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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Aston Villa Vs. Manchester United Match Result Report

United claimed the first silverware of the new decade thanks to goals in each half from cup final specialist Michael Owen and the super substitute who replaced him – Wayne Rooney.

The latter’s 28th strike of the season edged an entertaining Carling Cup final in favour of the Reds, who therefore retained a cup for the first time in the club’s history. The prospects of this had looked grim after just five minutes when Nemanja Vidic pulled down Gabriel Agbonlahor – but avoided a red card – and James Milner put Aston Villa 1-0 up from the penalty spot.

But Owen’s latest goal in a domestic showpiece – he netted for a certain former club in the 2001 FA Cup and 2003 League Cup finals – ensured there was parity for a large portion of the match until Rooney triumphantly headed home 16 minutes from time.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s surprise omission of Rooney from his starting XI was one of six differences to the side which kicked off against Man City in the scintillating semi win. Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes, the banned Nani and the injured Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs were also out; in came Tomasz Kuszczak, Nemanja Vidic, Antonio Valencia, Ji-sung Park and the front pair of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen.

One of the mainstays, and United skipper for the day, Patrice Evra had to defend acrobatically inside the first minute to repel a free-kick from Ashley Young on Villa’s left flank. The resulting corner was also dealt with but Martin O’Neill’s men had posted an early warning, one which the Reds failed to heed.

Moments later, Gabriel Agbonlahor broke beyond the backline and when Nemanja Vidic hauled him down, there were no arguments as referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.

The only debate would have been over Vidic’s right to stay on the field – he did, and had to look on in agony as James Milner punished his misdemeanour with a well-struck penalty low to Kuszczak’s left. Villa 1 United 0, after just five minutes.

The Serbian wasn’t even booked but opposite number James Collins did see yellow when he sent Owen sprawling at the other end, unfortunately outside the box.

Carrick wasted the opportunity from the free-kick but his namesake Owen soon meted out his own justice when he swept home the equaliser. Berbatov mugged dawdling Richard Dunne and when the former Manchester City defender caught up with the Bulgarian, he only succeeded in freeing the ball up for Owen to beat Brad Friedel.

Still inside a busy first 20 minutes, Kuszczak denied Milner’s left-foot shot with a fine save and Stewart Downing followed Collins into the book for a foul on Evra. Carrick, however, inexplicably escaped a caution when he brought down Heskey.

Kuszczak made his second save when Heskey turned well inside the box following a setpiece but it was a comfortable collection for the Pole playing his first game since early January.

Ironic cheers from the Villa fans greeted United’s first booking, for Evra’s trip on Ashley Young, but they were not so fond of the first substitution – Rooney on for hamstring victim Owen, a few minutes before the break.

Villa were still adjusting to the change when Park almost put the Reds 2-1 up. The Korean’s well-struck shot came back off the post and was cleared by Cuellar, this after Valencia skipped past the grounded Stephen Warnock and pulled the ball back.

That closing attack and the introduction of Rooney augured well for the second half. Indeed, Wayne was the first player to try his luck after the break but sliced wide from outside the area after a promising push through the middle by Carrick.

The midfielder did much better and drew a brilliant parry from Friedel at the end of a flowing United move involving Park and the back-heeling Berbatov. On the counter-attack, Agbonlahor ran at Vidic but whipped his shot well past the far post.

Such was the pattern of the second period; the Reds seeing more of the ball and patiently probing, and Villa waiting to utilise the electric pace of Young and Agbonlahor against Evra on a card and Neville on as a substitute for Rafael.

Vidic became the second United defender to be booked when he clattered Agbonlahor from behind – censure that was long overdue in the view of Villa fans and neutrals.

The same trio that undid West Ham in midweek combined again to upset another team of a claret and blue persuasion in the 74th minute. Berbatov sublimely flicked a ball on to Valencia and when the Ecuadorian dug out a cross under pressure on the right, Rooney rose to send a header arcing past Friedel’s hand into the top right-hand corner and trigger scenes of ecstasy among the United fans and coaching staff alike.

