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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Neville calls for full-on assault

Gary Neville insists there must be no let-up in United's pursuit of further Champions League success as the Reds prepare to start the defence of 2007/08's European crown.

The latest mission begins on Wednesday at Old Trafford against Spanish side Villarreal, ahead of further Group E clashes with Celtic and Danish outfit Aalborg.

Having reached the pinnacle of European football on that memorable night in Moscow last May, Neville says it's vital that the Reds do not allow themselves to be conquered by complacency.

"There was a great determination and edge to the squad last season which helped us win it," the skipper told the Villarreal edition of United Review.

"We had to play to our absolute maximum and if we do that this time and get that little bit of luck, there’s no doubt we can do it again.

"But it’s important to remember that we won it by a very small margin. We didn’t run away with it, so we have to make sure we rise to the occasion again."

Neville is part of the United old guard that know all too well that the really hard work of remaining at the top begins here.

"When you’ve won the Champions League you’re at the top of the mountain," he adds. "It’s hard work getting there in the first place, but the important thing to remember is not to breathe a huge sigh of relief and let yourself drop down. We have to make sure complacency doesn’t set in."

Ronny ready to return

Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will play some part in Wednesday's Champions League clash with Villarreal, but Michael Carrick is definitely out and Dimitar Berbatov is a doubt for the Group E tie.

Ronaldo's rapid recovery from ankle surgery will see him involved in the squad for the first time this season, with the winger likely to be handed a spot on the bench.

“Cristiano will certainly be involved,” Sir Alex said at his pre-match press conference. “Whether we start him or not, irrespective of other players’ injuries, is still a major decision. I think it’s more likely that he will start on the bench."

The diagnosis of Carrick's injury is less favourable. A medical examination on Sunday showed the midfielder suffered a small crack in his right foot whilst going in for a tackle at Anfield. He could now miss up to six weeks of football.

“Michael's injury hasn't turned out well for us," confirmed Sir Alex. "He’ll be out for four to six weeks, which isn't good news. We have some other injury concerns ahead of the Villarreal game. Berbatov is very doubtful. He got a knee injury on Saturday. He came off for treatment and then played on, but there has been some swelling. We’ll work hard on that, but we may not have enough time.

“There were one or two other bumps and bruises from Saturday. Wes Brown got a knee injury and Patrice Evra felt sick during the game, but they should both be OK."

Fortunately, Sir Alex feels that he has plenty of options to cope. "It’s an important game with it being the start of our Champions League campaign," he said. "We have some injuries but we have a strong squad so we should be all right in terms of putting out a good team."

Rooney: My red card days are over

Wayne Rooney faces Villarreal in the Champions League tomorrow admitting his red card against the Spanish club three years ago was the wake-up call he needed to improve his conduct on the pitch. Rooney was given a second yellow when he sarcastically applauded referee Kim Milton Neilson in Manchester United's 1-1 draw at El Madrigal. Since then, he has not been sent off in a competitive game for his club. "Yeah, it was a reality check for me," said the 22-year-old. "It was a ridiculous thing to do. I learned from that. I made sure I did."
David McDonnell, Daily Mirror