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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sir Alex rubbishes rumours of Ronaldo's partying

Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed as 'a load of rubbish' reports that star player Cristiano Ronaldo has been partying excessively during his rehabilitation from ankle surgery.

The Portuguese winger has been spending time in the USA as he continues to recover from an operation, but while his recreational activities have been the subject of media speculation, Ferguson insists his visit is business orientated.

The Scot has also rejected suggestions that the 23-year-old, who remains the focus of intense interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid, has been drinking after revealing United have a representative in Ronaldo's party.

'He was always scheduled to have this time off in Los Angeles. There was no harm in going there,' said Ferguson. 'He was doing some commercial things. We have someone out there with him.

'All the stuff we have been seeing of him, well, it's a load of rubbish. He's not a drinker for a start. There was a report he had been drinking vodka but I spoke to the person we have with him and he said it's rubbish.

'He is not drinking. It's absolute nonsense.'

Ferguson conceded that Ronaldo faced a challenge in coping with the added celebrity that his stellar season last term brought, but refused to be drawn on comparisons with former Red Devils star David Beckham, whose lifestyle was believed to be one of the reasons Ferguson sold him to Madrid.

'As far as comparisons with him and David Beckham are concerned, I am not going to discuss that,' said Ferguson. 'Any young player is going to get attention. The important thing is how they handle that.

'We know success changes people but the change you like to see is an elevation in esteem and personality, which makes them better players a lot of the time.

'Cristiano is now reaching that stage with his maturity, personality and the presence he has had on the world stage. We should help him.'

Manchester United Vs. Portsmouth Result Report

A solid test in the Nigerian capital of Abuja saw United’s unbeaten pre-season campaign continue, with the Reds running out 2-1 winners against Portsmouth.

Second-half goals from Chris Eagles and Carlos Tevez gave United a deserved win in what was a decent work-out against Premier League opposition, a side that will become familiar foes in the coming weeks. This is the first of three matches in the space of a month against Harry Redknapp’s men; there’s also the Community Shield at Wembley on 10 August, then the league encounter two weeks later at Fratton Park.

United were without Wayne Rooney for this match, he suffered a dead leg against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, while Ben Foster was also out with a knock. Sir Alex continued to give young players a chance, with Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson, Eagles and Fraizer Campbell included from the start.

The Reds began brightly and were controversially denied a fifth-minute opener. Glen Johnson fouled Campbell inside the area, giving Tevez the chance to score from the spot. He expertly sent David James the wrong way, but the referee ordered a retake for an encroachment into the box. Having previously plumped for placement, Tevez chose power but could only look on as his second attempt rattled the bar.

Despite a dramatic start, the game was played at a relatively conservative pace, perhaps due to the heat – humid 28oC temperatures at kick-off – or the fact that both teams had played matches the day before. However, any openings were coming from United; Chris Eagles missed a one-on-one with James midway through the half, then Campbell spurned a chance from a similar position on 35 minutes.

In the second half Jermain Defoe was first to go close, forcing an excellent low save from the rarely-tested Tomasz Kuszczak. But five minutes after the restart United, and Eagles specifically, made amends for missed first-half chances. Pompey failed to clear the ball from a Reds attack and Eagles smashed the loose ball into the top corner from 12 yards. It was nothing more than Sir Alex’s men deserved.

United soon moved 2-0 in front with another emphatic finish. Tevez raced down the right channel and surprised James, who was expecting a shot across goal, with powerful low drive into the near corner. It was his last touch of the match – he was replaced by Ryan Giggs - but a good note to end on for the impressive Argentinian.

Defoe pulled back a goal for Portsmouth in the last minute of normal time, but United held out to record a third win in four matches in Africa, bringing the curtain down on a highly successful visit.

Other plus points on the night were Jonny Evans’ display in defence, and outings for youngster Ben Amos, Tom Cleverley and Rodrigo Possebon. United now return to England with matches against Espanyol (2 Aug), Peterborough (4 Aug), Juventus (6 Aug) and Portsmouth (10 Aug) before the start of the season.

United: Kuszczak (Amos, 76); Neville, Vidic, Evans (Cathcart, 65), Silvestre; Gibson (Possebon, 73), Carrick (O'Shea, 65), Scholes, Eagles (Cleverley, 79); Tevez (Giggs, 65), Campbell.
Subs not used: Fletcher, Simpson, Martin.

High hopes for starlets

Sir Alex Ferguson has earmarked a host of his promising youngsters as future Old Trafford stars and hopes to see them make significant progress over the coming season.

A number of the young players have impressed during United's pre-season trip to South Africa with Chris Eagles, Lee Martin, Tom Cleverley and Fraizer Campbell all finding the net.

Assured displays from Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Possebon and Belfast-born defender Craig Cathcart during Saturday's Vodacom Challenge final victory have given Sir Alex further cause for optimism.

"They are all at a good age in terms of us judging them," he said. "Most of them have been out on loan and done well.

"Jonny Evans had a good spell at Sunderland and was instrumental in them staying up. Campbell was instrumental in bringing Hull up.