The goal was as brave as it was brilliant with Collins looming large in Rooney’s face; there was no such opposition when Valencia found Wayne again moments later but Friedel’s right-hand post prevented the free header causing further damage to Villa.

So the game remained far from over, and that point was underlined when Kuszczak had to push the ball over his bar when a right-wing cross was directed goalwards. But United remained the more likely to score and when Valencia surged forward in injury time, he deserved more than to strike the side netting.

A third goal wasn’t required though, and for once in normal time at the new Wembley, United were victorious. Cue joyous celebrations as Evra collected the 26th major trophy of Sir Alex’s amazing 23-year reign.

Aston Villa Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clips

Aston Villa [1 - 2] Manchester United
5' [1 - 0] J. Milner (pen.)
13' [1 - 1] M. Owen
74' [1 - 2] W. Rooney


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Manchester United Vs. West Ham United Match Report Result

Three sublimely-crafted goals - two from Wayne Rooney, one from Michael Owen - got United back to winning ways and moved the champions to within a point of Premier League leaders Chelsea.

West Ham were clinically put to the sword as two devastating team moves yielded Rooney headers either side of the interval, before arch-poacher Owen plundered a fine third goal within three minutes of his introduction as a late substitute.

After last Saturday's surprisingly meek surrender at Goodison Park, and with this Sunday's Carling Cup final against Aston Villa on the horizon, Sir Alex Ferguson sprang several selection surprises to face a Hammers side catapulted - for now - out of their relegation worries by back-to-back victories.

In came Ben Foster, Darron Gibson and Anderson, while Nemanja Vidic made a welcome return to the defence for his first start of 2010. Rio Ferdinand, available after his four-match suspension, was conspicuous by his absence, leaving Wes Brown to partner the Serbian in the centre of defence.

A curious first half served up a cocktail of mistakes and brilliance. While the early sparring couldn't deliver a telling blow for either side, it did claim Anderson, who succumbed to a knee injury inside the first 15 minutes. Around the 20 minute mark, however, came a flurry of chances at either end.

Only a superb challenge from James Tomkins halted a marauding run from Rooney, and prompted a West Ham attack which ended with Valon Behrami dragging a shot past Foster's far post. Moments later, the United stopper survived a jittery moment as Alessandro Diamanti's deflected effort looped high before dipping just under the crossbar. Foster was comfortably in control of the situation, but nevertheless would have held his breath as he padded the ball down on his own goal-line before collecting it.

At the other end, Dimitar Berbatov was denied a clear shot by a saving challenge from Matthew Upson, and then a sprawling save from Green, who managed to contort almost in slow-motion to save the Bulgarian's improvised diversion of an errant Darron Gibson shot.

United's pressure steadily grew as Gibson thrice tested Green in the space of four minutes. The Irishman's first and third long-range efforts were comfortably fielded, but his second drew a superb low save from the Hammers' goalkeeper, who just managed to brush the ball past the post.

Parity was creaking, however, and gave in on 38 minutes as United's forward four combined in devastating fashion. Park, on for Anderson, threaded a neat ball through to Berbatov, who cantered infield before chipping a measured pass to Valencia on the right-hand side of the penalty area. The Ecuadorian thudded in a stunning first-time cross with his instep which begged Rooney to convert. In the form of his life, the Reds' top scorer emphatically obliged with a thumping header.

It was a quite stunning team goal which ripped the Hammers to shreds through its simplicity. Two minutes later, another similarly direct effort almost doubled the lead. Berbatov touched on for Rooney, who just managed to stay level before touching the ball past Upson and lashing a fabulous volley onto the roof of Green's net.

Half-time provided timely respite for the visitors, but United sought to end the contest within seconds of the restart. Straight from the centre the ball was ferried to Valencia, who swapped passes with Rooney before crossing low and deep into the box. Park took a first time swing at it, only for his effort to thud off the underside of the crossbar. As it rebounded to Park he was felled by Behrami, by referee Alan Wiley waved away claims for a penalty.

