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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ronaldo to return to Man United this week

Cristiano Ronaldo should be given the green light to step up his recovery programme this week.

While talk of a showdown between Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have dominated certain agendas, particularly in Spain, the Red Devils are more concerned about the 23-year-old's recent ankle operation.

Indeed, United officials have reacted with some amusement to news of potential negotiations between Ronaldo and Ferguson, not least because the Portugal winger is not due to fly into England until later this week at the earliest.

Reports in Spain a fortnight ago suggested Tuesday would be the day Ronaldo told Ferguson face-to-face of his desire to leave for Real Madrid.

However, that will not be the case given he is now due to visit a specialist in Amsterdam to discover how successful his surgery has been.

Only then is Ronaldo set to report in at Carrington, meaning it will be the end of the week at the earliest before he can speak with Ferguson.

And given the United boss is under the impression both men discussed what they had to during a meeting following Portugal's exit from Euro 2008, he is not expecting any further dialogue about Ronaldo's future.

The Red Devils - and Ferguson in particular - have made their position perfectly clear on the matter - Ronaldo, after just one season of a five-year contract, is going nowhere, no matter what price is placed on his head by officials at the Bernabeu.

It is a situation Real president Ramon Calderon may find difficult to stomach but could be forced to accept given his repeated recent protestations that his club do not want to get involved in luring Ronaldo away from Old Trafford and will only act once Old Trafford officials signal their willingness to do a deal.

Such statements have been greeted with mirth at United given the blame being placed at Calderon's door for the discussion over Ronaldo's future, which began almost as soon as the player got his hands on the Champions League trophy in Moscow last May.

Although United have a healthy disregard for reports that come out of Spain, claiming most, including those that stated Ronaldo would return on Tuesday, have been proved false, they are aware most of them originate from Real.

Keano's £8.5m Saha swoop

Roy Keane is on the brink of completing an £8.5million swoop for Manchester United striker Louis Saha. Sunderland boss Keano will make the out-of-favour Old Trafford star the biggest earner in the club’s history on £50,000 a week. Saha, 30, was at the Stadium of Light to see the Black Cats’ 1-0 pre-season defeat by Ajax. Keane is desperate to add firepower to his squad after last season’s brush with relegation. He has splashed £20m on six summer signings already but admitted: “Hopefully there will be two or three players coming on board before the transfer window closes. At the end of last season I thought we needed another top striker at the club and I’ve not changed that view because you’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Vic Holly, The Sun

Peterborough Vs. Manchester United Result Report

Sir Alex Ferguson's men go into Wednesday's friendly against Juventus still unbeaten in pre-season, despite a decent test against a Peterborough side managed by his son Darren.

Darron Gibson's glorious second-half strike, added to a first-half owngoal by Peterborough right-back Russell Martin, saw United win their first away match on English soil since that momentous May day in Wigan.

Irish midfielder Gibson had been on the field for less than a minute as United's eighth and final substitute when he brought down Lee Martin's flicked pass with his right foot and crashed home an unstoppable half-volley with his left boot from 30 yards out.

That wonderful moment in the 68th minute brought a big grin to the face of Sir Alex but there was plenty for the Reds boss to smile about throughout the evening, not least the first appearances of his new full-backs, Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio Da Silva.

Rafael played the full 90 minutes at right-back and was joined in the team for the second half by brother Fabio at left-back. United finished the match with three Brazilians on the London Road pitch, following Rodrigo Possebon's entrance just before the hour.

The Reds made numerous changes at half-time, having taken the lead a few minutes earlier when Russell Martin, otherwise impressive on his home debut for Peterborough, chested David Gray's right-wing cross past his own keeper Joe Lewis. Nani and the lively Carlos Tevez were both involved in the build-up with the latter eventually feeding Gray.

With Gray backed up and sometimes overlapped by Rafael Da Silva, Peterborough had to deal with a number of raids down their left side. Not that it was much quieter for Posh on the other flank with Nani and Reds left-back Patrice Evra stretching their legs on a number of occasions, although both will be seeking greater accuracy with their shots against Juventus before the serious action starts.

United's first-half line-up was completed by Tomasz Kuszczak in goal, Wes Brown and Rio Ferdinand in the heart of defence, Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea in central midfield and Frazier Campbell, Saturday's scorer against Espanyol, up front alongside Tevez.