"Lee Martin has been unfortunate with injuries, but he showed what he can do by setting up the first goal [against the Kaizer Chiefs]. He has potential.

"Cathcart is looking much stronger and the intention is to put him out on loan this season. Possebon will stay as he has potential for first team football, while Cleverley is just a young lad and has time on his side. All the young players have good potential."


Dream debut for Tom

A beaming Tom Cleverley couldn't contain his delight after scoring on his senior debut during United's 4-0 victory over the Kaizer Chiefs in the Vodacom Challenge final.

The 18-year-old was a late inclusion in the Reds' South Africa squad after flying out with fellow youngsters Rodrigo Possebon and Craig Cathcart on Thursday.

Cleverley entered the fray at the start of the second period and wasted little time in making an impression, expertly converting Wayne Rooney's knock-down just after the hour for United's third goal.

"It's been an unbelievable day and I'm pretty speechless," he told MUTV.

"I got the call on Tuesday to say I'd be coming out to South Africa so it's all happened very quickly.

"I came on and did quite well and got a goal - I feel very proud."

Having experienced a successful taste of first team action, the midfielder is determined to build on his bright start.

"I've done well in my first match, but I want to stay there and carry it on into the season," he insisted.

"I'm just a down to earth lad from Bradford and to see Scholesy coming on to play next to me was unbelievable; you have to pinch yourself.

"It's great to play with the likes of Tevez and Rooney and it really helps you to raise your game. Hopefully I can continue to do that."

Hargo: Rooney can 'explode'

Owen Hargreaves has heaped praise on Wayne Rooney and predicted the striker will have a ‘massive’ 2008/09 season.

Hargreaves already believes his team-mate is England’s most talented player and warned the rest of the Premier League that the 22-year-old will only get better.

The Reds midfielder said: “This will be a massive season for Wayne. He could be one of the most influential players in the Premier League and I am looking forward to seeing him really explode.

“Ability-wise he is the best English player. It is very rare you get someone as good as that – he is exceptionally gifted. He is only 22 and it feels like he has been around for ever.

“Wayne has had a fabulous career already but he has so much more to offer. This season I am looking forward to him doing even better, scoring more goals and being even more effective.”

Rooney was frequently deployed in an unfamiliar wide role last term and his goal tally suffered as a result, although Hargreaves recognises the value of the frontman’s tireless contribution to United’s cause.

"It is a blessing and not a coincidence that we were so successful last season with Wayne and Carlos [Tevez] doing so much work up front,” Hargreaves continued.

“Wayne is so unselfish – he will do a job anywhere you ask him. He does a lot of work for the rest of the team, which other offensive players would not do.

"But he has so much ability to decide a game as well. The Aston Villa game in the FA Cup was probably the best example of that. He decided the game on his own in the space of 20 minutes. Not a lot of English players can do that.”

Boss hails Vodacom triumph

Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted to see his side pick up their first piece of silverware of the season after a convincing 4-0 win in the Vodacom Challenge final in Pretoria.

A fine first half finish from captain Ryan Giggs set the Reds on their way to victory over the Kaizer Chiefs, before further impressive finishes from Wayne Rooney and substitutes Tom Cleverley and Fraizer Campbell ensured United rounded off their visit to South Africa in style.

It was a young side that started the match with Rodrigo Possebon and Craig Cathcart both handed their first senior starts. Cleverley and Campbell were both second half substitues and each ended the day with a goal.

Sir Alex was pleased with his side's overall display and reserved special praise for his young charges.

"The young ones played their part," the boss told MUTV. "Tom Cleverley did very well. He's a nice footballer, a Manchester United-type player who wants to be on the ball all the time.

"Fraizer is always a threat with the pace he has and getting a goal was nice for him.

"I thought Rodrigo and Craig both did well. Craig had one or two little misunderstandings in the first half when the ball was played through. The altitude here means it flies a bit quicker than normal so he had to deal with that a couple of times. But other than that he did very well.

"He, like Rodrigo, used the ball well and I think the lads have got a chance.

"It's always great to win a trophy," added the United manager. "It's a beautiful trophy, although I'm not quite sure how we're going to get it home it's so big!"

The Reds now head to Nigeria for a friendly with Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth side on Sunday night after a productive nine-day stay in South Africa.

"The organisation of everything has been first class," concluded Sir Alex on his way to the airport. "The atmosphere in the stadiums has been terrific - the fans really seemed to have enjoyed themselves. And the games have been played at a high tempo which has brought our fitness up to the right level.

"So there are a lot of plus points and I think there are a lot of positive aspects for South African football."

Kaiser Chiefs Vs. Manchester United Result Report

United were too classy for Kaizer Chiefs in the Vodacom Challenge final, as the Reds cruised to a 4-0 victory.

Goals from Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley and Fraizer Campbell settled a game in which the Reds only fully took control in the second half.

The Chiefs set much of the early pace, as the English champions took time to find their groove. The heat and altitude in Pretoria may have played its part, likewise United’s unfamiliar team selection.