A second goal soon arrived, however, and three of the quartet who had combined so well for the opener were at it again. Berbatov's sublime threaded pass released Valencia down the right, and he sped past marker Jonathan Spector before standing up a superb cross. Rooney, who had peeled away from Tomkins, thumped another header past Green, despite the goalkeeper's valiant attempt to save.

Two was almost three for United and Rooney as he beat Green in a race to a long, loose forward ball on the Stretford End byline. The United striker outmuscled his international colleague, turned, and curled a shot towards the unguarded goal, only for Faubert to comfortably clear the danger.

West Ham's beleaguered defenders would have been pleased to see the back of Rooney and Berbatov, who had one superb surging run halted by Faubert's crude block, when they were replaced by Owen and Diouf for the final 11 minutes, but there would be no respite.

Out on the left flank, Owen showed neat skill to slip the ball to Gibson before trotting infield. Once there, he accepted a superb ball from the flawless Scholes and, having been played onside by Upson, steered in an unerring finish via Green's left-hand post.

Scholes could have capped a superb display with a fittingly sublime goal four minutes from time but, after skipping past two challenges, the veteran midfielder shot high into the Stretford End, provoking much mirth from a home contingent who had been cooing over his display all night long.and a timely reminder to those who most covet the Premier League title that the champions' grip on the trophy is not slipping yet constitutes a satisfactory evening. The quest for four in a row can continue at Molineux next month. For now, attentions switch to Wembley, and the defence of another title: the Carling Cup.

Manchester United Vs. West Ham United Highlights Video Clips

Manchester United [3 - 0] West Ham United
38' [1 - 0] W. Rooney
55' [2 - 0] W. Rooney
80' [3 - 0] M. Owen


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Everton Vs. Manchester United Match Result Report

The unpredictability of this season’s title race knows no bounds as a tired-looking United went down 3-1 to Everton – the Merseysiders’ second big scalp in ten days after defeating Chelsea at Goodison Park.

The Reds went in front after 16 minutes through Dimitar Berbatov, but Everton equalised three minutes later with a strike from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, and that was the game's pivotal moment. United struggled to control possession and didn’t work Tim Howard enough. Substitute Dan Gosling struck midway through the second half and, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men chased a late equaliser, another substitute Jack Rodwell hit a third.

United didn't look sturdy enough in defence, even though Nemanja Vidic was named in the squad, albeit only making the bench as he waits for his first appearance in 2010. The Serbian’s strength and no-nonsense defending was not called upon and with the Reds still shorn of Rio Ferdinand, serving the final instalment of a four-match ban, Sir Alex favoured Wes Brown and Jonny Evans at centre-half to deal with Louis Saha.

The Frenchman has scored 15 goals this season, including two against Chelsea when Everton sprung a surprise on Carlo Ancelotti’s men to win 2-1. David Moyes’ side have taken four points from the Blues this term. They started this game second in the form table. United top those standings and Everton’s solitary win in the last 29 league games with the Reds looked like an ominous statistic. The absence of key pair, Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini, due to injury wouldn’t have eased nerves either. But those figures provide no solace for United now.

The Reds went with a 4-4-2 formation, including Berbatov up front with Wayne Rooney. With Nani suspended and Ryan Giggs out due to a fractured arm, Antonio Valencia and Ji-sung Park manned the wings, with Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick in central midfield. Gary Neville’s inclusion meant that both he and brother Phil were captains for the day. Such is the Nevilles’ competitive nature, they didn’t speak or even look at each other in the tunnel before kick-off.

The first opening was carved by United after 11 minutes, a neatly worked move down a right flank that was profitable in the first half, and ended with Fletcher striking left-footed over the bar. Two minutes later Everton went even closer when Saha’s long-range effort forced a good low save from Edwin van der Sar. United’s early joy down the right would soon bear fruit. Rooney sprayed a pass out to Valencia and Sylvain Distin failed to clear the Ecuadorian’s low cross. Berbatov’s first touch six yards out was sublime, his second was ruthless, spectacularly smashing the ball in off the bar to make it 1-0.

