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Monday, August 25, 2008

Sir Alex hails midfield quartet

Sir Alex Ferguson heaped praised on his midfield quartet following the Reds' 1-0 victory over Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

Shorn of the services of six midfield squad members, the United boss opted to play a system which best utilised the skills of those players available to him.

Man of the Match Paul Scholes pulled the strings in the centre of the field, ably assisted by the returning Anderson, who was a bundle of energy throughout despite only having arrived home from China just hours earlier having represented his country at the Olympics.

John O'Shea was solid in his role in front of the back four, while Darren Fletcher found the scoresheet for the second successive game - although the goal may yet be taken off him by the Dubious Goals Panel.

"We wanted to play a system in which the players we had would be comfortable in their positions and I think we used our players the right way," explained Sir Alex to MUTV.

"Anderson wanted to play and I think he showed it was a very good decision - he was fantastic.

"Paul Scholes looked to control the game and I think he did that. We also had the energy and the qualities that both John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher bring to the team.

"I don't think Darren will complain about the goal [if it's taken off him] and neither will I! He's not playing in his favourite position, but he still makes a lot of good runs and has such fantastic energy. I'm really pleased to see him get the credit he deserves.

"I think we've shown the quality of our squad - I've got no fears about that. The squad from last season is good enough to go on and do it again," added the manager.

The victory over Harry Redknapp's men was United's first league win of the season and Sir Alex is hoping for a repeat performance and result in Friday's UEFA Super Cup final against Zenit St. Petersburg in Monaco.

"I think we played some excellent football with really good periods of passing and moving and I hope we can keep that going," he said.

"We want to win on Friday. Last time we played in the final [against Lazio in 1999] we played half a team as we had a league game against Newcastle three days later.

"Lazio celebrated like they'd won the World Cup - I wasn't too pleased and I said to myself that won't happen again. We'll play a strong team. Players who need the game, like Gary Neville for instance, will play on Friday. Hopefully we get the result we want."

Boss still hoping to add to squad

Sir Alex Ferguson says he is still confident of adding to his squad before the transfer window closes on Monday.

The Reds have been heavily linked with a move for Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov, who was left out of Spurs' defeat to Sunderland at the weekend.

The Bulgarian was deemed "not focused enough" by Juande Ramos, while Spurs first team coach Gus Poyet admitted the club had no idea if Berbatov would still be at White Hart Lane at the end of the transfer window.

Sir Alex would not be drawn on specific players, but insists the club are still working hard on potential additions.

"There's only a week to go and you start to concern yourself a little bit," he admitted to MUTV. "I think we showed against Portsmouth that we've got good quality players here.

"We'd obviously like to add to the squad and we are looking at some things. But it's not easy. We'll have to wait and see what happens about that. We're doing our best - that's all we can do."

Portsmouth Vs. Manchester United Result Report

United defied the so-called Fratton Park hoodoo to claim a first league win of the season, thanks to the same goalscorer from the opening game – Darren Fletcher.

Whether Fletcher retains the credit may yet be decided by the Dubious Goals Committee but there was nothing dubious about the outcome – the Reds were again superior to Portsmouth, especially in the final third. Even without Ronaldo, the man who scored twice – including United’s goal of the season – on the Reds’ last win on this ground in February 2006.

Ronaldo wasn't the only midfield absentee - Sir Alex was forced into several changes following the injuries sustained by other key men in the opening weekend. Patrice Evra pushed up to deputise for Ryan Giggs on the left flank while Anderson made an instant return in Michael Carrick's central role, less than 48 hours after flying into England from the Beijing Olympics. Also back in the UK and back in the side was Carlos Tevez, who missed the Newcastle match after a family bereavement.

Papa Bouba Diop signalled Portsmouth’s intent with a powerful shot that bounced just wide of Edwin van der Sar’s right-hand post just 13 seconds after the kick-off.

Wayne Rooney returned fire moments later with a drive into David James’ midriff following great play by Paul Scholes who sprayed an exquisite long pass wide to Wes Brown on the right flank.

Scholes’ other trademark came to the fore in the 19th minute when he unleashed a missile after being teed up by Rooney at a direct free-kick. James dived to his left and dealt admirably with the slight swerve to parry the ball away. Less than 60 seconds later and Scholes was back near to his own box to coolly head a loose ball into van der Sar’s clutches.

The contest was not without its casualties - Tevez was on the receiving end of Diop’s bookable challenge shortly before Brown left the field for treatment to his right eye after being caught in a battle between John O’Shea and Peter Crouch.

Crouch was close to pulling the trigger in the 25th minute when Evra slid in with a brave last-ditch challenge to thwart the England striker. The resulting corner, the first for either side, presented Younes Kaboul with a free header but mercifully the Pompey defender nodded comfortably wide.

Evra was twice in action at the other end around the half-hour mark; first to lose control with a heavy touch when the linesman’s flag was raised; secondly to deliver a killer ball into the six-yard box for United’s breakthrough.

Darren Fletcher attacked it at the near post and will try to claim his second goal of the season. However, TV replays suggested Campbell may have diverted it past James and over the line, even before Sylvain Distin hooked the ball into the roof of the net.

The same technology backed Campbell moments later when he blocked a close-range flick with Rooney, but not with a hand as the United fans behind the goal had hoped.

