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Friday, August 8, 2008

Carrick on his way to Wembley

Sir Alex Ferguson's injury concerns are beginning to ease as United prepare to kick off 2008/09 on Sunday in the Community Shield clash with Portsmouth.

The squad for Wembley will be bolstered by the return of Michael Carrick - the midfielder trained on Thursday after recovering from the virus that also waylaid Wayne Rooney.

"Carrick trained yesterday for the first time and I'm taking him to Wembley," said Sir Alex.

"Hopefully I'll give him some minutes on the pitch. If he is feeling good then we have to get some minutes on the clock for him ahead of next week against Newcastle."

Wayne Rooney is now also clear of the virus but he returned to training only today (Friday) after missing every session since the Reds returned from Africa on 28 July.

"We have a big job to get him ready for Newcastle," said Sir Alex, "but with seven or eight days training, we may just make it now. He's much better and the medical reports are good.

"Gary Neville and Nani are fit and they will travel. Nani will probably start on Sunday because he is suspended for the first two league games of the season.

"Owen Hargreaves is not ready. He should be OK for Portsmouth away (on Monday 25 August), that's the time frame we've put on it.

"Ben Foster had a bit of swelling in his knee which you can sometimes get after a cruciate knee injury. We're trying to manage that but he's not ready yet to play in games. It's unfortunate for the lad because he was looking forward to an uninterrupted run."

Ronaldo's here for years to come

Having ensured that Cristiano Ronaldo will remain a United player this season, Sir Alex Ferguson feels the Portuguese winger will find it harder and harder to leave the club the longer he remains a Red.

The United boss was in an open and frank mood when quizzed about Ronny’s recent pledge of allegiance to the club, following a summer of intense speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid.

Ronaldo's interview with Portuguese newspaper Publico earlier this week has, according to Sir Alex, drawn a line under the affair.

“We’re happy,” the Reds boss said at a press conference on Friday. “His interview was very good. From my perspective, he explained himself perfectly. As I said on Wednesday, the matter is now closed. He’s a Manchester United player and he’s happy to be here. He’s always been happy here. It’s just the unfortunate participation of Real Madrid in his life that has made it difficult for him.”

The United manager was equally bullish when presented with the notion that a repeat episode of Real Madrid's forthright pursuit of the player could take place next summer.

“The important thing is that we have ended all the stuff about Real Madrid,” he said defiantly. “As he gets older, I think Cristiano will appreciate being here more and more. That happens with players the longer they stay here. They don’t want to leave.

“If you look at Rio Ferdinand, who joined us as a young man from Leeds United, that’s exactly what has happened to him. He is now a real Manchester United person. He loves the club. And he comes from another country… he comes from London! It’s a different world there. There’s not a lot of difference from someone leaving London or Portugal and coming to Manchester. You come north, you get a colder climate, a wetter climate. But you come to a real football city, which very few cities can say.”

Ronaldo, who is now back in Manchester and on a rehabilitation programme following ankle surgery over the summer, will pull on a United shirt again hopefully by the end of September. That is testimony to United and Sir Alex’s resolute stance.

“I think they (Real Madrid) now know they’re dealing with a different animal," added the boss. "I can’t deny that it was an important issue. There are very few players that have left me against my will. I’d have to think seriously about that one.

"It’s unusual for anyone to want to leave Manchester United. Cristiano realises that, too. We had a good meeting over in Portugal and clarified a lot of things. He was good, and I was pleased with that. That’s why I was confident that everything was going to be all right.

“As I’ve said, Cristiano will settle down and enjoy his career here. He’s got four years on his contract, and hopefully at some point we would like to extend it. That’s where we are.”

Ferguson backing Lions

Alex Ferguson blasted suggestions that England’s international failure is down to too many foreigners in the Premier League. FIFA chief Sepp Blatter wants to cut the number of stars from abroad by using a quota rule. But Manchester United boss Fergie said: “I did not start the Champions League final with six Englishmen because I was making a political statement. I did it because they’re good enough to win the European Cup. It is nonsense to say England do not have players capable of competing on the international stage."
Ross Gregory, The Sun