However, the Reds weren't allowed to settle into a lead as Everton drew level on 19 minutes. Saha won the aerial battle with Evans, knocking the ball down to Russian winger Bilyaletdinov, who cleverly used Wes Brown to conceal a wicked left-foot shot that left van der Sar rooted to the spot. Everton had their tails up, even if former idol Rooney was next to go close for United on 26 minutes. A clever one-two with Berbatov sent him clear and he rounded Tim Howard but his touch wasn’t as sharp as he’d have liked and Phil Neville was able to nick the ball off his toes.

United survived a scare seven minutes before the break when Landon Donovan failed to connect with the ball from six yards. As half-time approached, Sir Alex will have been preparing to demand his players take more control of the ball, particularly in central midfield areas where Everton had started to dictate play. The home side began the second half in much the same fashion, although a fizzing 20-yard drive from Fletcher whistled past the post and Berbatov sent a header narrowly wide as the Reds’ attacks gained purpose.

The Bulgarian forward was replaced after 66 minutes by Paul Scholes, Park off for Gabriel Obertan, and the Reds reverted to 4-5-1 with Rooney up front on his own and three men to win back territory in the middle of the pitch. It wasn’t effective enough and Everton looked like being the team that would score the game’s next goal. So it proved. Steven Pienaar found space on the left flank and fired a cross into the box, where substitute Dan Gosling scuffed the ball home on 76 minutes.

Four minutes later and with United chasing the game, Sir Alex made his third and final change – a last throw of the dice – replacing Valencia with Michael Owen. It was to no avail. Rooney was agonisingly close with a free-kick 25 yards out. His curling effort clipped Distin’s head to push the ball narrowly wide. It summed up Rooney’s and United’s afternoon. Close, but not quite good enough. To rub salt in the wounds, Rodwell emerged from the bench and raced beyond a leggy midfield and defence to fire the third. Another twist, then, but this time not in United’s favour. It's a sixth defeat in the league, the Reds can ill-afford any more.

Everton Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clips

Everton [3 - 1] Manchester United
16' [0 - 1] D. Berbatov
19' [1 - 1] D. Bilyaletdinov
76' [2 - 1] D. Gosling
90' [3 - 1] J. Rodwell


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

AC Milan Vs. Manchester Untied Match Report

United recovered from a nightmare start to romp to an impressive - and potentially decisive - away victory against AC Milan in the Champions League second round, first leg.

Ronaldinho put the Rossoneri ahead inside three minutes and the hosts spurned several opportunities to further their advantage before Paul Scholes' fortunate leveller 10 minutes before half-time. The Reds dominated midfield after the break, however, and two headers from Wayne Rooney gave Sir Alex Ferguson's side two more priceless away goals.

Clarence Seedorf impishly back-heeled the hosts back into the tie and Michael Carrick was dismissed for a second booking as Milan finished strongly, but United's first ever victory at the San Siro gives the Reds a vital lead ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford.

Much of the pre-match fanfare centred around David Beckham's first clash with United since leaving Old Trafford in 2003. In truth, it was Ronaldinho, the man unsuccessfully earmarked to replace Beckham, who had the greater influence for Leonardo's side.

United could hardly have made a worse start. Just over two minutes had passed when Patrice Evra's attempt to clear Beckham's free-kick only went as far as Ronaldinho, and the Brazilian's right-footed volley took a telling deflection off Carrick and flew past the committed Edwin van der Sar.

The Reds were rocked, while Milan were galvanised into dominance. Ronaldinho, clearly relishing the occasion, drew a smart stop from van der Sar with another close-range effort as the hosts aimed to forge a greater advantage.

An errant long-distance shot from Scholes marked United's first attempt on goal, and heralded a belated entry to the action for the visitors.

Nani became an increasingly influential figure as the Reds warmed to the task and increasingly controlled midfield.

