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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reds have to stay in touch

Ryan Giggs says United's players are targeting victory at Portsmouth on Monday in order to avoid being cut adrift from the Premier League title race.

The champions dropped two points at home to Newcastle last Sunday, and are on UEFA Super Cup duty after Monday's trip to Pompey.

By the time the Reds are next in action - at Liverpool on September 13 - the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool could be up to eight points clear - depending how United fare at Fratton Park.

"Last season was the exception," Giggs told a pre-Super Cup press conference. "Before that Chelsea and Arsenal had been getting off to good starts, and then it’s very hard to peg them back.

"We want to start winning and we don’t want a massive gap to open up between ourselves and the other teams that are going to be up there.

"It was obviously disappointing the first game with Newcastle, but that’s gone now so we’re looking towards Portsmouth and then the Super Cup in Monaco. After that it’s a two-week break, so we want to go into that break with two wins under our belt."

Six Reds up for UEFA awards

The Reds' sensational Double success of last season could lead to more honours this week at the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year awards.

United are the best-represented club with no fewer than six players shortlisted as the best performers in their positions for the 2007/08 campaign.

Edwin van der Sar is up for the best goalkeeper award while Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are in contention for the defender gong.

Paul Scholes’ name is in the hat for the midfielder prize while front men Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo will be vying for the forward of the year honour. All six Reds could also win the overall Club Footballer of the Year award.

The shortlists reflect the Premier League’s dominance of the Champions League last season, with 17 of the 20 candidates for the awards plying their trade in England. Added to United's six are five from Chelsea (Peter Cech, John Terry, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba), four from Liverpool (Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres) and two from Arsenal (Manuel Almunia, Cesc Fabregas).

The three nominees from outside the English game are Schalke 04 goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Barcelona defender Carles Puyol and his team-mate, forward Lionel Messi.

Coaches of the 16 teams that reached the knockout phase of the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League were invited to cast their votes. The award winners will be announced at the draw for this season's group stage on Thursday 28 August – the day before United face UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Super Cup final at Monaco's Stade Louis II.