Rooney threatened again at the end of a great build-up when, after turning onto Anderson’s arrowed pass across the edge of the area, he steered a low shot only inches wide of the post with James looking well beaten.

Brown was booked for a wild hack at Armand Traore but escaped further punishment when Rooney headed the resulting free-kick away to safety.

United were the first team on the pitch for the second period and the first to create a decent opening. Tevez slipped a pass to Rooney on the left hand side of the area and when the England striker crossed the ball low to the far post, Anderson was only just beaten to it by Distin’s timely toes.

Van der Sar saw his first real action of the match on the hour mark when Portsmouth substitute Jerome Thomas tried his luck from distance – the Dutchman, alert as ever, beat away the effort with his fists. Moments later he was in the right place to scoop up Crouch’s tame downward header.

Rooney had a strong shout for a penalty turned down when Campbell’s clumsy tackle stopped him from connecting with another Evra raid into the area.

Evra, then Fletcher on the follow-up, both had shots blocked by former Chelsea right-back Glen Johnson in the 70th minute, before Vidic’s header dipped just over the bar from an excellent Anderson corner on the left.

Jermain Defoe was booked for dissent just before Tevez curled a free-kick into James’ grasp. As if to sum up the difference in execution between the two clubs, a similar setpiece for Portsmouth saw Diarra’s kick strike United’s wall before it could even reach van der Sar.

Team Line-ups

Portsmouth: James, Kaboul, Campbell, Distin, Johnson, Diop, Davis (Utaka, 66), Diarra, Armand Traore (Thomas, 55), Crouch, Defoe.
Subs not used: Ashdown, Lauren, Hreidarsson, Mvuemba, Sahar.

Booked: Diop, Defoe.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, O'Shea, Fletcher, Anderson (Possebon, 76), Scholes, Evra, Rooney, Tevez.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Neville, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Gibson, Campbell.

Booked: Brown, Fletcher.

English Premiere League Standing August 25, 2008

2008/2009 English Premiership
Overall Home Away
1 Chelsea 2 2 0 0 5 0 1 0 0 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 5 6
2 Liverpool 2 2 0 0 3 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 2 6
3 Blackburn 2 1 1 0 4 3 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 3 2 1 4
4 Hull 2 1 1 0 3 2 1 0 0 2 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 4
5 Man Utd 2 1 1 0 2 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 4
6 Newcastle 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 4
7 Aston Villa 2 1 0 1 6 5 1 0 0 4 2 0 0 1 2 3 1 3
8 Man City 2 1 0 1 5 4 1 0 0 3 0 0 0 1 2 4 1 3
9 Bolton 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 0 0 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 3
10 Everton 2 1 0 1 4 4 0 0 1 2 3 1 0 0 2 1 0 3
11 Middlesbrough 2 1 0 1 3 3 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 3
12 Fulham 2 1 0 1 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 3
13 Sunderland 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 2 1 0 3
14 Arsenal 2 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 3
15 Stoke 2 1 0 1 4 5 1 0 0 3 2 0 0 1 1 3 -1 3
16 West Ham 2 1 0 1 2 4 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 3 -2 3
17 Tottenham 2 0 0 2 2 4 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 1 2 -2 0
18 West Brom 2 0 0 2 1 3 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 1 -2 0
19 Wigan 2 0 0 2 1 3 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 2 -2 0
20 Portsmouth 2 0 0 2 0 5 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 4 -5 0

Portsmouth Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Portsmouth [0 - 1] Manchester United (Premiere League)
32' [0 - 1] D. Fletcher


Vidic ready for 'Little and Large'

Nemanja Vidic admits the Reds will be up against a somewhat unique strike force at Fratton Park on Monday night when they come face-to-face with Portsmouth's version of 'Little and Large.'

Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch will present a difficult challenge to United's backline, particularly at set-pieces, but Vidic remains confident in the Reds' ability to deal with the threat posed by Pompey's front duo.

"We know all about Crouch and Defoe," he told "Crouch is very tall and very good in the air, while Defoe is very quick around the area and can cause you lots of problems.

"We know what quality they possess but we’re confident we can deal with it."

Both sides will be looking to post a first victory of the new campaign after disappointing results on the opening day. Pompey suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Chelsea, while United could only manage a 1-1 draw with Newcastle at Old Trafford.

"We started badly and dropped points at home which isn’t what we wanted," admitted Vidic. "But the season is long and we hope we can get the result we want at Portsmouth.

"It’ll be a hard game particularly as Portsmouth lost 4-0 to Chelsea in their first game and will want to prove something against us to the fans.

"But we also need the points and we’re all looking forward to the game and hopefully we can get the result we need."

Reds close in on Berba

Juande Ramos has told the Tottenham board it is time to give up the fight to keep Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United's clutches. Spurs have been angered by United's public courting of their Bulgaria striker but the Spaniard wants an end to the feud so that he can bring in a replacement before the end of the transfer window on Monday. Berbatov was left out of Saturday's defeat against Sunderland and fined a week's wages for not being ready for the White Hart Lane game. United are ready to offer £25m for the 27-year-old and Ramos is already lining up Ajax star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as a replacement. A perturbed Ramos said: "We need to get this matter resolved before the transfer deadline. If Berbatov goes, we will need time to sign a replacement. We want to have the best centre forward we can possibly get. This is the first time I have faced this problem as a coach and the truth is I have found it a conflicting situation to be in."
Staff reporter, Daily Mail