There was always the danger of Ronaldinho, however, who took advantage of a lax piece of play from Scholes to nab possession and race goalwards. The Brazilian's repeated stepovers took him past Rio Ferdinand, but his subsequent tumble on the edge of the area was deemed to be simulation rather than a foul by the United skipper.

That episode was symptomatic of a worrying affliction throughout United's display, as the Reds' usually assured possession play went AWOL. Milan spurned several opportunities without playing any telling role in their creation, most notably when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar drilled narrowly wide after Jonny Evans' panicked clearance.

Sir Alex Ferguson was particularly irritated by Evans' error, and made his ire known soon afterwards. Fortunately, it came as the young Northern Irishman was jogging back to his position after United had drawn level.

A wonderful passing move featuring Michael Carrick, Nani, Ji-sung Park and Scholes culminated in Darren Fletcher drilling in a superb low cross from the right wing. Scholes raced into the box and attempted to batter home the volley, but instead it struck his standing leg and spun past Dida via the inside of the post. Good fortune indeed in its execution and timing, coming after a string of missed chances for the hosts.

While Milan were stunned to be pegged back, Ronaldinho took parity as a personal affront against his own superb efforts, and he quickly drew another smart stop from van der Sar from 25 yards after brilliantly fashioning space for himself.

Deserved or not, United went into the interval level. Little over a minute after the restart, Darren Fletcher headed Nani's cross wide from a decent position and passed up the chance to give the Reds an unlikely lead. The game's open nature continued and, just two minutes later, Alexandre Pato headed wastefully over after finding space between Evans and Evra.

With Beckham, Ronaldinho and Andrea Pirlo on the field, Milan always carried menace from set-pieces. The latter forced van der Sar into a superb one-handed stop with a 35-yard piledriver which was bound for the Dutchman's top corner as Milan continued to seek an advantage.

Not that United were happy to sit on a score draw, however. Although Ronaldinho again forced a plunging save from van der Sar, Rooney had three efforts in the space of 10 minutes - twice off-target from distance, once drawing a comfortable low stop from Dida.

Antonio Valencia was introduced shortly after Rooney's third effort, and he needed just two minutes to provide United's telling goal. The Ecuadorian picked the ball up on the right flank, took a touch to go past Giuseppe Favalli and stood up a fine cross to the back post, where Rooney outjumped Daniele Bonera to send a superb header drifting into the far top corner.

The travelling support, tucked away high up in the stand behind the goal, went wild. Milan were shattered, and United dominated possession from thereon. Valencia, Park and Fletcher tormented the hosts in support of Rooney, who drilled fractionally wide from 20 yards.

He didn't have to wait long for his second, however, and it arrived with 17 minutes remaining. Fletcher picked up Rooney's knock down, some 35 yards from goal and was criminally given as much time as he liked to advance and curl in a teasing delivery behind Alessandro Nesta and in a perfect area to nod in his second.

Valencia continued to torment Favalli, drilling in one particularly dangerous cross which just evaded Rooney, while the England striker was narrowly denied a hat-trick as his free-kick curled just past Dida's post. But, just when Milan seemed buried, back they roared, with Ronaldinho again instrumental.

The Brazilian crept into the United area and, despite a cluster of defenders around him, curled in a delightful cross for substitute Seedorf to beautifully back-heel beyond van der Sar.

With an unlikely route back into the tie secured, the hosts roared back in the final few minutes. Pippo Inzaghi lashed over, Thiago Silva headed wastefully off-target and Carrick's superb evening was spoiled when he picked up a second yellow card for allegedly kicking the ball away in injury-time.

Nevertheless, United held on to register a first ever victory in the San Siro, set a new European record of 16 away games without defeat and, most crucially, establish a vital advantage ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford in three weeks' time.

