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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Scholes excited by the future

Staging a repeat of last season's double triumph is not out of the question for United during the upcoming campaign, according to midfielder Paul Scholes.

As one of the Reds' elder statesmen, Scholes is well placed to assess the future potential of United's young guns.

And he's convinced that having scooped the double last season, the team's starlets will continue to go from strength to strength.

"It's an exciting time and a good time to be involved," insisted the 33-year-old.

"The young players coming through are only going to be better next year for the experience they’ve had. Everyone who came in to the team last year played a massive part in our achievements.

"It is a big ask [to retain the Champions League], but I feel we can only go from strength to strength."

Scholes saw enough from United's young players last season to convince him that they are more than capable of coping when the going gets tough.

"It is one thing having the talent and doing it in training every day but you have got to do it where it matters," he insisted.

“Thankfully we have the players who can do that - young lads who do not seemed to be fazed by anything. They are very confident and look forward to the big games.

“Hopefully we can get off to a good start and a good finish by winning more trophies.”

I've been hard on Rooney

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted last night: I have made life hard for Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United boss consistently played his England hitman out of position last season as the club won the Premier League and Champions League. Fergie accepts the star’s goal tally suffered as a result. But now the Scot is ready to turn Rooney into a major threat once more by using him as a central striker. Ferguson conceded: “I think I have to take a bit of responsibility. He has sacrificed himself and never complained about it, which says a lot for the lad. We have to define his role a bit better for us. I think his best position is through the middle, either in a front role or tucking in just behind. He can play either role very well. He is aggressive, uses two feet, has good pace and the courage to go in the box. There’s no reason why he can’t get a good supply of goals."
Janine Self, The Sun

Brave Brown plays full game

Wes Brown was determined to play against Orlando Pirates in Durban on Tuesday, despite the death of his half sister at the weekend.

The Reds’ no.6 played the full 90 minutes and will now return to Manchester on Wednesday evening to be with his family.

“[To play Wes tonight] was a decision we both took,” Sir Alex told reporters after Tuesday’s match.

“I’ve been speaking with him over the last few days and the boy wanted to play. He felt he should play and therefore he’ll take up the family duties when he gets back. He’ll fly home on Wednesday night.”

Sir Alex is known throughout the game as a master of man management, but he admits sometimes players are better off making their own decisions.

“It’s a difficult one to advise on,” he said. “Only the individual can know what’s right, and Wes wanted to stay. Because there’s a post-mortem happening at the moment, there was no emergency for the boy to rush home.”

Boss delivers report cards

After United's 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates on Tuesday, journalist Nick Coppack asked Sir Alex to assess the contributions of the team's younger players. Here's what he had to say:

"Chris Eagles and Lee Martin haven’t played enough football over the last two or three years and they’ve come to an important time in their careers.

"Lee, in particular, has been very unfortunate in the loan spells he’s had. He’s picked up a couple of long-term injuries. Of course, at that age these kids want to play football all the time.

"Meanwhile, Chris Eagles had the opportunity to go on loan last season and didn’t want to. Because of that, and the form of the team, he was dependent on Reserves football, which, at his age and the progress he’s got to make, isn’t enough for him.

"I have to find out more about those players and that’s why I bring them on tour and it’s why I played them [against Orlando Pirates].

"As for Jonny Evans, he went to Sunderland in January and did very well. In fact, I think he was very instrumental in them staying up. Jonny's a very good footballer, who reads the game well and has good composure. He’s got a career in football – there’s no question about that.

"Darron Gibson went to Wolves last season and injuries, as well as a family bereavement, derailed his time there. He needs to get football – he’s a big, powerful lad with good feet and he has a chance.

"Then there's Fraizer Campbell, who spent time at Hull City last season and had an incredible season. He has to improve in certain aspects of his game, but he has a chance as well.

"Concentration is one of the vital components of making the step across the line to be a regular first-team player. You saw the composure that Rooney and Scholes brought to the team [on Tuesday] and that tells you the vast difference between a young player and an experienced player like Scholes. His pass in the final minutes of the game to Rooney… I would have paid money to see that pass if that was the only thing I saw in the game.

"We often under-rate the value of concentration with footballers. They can practise all day long, they can have fantastic ability but if they don’t have the concentration to produce final passes in important moments then they’re never going to make it."

Carrick hungry for more

Michael Carrick says the squad are determined to keep up the winning habit after last season's glorious double.

The midfielder insists confidence could not be higher within the camp after claiming back-to-back titles and the club's third European Cup.

"The success we’ve had over the last couple of years fills you with a lot of confidence," says Carrick.

"Wining the Champions League is a tremendous achievement and one we set out to do. We managed to win the double so as players, we’re going into the new season full of confidence and looking forward.

"The feeling you get from winning drives you on to win even more. I looked at Giggsy, Gaz [Neville] and Scholesy and wondered how they’d done that for so long, but now I know. You can’t get enough of it.

"Hopefully that will drive us on to have more success in years to come."

Foster 'can be the best'

Sir Alex Ferguson reiterated his belief that Ben Foster will soon be England’s number one after the United stopper kept a clean sheet against Orlando Pirates in Durban.

It was Foster’s first full 90 minutes in the first team since he made his United debut against Derby County in March and he was twice called upon to make sharp saves.

The Reds’ boss was delighted with the 24-year-old’s performance and expects big things from the goalkeeper this season.

“With the ability he has, Ben is certainly going to be challenging for a first-team place,” Sir Alex said.

“That’s also good news for England. They’ve brought David James back in and if they’ve gone back to an experienced goalkeeper it tells you there’s an opportunity there for Ben.

“Edwin will start the season as number one. Remember, Ben’s in competition with one of the best goalkeepers of all time. There’s no way I’d discount Edwin van der Sar after his performances for us.

“The potential of Ben Foster is there for all to see and if he’s patient he’ll get his chance. Goalkeepers can have longer careers than outfield players – Edwin can easily play until he’s 40. Ben’s only 24 so he has 14 or 15 years left. There’s no need for the boy to panic. His time will come.”

Foster knows how difficult it will be to break into the starting XI, but he told MUTV he’s determined to keep working hard.

“I have to be confident,” he said. “Like Edwin and Tomasz, I want to play. All I can do is go out on the training pitch and work hard, and when I get a chance in games I need to do as
“I’m looking to push Edwin and Tomasz all the way – it’s going to be a good fight for the goalkeeper’s jersey.

“[The match on Tuesday in Durban] was my first game in four or five months, so it was nice to blow the cobwebs out.

"I was a bit rusty at times but it was good to keep a clean sheet. The key to being a good United goalkeeper is to be on your toes for 90 minutes and expect the unexpected. They had a shot at the end but that was about all I had to do."