead of Wes (Brown)," said Gary, in an exclusive interview with MUTV.

"That's going to be hard for me given the way Wes performed last season. I would say he was in our top two or three most consistent players. He was fantastic throughout the season and deserved all the success he got.

"I can talk about my injuries and being out for 12 months, but Wes has had two cruciate ligament injuries and been out for 12 months twice. I know now where he was during those years and I appreciate how difficult it is. And even though Wes is younger than me, he is a great example to me of how you come back into the team after an injury."

Neville's bid to get back into the team starts on Wednesday when the Reds reconvene at Carrington, initially without the men who represented their countries at Euro 2008.

"Pre-season is hugely important for every player but this time it's massive for me as I try to break into a team that's won the Double," said Gary. "And it's an even greater challenge than normal for the team as we try to repeat the success of last season."

Ronaldo expected at Man United preseason

Rio Ferdinand expects Cristiano Ronaldo will report for pre-season training with Manchester United - but concedes he is in the dark over his team-mate's long-term future.

Ronaldo remains the subject of intense speculation linking him with Real Madrid.

The Portugal winger was the star of United's Premier League and Champions League-winning campaign last season and defender Ferdinand does not want him to leave.

The England international told Sky Sports: 'We'd love him to be with us next season. Whatever happens is going to happen.

'We're like the fans, we pick up the papers and read what is going on. We know as much as anyone else.

'We will be going to preseason and I am sure Ronaldo will be there and we will be going with the aim of working hard together and starting off a good new season.'

UEFA chief Platini endorses Ronaldo pursuit

Manchester United's hopes of fending off Real Madrid's interest in Cristiano Ronaldo have been dealt a further blow after UEFA president Michel Platini publicly endorsed the Spanish side's pursuit of the player.

United have already had an official complaint against Real rejected by FIFA and now Platini has said the Madrid club's public wooing of the player is part and parcel of the game.

Platini told a news conference in Vienna: 'Every club in the world would like to have Ronaldo.

'It's part of the system we have today. Players move from club to club and I can understand why Real Madrid want him.

'They had Di Stefano and Puskas in the past, and as Ronaldo is considered one of the best or the best player in the world it's normal.

'If the club has the finances they can do it so, if they don't have the money they can't.'

Platini also expressed his delight over the quality of the football in this tournament in Austria and Switzerland but issued a stiff warning to Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine to get moving on stadium development.

Platini is to head a top-level inspection visit to the two eastern European countries next week, and will focus on the stadiums in Warsaw and Kiev.

He will demand cast-iron guarantees from the organisers that the two stadiums will be ready - work has not started on the new stadium in the Polish capital, while contractors have not been appointed yet for the major refurbishment of the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

Platini denied however that Italy have already been lined up as replacements.

He said: 'We will do everything we can to hold it in Poland or Ukraine.

'There is no back-up plan, we have never had any second thoughts or other thoughts and we respect our decision to go to Poland and Ukraine.

'The only thing which would make me decide not to go is if there is no stadiums in the capitals, Warsaw and Kiev. If there are no stadiums there, no tournament.'

It now looks as if Ukraine and Poland face a major battle to convince UEFA, but Italy would not be a straightforward alternative - they too would have to have a major stadium development programme.

The only countries with ready-made stadium facilities are England, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

Meanwhile, Platini has invited Luis Arconada, the goalkeeper who was guilty of a howler when the UEFA president captained France to victory over Spain in the 1984 European Championships final, to be his personal guest at tomorrow's final.

Arconada fumbled Platini's free-kick and let the ball squeeze under his body and France went on to win 2-0.

Platini said: 'I was thinking while I was shaving this morning that I took the trophy off the Spanish 24 years ago but could be handing it back to them tomorrow.

'When we called Arconada he said 'is this a joke?' but it's great to be able to invite a former opponent.'

Platini added: 'He has nothing to reproach himself for - my goal was impeccable! It was Bruno Bellone's second goal for us that was extremely lucky.'