AC Milan Vs. Manchester Untied Highlights Video Clips

AC Milan [2 - 3] Manchester United
3' [1 - 0] Ronaldinho
36' [1 - 1] P. Scholes
66' [1 - 2] W. Rooney
74' [1 - 3] W. Rooney
85' [2 - 3] C. Seedorf

1-0 Ronaldinho 3'

1-1 Scholes 36'

1-2 Rooney 66'

1-3 Rooney 74'

2-3 Seedorf 85'

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aston Villa Vs. Manchester United Match Result Report

Ten-man United outplayed Aston Villa for much of Wednesday’s game at Villa Park, but Sir Alex’s men, shorn of Nani’s attacking impetus for 60 minutes after the winger was sent off for a studs-up challenge, struggled to assert their dominance and had to settle for a point.

But the 1-1 draw – achieved courtesy of a James Collins own goal after Carlos Cuellar had put the home side in front – takes the Reds to within a point of Chelsea after the Blues lost 2-1 at Goodison Park courtesy of a Louis Saha double.

After that result at Everton, the Reds' draw at Villa may look like an opportunity lost: after all, a win would have sent United top of the league. But to come away from Villa Park with a point having played an hour with 10 men is no mean feat.

On a cold Birmingham night, the boss sent out a strong side to take on an Aston Villa team that had not lost in any competition since 2009. There was still no Nemanja Vidic (injured) or Rio Ferdinand (suspended) at the back, but in Wes Brown and Jonny Evans the manager has a second-choice centre-back pairing that would walk into most other top-flight starting XIs.

In midfield, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes started together for the third time in four games, while Ryan Giggs and Nani provided the width. The Portuguese winger was involved early on and his 25-yard free-kick drew a smart save from Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel – how many times have you heard those words over the years? – after just eight minutes. Giggs saw an effort from the edge of the box deflected over the bar shortly afterwards before Villa took the lead with their first effort on target on 19 minutes.

Stewart Downing’s right-wing cross flashed across the area to the back post, where Rafael half cleared. The ball dropped to Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar, whose looping, 16-yard header floated over Edwin van der Sar and into the far corner.

United, who had not lost at Villa Park in the league since 1995, took just four minutes to restore parity. Again it was thanks to the generosity of the Reds’ opponents. Against Portsmouth last Saturday, Sir Alex’s men benefitted from two own goals – this time there was just the one, Ryan Giggs’ volleyed cross turned into his own net by former West Ham defender James Collins.

Nani had done well in the build-up, picking out Giggs beyond the far post, but it was his last meaningful contribution. He was sent off on 29 minutes by referee Peter Walton for a tackle that was admittedly reckless – the winger lunged in on Petrov with his studs showing – but arguably not one that constituted “serious foul play”.

Although robbed of one of United’s most potent attacking forces, the Reds enjoyed a brief spell of pressure and only another good stop from Friedel kept the score at 1-1. At the other end, Villa struggled to press home their numerical advantage; van der Sar hardly had a touch for the rest of the half.

Paul Scholes was sacrificed at the break for Antonio Valencia, as United reverted to four in midfield. It was an unexpected move from the boss – certainly, not many other managers would have made such an attacking change with their team reduced to 10 men. But Valencia brought youth and fresh legs to the table… and on 53 minutes he almost sent the Reds ahead when Giggs crossed early from the left. Arriving at the back post, the Ecuadorian took one touch before blasting the ball just over the bar.

The home side, meanwhile, looked devoid of ideas in the final third. After Cuellar’s goal, it took until the 58th minute for van der Sar to be called into action again. The Dutchman saved well down to his left after James Milner linked well with Gabriel Agbonlahor. Ten-man United were doing much more than merely hang on: Valencia found space on the right before firing his cross straight at Friedel, Rooney blazed wide with his left foot from a tight angle and then both players combined to almost slice a path through the Villa defence with just over 20 minutes remaining.

By then Martin O’Neill had introduced John Carew and Steve Sidwell and one of Sidwell’s first contributions was to clatter into Ryan Giggs. The Welshman injured his right wrist in the collision and was replaced by Dimitar Berbatov on 75 minutes. Rooney, who took on Giggs’ wing role and the captaincy duties, forced Friedel into another top stop when he wriggled free of his marker and fired towards the top corner. It was the last time United truly threatened the Villa goal.

