Sunday, February 18, 2007

Boss: Cup replay is no big issue

Sir Alex Ferguson insists his "terrific squad" can cope with an unplanned extra fixture following Saturday's surprise 1-1 draw with Reading at Old Trafford.

United must now journey south to the Madejski Stadium for an FA Cup replay, in the midweek between tricky Premiership trips to Fulham on 24 February and Liverpool on 3 March. But the Reds boss said: "The replay is not a big issue for us.

"We have not got a big backlog of fixtures and we have got a terrific squad. We rested six players today and those who came in have all proved their worth.

"I thought it was a good team performance, we played some fantastic football at times, and it was a fantastic cup tie."

Although he's far from dreading a replay, the United manager admitted he was disappointed not to knock-out Reading at the first attempt. Especially after seeing Solskjaer, Saha, Ronaldo and Park all go close - but not close enough - to joining Carrick on the scoresheet.

"We regret the chances we missed," conceded Sir Alex.

"I've always said 1-0 is nothing really. You can lose a goal in a second and we lost one from a corner kick when they had only five players in the box, we had 10, it's amazing.

"I thought the chances we missed were a big break for Reading. They got a bit of that luck you get in the cup, sometimes it goes that way.

"But you also have to give credit to Reading. They worked hard, kept fighting and they are an honest team."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eric tells Ron: Be like Giggs

Cristiano Ronaldo has been told to use Ryan Giggs as inspiration and keep on playing at Old Trafford for years to come.

Since joining the Reds in 2003, the 22-year-old Portuguese winger has gone from being relatively unknown, though full of potential, to being considered the best player in the world by Sir Alex Ferguson.

There has been speculation of his future in recent weeks, but one of his friends, former Reds midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba, says Ronaldo is enjoying his football.

"I speak to Ronaldo on the phone all the time and we meet up for a coffee and go out a lot in Manchester,” said the former Nantes midfielder, now on loan from Aston Villa with Championship side Burnley.

“I've been telling him to stay in England, not to go to Spain. I think he understands that, I know he does. He tells me he is not leaving. The manager at United likes him, the players like him and the fans like him. So why go?”

During Djemba-Djemba’s time at United following a £3.5million move to Old Trafford, the Cameroonian looked up to Giggs.

Just three matches off 700 appearances for United, the Welshman is an inspirational figure at the club.

“He should use Ryan Giggs as an example,” says Eric. “When United played against Villa this season I went into their dressing room and said to Giggs: 'You're 33 and you're still as quick as ever. How do you do it? You're amazing'."

Loans: Keepers on form

Two United goalkeepers helped their loan clubs to claim vital wins in the Premiership.

England's new no. 1 Ben Foster kept a clean sheet as Watford beat relegation rivals West Ham at Upton Park. The only goal was scored from the spot by Darius Henderson after he was fouled by Rio Ferdinand's brother Anton.

Foster later faced a penalty himself but Marlon Harewood hit it wide.

Tim Howard also had a blemish-free afternoon as Everton beat Blackburn in an important north-west derby.

The highlights of Howard's clean sheet were a brilliant save just before half-time to deny Zurab Khizanishvili and another excellent stop just after it to thwart Paul Gallagher. The 1-0 win means Everton are now just four points off a top-six spot and with it, qualification for the UEFA Cup.

Current holders of sixth place Reading bolstered their push for Europe with a 2-0 home win over Phil Bardsley's temporary employers Aston Villa. The Reds right-back completed 90 minutes but couldn’t prevent Steve Sidwell scoring a goal in each half.

Papers: Lille on the attack

We'll KO Fergie's Fat Cats
Manchester United have been branded a bunch of overpaid fat cats by Euro rivals Lille. Striker Peter Odemwingie has vowed to dump them out of the Champions League next week. He said: “We may not have the fat bank accounts like United players, but in order to show we deserve the money they are getting, we have to kick them out."
Gary Payne, The Sun

Elsewhere in Tuesday's tabloids, former Reds midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba has urged his mate Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at Old Trafford, while Didier Drogba has claimed the "Chelsea hate" is growing and believes that neutrals want United to win the Premiership.

The Sun says David Beckham will make an emotional return to Old Trafford next month. The Real Madrid midfielder is set to play for a European XI against United on March 13.

And finally, The Sun reports that former United winger Andrei Kanchelskis has retired.

Competition: Win hospitality tickets reader Alex Beech had the time of his life at United's match against Charlton, courtesy of Lucozade Sport.

Avid fan Alex entered our competition to win a pair of hospitality tickets and was then selected at random from all correct entries. The excellent prize, as provided by Lucozade Sport, enabled Alex and his father David Beech to enjoy a great day at Old Trafford.

Not only did the Beech boys see the Reds beat Charlton 2-0, they also got to meet former United and England legend Bryan Robson whilst enjoying their three-course meal.

Now it's your turn...?

Lucozade Sport have given us another pair of hospitality tickets to give away, for this Saturday's FA Cup tie against Reading.

French foes falter again

United's Champions League opponents LOSC Lille slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to Toulouse at the weekend.

The result keeps Claude Puel's side in third place in France's Ligue 1 as their nearest challengers Marseille also lost 1-0 to Bordeaux.

Lille have now failed to score in their last three games and have the daunting task of a visit from the runaway league leaders Lyon on Friday evening, before United travel to France for the first leg on Tuesday 20 February.

Lyon are also on Champions League duty next week when they face Roma away.

Tickets for the crucial home leg against Lille on Wednesday 7 March are being sold online - for the latest availability and prices, please read the story in Ticket News.

Jones joins Tykes on loan

Barnsley have completed the loan signing of United midfielder Ritchie Jones.

The 20-year-old midfielder, who embarked on an emergency loan with Colchester United earlier this season, will join the Tykes until 6 May, 2007.

Stockport-born Jones has made five first team appearances at United, but has not featured for Sir Alex Ferguson's senior squad since October's Carling Cup win at Crewe.

Jones links up with United team-mate Adam Eckersley, who has been on loan at Oakwell since the turn of the year.

United now have 15 players out on loan across England, Italy, Spain and Belgium.