That was understandable, however. With the Reds due to face Portsmouth in Nigeria little more than 24 hours after this clash, Sir Alex called on the club’s youth. Youngsters Craig Cathcart and Rodrigo Possebon (both yet to make competitive first-team appearances) both started, as did Danny Simpson and Lee Martin.

Possebon’s first two touches oozed confidence and class, as the young Brazilian slotted easily into his central midfield role. Later, when he sprayed a pass 40 yards out to Martin on the left wing, it was just like watching Paul Scholes.

But it was the familiar face of Wayne Rooney who engineered the game’s first spark. Collecting the ball on the right side of the Chiefs’ box, Rooney shaped to blast the ball goalwards. Instead, he orchestrated a cheeky chip that had goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune scrambling back towards goal before breathing a sigh of relief as the ball dropped onto the roof of the net.

As was the case in Cape Town last Saturday, Kaizer Chiefs weren’t intimidated by United. Tricky winger Siphiwe Tshabalala was particularly direct, running at Simpson at every opportunity. Tshabalala, in his bright red boots and dreadlocked hair, makes Chief tick. Speedy and skilful, he also possesses an assured first touch and exquisite vision.

After a period of United dominance, in which Rooney saw two shots saved by Khune, the South Africans almost took the lead. They were first denied a penalty when Tomasz Kuszczak raced out to reach Cathcart’s header and Mthembu went to ground. Then Tshabalala flashed a free-kick inches wide of the post.

When the next chance of the match fell to Ryan Giggs on 40 minutes, the Welshman made no mistake, lashing Lee Martin’s cross back past Khune and into the roof of the net. Giggs’ right-foot rocket not only put United in the driving seat, it also raised R100,000 for the tournament’s Goals For Miracles campaign. By the time the final whistle went, the charity was R400,000 better off.

Giggs was denied a second shortly after the interval by a fine save from Khune, and Wayne Rooney blasted the follow-up into the side-netting. United’s record appearance maker was again involved on 53 minutes, his curling cross finding Cathcart at the back post. Despite the time and space he was afforded, the young Northern Irishman could only plant his header wide.

The Reds did add a second on 57 minutes as Wayne Rooney beat the offside trap to sprint clear and finish under the onrushing Khune. It was the sort of composure in front of goal strikers sometimes lack during pre-season, and yet Rooney has now found the net in two of his last three starts.

He turned provider five minutes later, nodding down Danny Simpson’s cross at the back post for substitute Tom Cleverley to fire home from six yards. Cleverley, a constant fixture in the Reds’ second string last season, was engulfed by team-mates as they celebrated his strike.

The Chiefs’ early energy had faded and United’s final goal arrived courtesy of another substitute, Fraizer Campbell.

Again, the Chiefs’ offside trap failed. Chris Eagles laid the ball into Campbell’s path and the 21-year-old showed the kind of form that netted him 15 goals during his loan spell at Hull City last season.

In truth, the result was never important; United’s time in South Africa was all about improving fitness levels. Still, it’s always nice to see the Reds win some silverware.

Team Line-ups

United: Kuszczak; Simpson, Vidic (Evans 63), Cathcart, O’Shea; Fletcher (Gibson 63), Possebon (Cleverley 46), Carrick (Scholes 63), Martin (Eagles 46); Rooney (Tevez 66), Giggs (Campbell 66)

Subs not used: Amos, Neville, Silvestre

Kaizer Chiefs: Khune; Tau, Bhasera, Nahayo (Tsotetsi 66), Quartey; Nengomashe, Zwane, Letsholonyane (Schalkwyk 46), Tshabalala (Nkambule 46); Mthembu (Motaung 38, Lebese 71), Torrealba (Bulu 66)

Subs not used: Baron, Mathebula, Sibeko

Reds close in on Tevez deal

Carlos Tevez will sign a permanent deal with the club before the end of the year, according to United chief executive David Gill.

Gill confirmed the Reds have reached a deal with Tevez's owners MSI that will turn his current loan deal into a permanent move.

Tevez netted 19 goals in his first season at Old Trafford as United sealed a glorious double and Gill insists it was always the club's intention to offer the Argentine a long-term deal.

"We have spoken to Carlos and see him as part of our long-term squad," revealed Gill. "We have been pleased with his first season. He is a good age - a great player and well liked within the team.

"We know what we have to do and what we have to pay. The only issue is that we would have to sort out a long-term contract for him.

"But it's not a problem - we can do it in September, October, November or December. Sir Alex has explained it to him and he is very comfortable with it."

Portsmouth Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Portsmouth [1 - 2] Manchester United
51' [0 - 1] C. Eagles
64' [0 - 2] C.A. Tevez
90' [1 - 2] J. Defoe


Manchester United Vs. Kaizer Chiefs Highlights Video Clip (Final - Vodacom Challenge)

Manchester United 4 - 0 Kaizer Chiefs (Final - Vodacom Challenge)
1-0 Giggs 40'
2-0 Rooney 57'
3-0 Cleverley 62'
4-0 Campbell 86'