At the other end, Villa fans saw a half chance go begging in injury time when Richard Dunne almost connected with a wide free-kick. But a Villa winner would have been harsh on United – indeed, the home team barely deserved a point after failing miserably to capitalise on Nani’s sending off.

Aston Villa Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clips

Aston Villa [1 - 1] Manchester United
19' [1 - 0] C. Cuellar
23' [1 - 1] J. Collins (o.g.)


Saturday, February 6, 2010

David Beckham Interview ahead Manchester United Vs. AC Milan Champion Leauge Game

Ahead of United's Champions League last 16 tie with AC Milan, Inside United travelled to Italy to catch up with returning Red David Beckham, who can't wait to come back to Old Trafford...

You said you almost cried when you heard the draw…
It was just an unbelievable feeling to know I’d be going back, which is why I felt really emotional when the draw was made. I met so many amazing people during my time there on and off the pitch that I’m very much looking forward to seeing everyone again. It’s the biggest club in the world and it’s one you always want to be a part of.

Leaving United was clearly very difficult…
Yes, definitely. Coming to terms with not being a United player was very hard and certainly the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. When you’re a Manchester United player and a Manchester United fan you never want to play for any other club.

How will Milan approach the tie? Has Leonardo asked you for any inside knowledge?
We will approach it like any other game, we respect United but we do not fear them. It’s been so long since I’ve been at United that so much has changed – there wouldn’t be much I could help with on that side.

Do you think the games will be harder to prepare for because of your United connection?
Yes, I think they will, simply because I’ve never come up against them or haven’t played at Old Trafford for seven years. It’s not something that you can prepare for. I don’t usually get nervous, but I think there will be a few butterflies before kick-off at How will you feel if you score against United, or even score the goal that knocks us out - will you celebrate?
Sometimes emotion can get the better of you when you score, but I don’t think I would celebrate as I respect the fans and the club.

How does Milan compare to United and what differences have you noticed between the Premier League and Serie A?
They’re two fantastic clubs who have great history and tradition. The two leagues are quite similar, actually. Italian players are renowned for their great ability, but they also have a real toughness about them and a will to win. The Premier League was always an amazing league to play in. I’ve obviously been out of it for seven years and during that time I think the level has been raised even higher than it was when I was at United. I think that’s happened to every league in a way – they all move on and get better.

Which United game from your career would you relive and why?
[Pauses] Wow, there are so many. The 1998/99 season will always stick out as being an unbelievable year. There were so many memorable games throughout that campaign. We were involved in some amazing matches and we scored so many great goals, many of them last minute. But that is just Manchester United – it doesn’t matter which players are involved, you always believe you can win. You might be 2-0 down with a few minutes to go, but the players and the manager never stop believing. That’s just the way the club is.

You said you would love to have stayed here for your whole career. Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have all done that – how would you sum up the service they’ve given?
It’s been amazing. For them to still be playing at the highest level is incredible. It’s testament to them and the manager that they’re still producing great performances. The success they’ve had is unbelievable and I’m really happy for them.

Will Giggsy go down as United’s best ever servant?
Ryan deserves all the accolades he is getting at the moment. He has been amazing for Manchester United and he is loved by everyone there. It was an honour to play with him.

How do you rate the current side? They’ve been written off a few times this season, and many pundits feel Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t been replaced…
When Ronaldo left, I think there was always going to be people who would write United off. It’s happened so many times over the years, but they always come back fighting and the manager has always got an answer for the critics. The club have still got some great players and I see no reason why they can’t carry on being successful.

Finally, can you ever see yourself back at United in some capacity?
I’ll certainly be back as a fan. I’ve still got season tickets and I’ll always keep them because I love to watch every game where possible and I’d love to take my sons one day. United will always be such a special place to me, so we’ll just have to see what the future holds.

Manchester United Vs. Portsmouth Result Report

United moved back to the top of the Premier League with an emphatic victory over beleaguered Portsmouth at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick struck for the Reds, while own-goals from Pompey's Anthony Vanden Borre and Marc Wilson piled more misery on the Premier League's basement side and assured the champions of a healthy goal difference boost.