After almost the entire side was changed by Sir Alex, you might have expected a less cohesive performance from United in the second half. But one of the highlights of the latter stages confounded that - a move of multiple passes ending with Tom Cleverley's shot being saved by Peterborough's substitute goalkeeper Mark Tyler.

As for United's keepers, Kuszczak had to work reasonably hard to keep his latest clean sheet before he was replaced for the last 23 minutes by Ron Robert Zieler. The Pole in goal made a couple of fine saves, including one to deny a point blank header from one of Peterborough's numerous second-half subs, Craig Mackail-Smith.

United: Kuszczak (Zieler, 67); R Da Silva, Brown (Cathcart, 45), Ferdinand (J Evans, 45), Evra (F Da Silva, 45); Gray, Fletcher (Gibson, 67), O'Shea, Nani (Possebon, 58); Tevez (Cleverley, 45), Campbell (Martin, 45). All subs used.

Rooney to miss season's start

Wayne Rooney is likely to miss the start of the 2008/09 season after picking up a virus on United's recent trip to Nigeria.

The 22-year-old didn't play in the friendly with Portsmouth in Abuja, and has subsequently missed matches against Espanyol and Peterborough.

Sir Alex hoped Rooney would make rapid progress in the last few days, but it now appears unlikely that he will make 2008/09's curtain raiser against Newcastle on Sunday 17 August.

"You worry about having a team for the start of the season," Sir Alex said at a press conference to mark the U15 Manchester United Premier Cup tournament at Carrington. "Nani is suspended, Anderson's at the Olympics and I doubt if we'll get Wayne fit for the start of the season."

It's deeply frustrating for Rooney, whose start to the 2007/08 campaign was disrupted when he suffered a broken metatarsal on the opening day against Reading.

"It's a virus that we believe he picked up in Nigeria. It's not a nice one," added Sir Alex. "Carrick also had it, but he came in today (Tuesday) and hopefully he'll play some part against Portsmouth on Sunday."

However, Rooney's chances of being available to kick-off United's Double defence are not so promising. "The season starts in 12 days, but it's such a bad virus that he's not trained since we got back from Africa on 28 July. It's a long time."

United's doctors are currently treating the virus at the club's training ground. "We have a laboratory here so we have all the facilities to do these things now," added the boss, before adding: "The players all had malaria tablets before they went to Africa so it's nothing to do with that."

Sir Alex: Rafael was a sensation

Sir Alex Ferguson could barely contain his excitement on Monday night after witnessing a debut to remember by Brazilian defender Rafael Da Silva.

The young right-back played the full 90 minutes of United's friendly win at Peterborough and did enough to suggest a competitive debut may not be too far away. His brother Fabio also impressed, at left-back, after coming on for Patrice Evra at half-time.

Sir Alex told MUTV's Stewart Gardner, "The young players were fantastic and young Rafael the right-back was a sensation for me.

"I thought it was a real eye opener for us. He hadn't played for a year but he's played a full 90 minutes today. His brother Fabio has played 45 minutes and he's also done well so we're really pleased by their contribution."

When asked if the Da Silva twins' integration will be gradual, Sir Alex responded intriguingly:

"You know what football's like. Sometimes it turns up some star, some little nugget maybe. On the evidence of tonight I think we have got a good player here."

The Da Silvas look set for an Old Trafford debut as early as this Wednesday, when Juventus provide the opposition for United's final pre season friendly.

"The squad we've got here tonight (at Peterborough) will play on Wednesday," confirmed Sir Alex, while "Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville will also be involved."

With midfielders Anderson, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves plus striker Wayne Rooney still unavailable, Wednesday could see Darron Gibson make yet another pre season appearance following his wonder strike against Peterborough.

"We've been saying to him all summer, with the power he's got, he should be striking more," said Sir Alex. "The evidence is there for you now. He has fantastic feet."

As for whether Gibson will stay at United this season, or go out on loan again as he did to Wolves last term, the Reds manager commented:

"At the moment we need all our players because we have some issues with Rooney and Carrick having this virus, Hargreaves is not back yet, Anderson's at the Olympics, so we're just a little bit tight in terms of availability. So they will all stay at the moment."