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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Berbatov row leaves United light

Manchester United are determined to complete the signing of Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur before the start of the new Barclays Premier League campaign this weekend. Tottenham are understood to be resigned to losing Berbatov, but, having rejected an official bid of £20.5million from United last month, they maintain that they will not sell for less than £30million. Berbatov is determined to move to Old Trafford, having made clear his ambition to play Champions League football. United have been linked with a bid to sign Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal forward, from Barcelona, but the most likely alternative to Berbatov this summer is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Oliver Kay, The Times

Big things expected of Nani

Sir Alex Ferguson believes United fans will witness increasingly mature performances from Nani this season once he has completed the remainder of his three-game domestic ban.

The Portuguese winger was dismissed for head-butting Lucas Neill in retaliation for a nasty challenge by the Australian in the penultimate league game of last season against West Ham.

Nani was forced to sit out the last-day trip to Wigan back in May and will miss United's next two league matches against Newcastle and Portsmouth.

However, when he does return to action, Sir Alex is expecting big things from the 21-year-old.

"Nani has gone through the same process as all the young players and you are looking for that jump up in performance level," explained the United boss.

“His maturity should be better as well, which is important. He is a very young 21. That immaturity showed itself against West Ham at the end of the season. That has cost us because he is missing for the first two games.

“But when he develops that he will be an outstanding talent. He has courage and speed, can play with both feet and does not melt in big atmospheres.”

Neville hails stylish Reds

Gary Nevile reckons the current United team is the most creative assembled by Sir Alex Ferguson, insisting its unique style gives the Reds a great chance of making European history this season.

United are bidding to become the first side to retain the Champions League trophy in its current format having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Moscow last May.

Neville was part of the 1999 Treble-winning side, but says the attacking make-up of the 2008 squad is a frightening prospect for opposition teams and could make the difference this term.

"This is the most inventive United team [I've been involved in] in terms of its style," he declared. "The way players interchange has been different to the way United teams have in the past, even though there has been interchanging.

"The front three or four seem to be able to play in all positions. It's difficult for defenders, who don't know who they'll be playing against from minute to minute, never mind from match to match.

"At times we can be an intimidating team to play against because of the way we attack. We have players who can beat opponents one on one. That's the most intimidating thing for defenders. Our players can deal the harshest blows and are intimidating to play against - I'm up against them in training so I know.

"Retaining the Champions League as it is now has never been done and what a challenge that is for us," he added. "We must step up to the plate if we want to achieve that."

Carrick: Goals no problem

Michael Carrick is ready to take penalties in Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury-enforced absence, but he’s sure the Reds will start banging in the goals when the 2008/09 season kicks off this weekend.

Carrick has shown his credentials as an able understudy to United’s regular spot-kick taker, scoring in the Community Shield shoot-out against Portsmouth on Sunday. He also converted from 12 yards in the pre-season friendly against Aberdeen and, of course, the Champions League final in Moscow.

The 27-year-old has been laid low recently with the same virus that has kept Wayne Rooney out of action. But his return as a second-half substitute at Wembley comes as a welcome boost to Sir Alex’s injury-hit squad.

“I’m just about back to normal now,” he told MUTV. “I’ll have a good week training and look forward to playing Newcastle. Sunday’s game was too soon for me to start, but it was good to get out there. We’re all looking forward to the first game of the season.”

Should United earn a spot-kick against Kevin Keegan’s men in Sunday 16:00 BST kick-off at Old Trafford, Carrick won’t shirk the responsibility if he’s on the pitch. “I quite enjoy taking penalties actually,” adds the Wallsend-born midfielder.

“I’ve never really taken penalties throughout my career, but I took one at Aberdeen and I’ve scored in penalty shoot-outs. If a penalty comes up, I’d step up no problem.”

The Reds have scored just once in the last three games – Fraizer Campbell struck against Espanyol – but that hasn’t got Carrick worried. “It’s not really a concern,” said the Englishman. “It’s still early days, the performances are there and we’re creating the chances. We’ve got the lads to stick them away. In an ideal world you’d be winning every match comfortably. Last season we didn’t start all that well, but hopefully we’ll start next week by banging the goals in and getting ourselves off the mark.

“Since the first game back against Aberdeen, we’ve all progressed and got better with every game. Sunday’s was a good performance. But we want to improve and get better. This is one step further in our preparations so I’m sure we’ll be ready.

“It’s nice to start the season well. We’ve won the Community Shield this year, and we started last year in a similar fashion. We just want to keep improving and progressing and we’re hoping to have an even better season this time around.”