Although Avram Grant's side threatened briefly during the first half, United mustered a five-goal spell in under 30 minutes either side of the interval to swat aside any notion of the visitors springing an almighty upset.

Playing on the 52nd anniversary of Munich, the match was preceded by an immaculately observed minute's silence. Then, from the first whistle, the two teams both firmly encamped in Portsmouth's half for the opening 10 minutes.

Although the visitors' pragmatic ploy created a possession monopoly for United, time and again a Pompey body would block a shot or the Reds' final ball would fail to pierce the massed ranks of defensive bodies, and it took 12 minutes for any real brush with an advantage. A short corner reached Gary Neville, and the skipper's inch-perfect cross was headed fractionally past the far upright by Jonny Evans, with David James motionless.

That scare sparked the visitors into a modicum of attacking activity, however. Former United youth striker Danny Webber broke away and slipped a pass to Belgian right-back Vanden Borre, whose powerful shot was beaten away by Edwin van der Sar. From the resulting corner, the Dutchman was called into another smart stop by Nadir Belhadj's stinging low shot.

Pompey's approach remained largely cautious, with Richard Hughes superbly screening his defence. When required, the midfielder even mucked in deep inside his own box, making one vital block after a flowing United move had culminated in Rooney bursting into the area.

With United committed to ceaseless attack, a Pompey breakaway nearly brought the opener. The visitors burst through with four attackers to three United defenders, one of whom, Evans, sprinted back behind Edwin van der Sar and superbly cleared Belhadj's shot off the line.

In the same passage of play, United somehow failed to break the deadlock when Neville burst into the Pompey box and pulled back for Berbatov, who fired wide from just six yards out. The disbelief which seized the Bulgarian's face was shared by almost all inside Old Trafford.

With five minutes of the half remaining, however, the goal finally came. Another short corner was shifted to Darren Fletcher, and his perfect cross gave Rooney the simple task of nodding home from the six-yard line.

The goal liberated the Reds from any nerves and frustration which were beginning to appear, and the scoreline was doubled on the stroke of half-time. Nani, who continued his fine recent form despite being shifted over to the left wing, teased Vanden Borre and drilled in a cross which hit the Belgian, deflected towards goal and trickled over the line to embarrass James.

Half-time brought temporary respite for Pompey, but United's determination to go top of the table in style continued unabated as the second period began. Michael Carrick added a third goal when the visitors failed to clear their lines, and the midfielder's 25-yard effort cracked in off the underside of the crossbar, albeit via a sizeable deflection off Hughes.

Three very soon became four when Berbatov collected the ball inside the visitors' area, fought off challenges and meandered back outside the box, before turning and unleashing a superb shot inside James' far post. The goal was the Bulgarian's final contribution before being replaced by Mame Biram Diouf.

The change constituted one third of a triple substitution, with Rooney and Fletcher making way for Michael Owen and Darron Gibson, with the latter soon testing out James' handling abilities with a rasping 30-yard effort.

A fifth goal duly arrived on 69 minutes, and once again a Pompey defender made the telling touch. Patrice Evra swung in a perfectly-flighted cross which Nani could only glance on, and Wilson emphatically hammered a finish high into his own goal.

Despite the evident dejection in the Pompey ranks, United mercilessly continued to press for more goals. Diouf spurned the clearest opening, when he did well to reach Owen's through-ball and make space for the shot, but fired wastefully over the bar.

Regardless, a point clear and three goals ahead of Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea represents a highly satisfactory afternoon's work, and the free-scoring champions are clicking ominously into gear as the season enters its nitty-gritty period.

Manchester United Vs. Portsmouth Highlights Video Clips

Manchester United [5 - 0] Portsmouth
40' [1 - 0] W. Rooney
45' [2 - 0] A.V. Borre (o.g.)
59' [3 - 0] R. Hughes (o.g.)
62' [4 - 0] D. Berbatov
69' [5 - 0] M. Wilson (o.g.)