Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rooney`s hattrick sinks Bolton

A hattrick to Wayne Rooney helped Manchester United to a four nil win at Bolton Wanderers and put them back on top of the English Premier football ladder.

Rooney, who has not scored since the first day of the season, struck after 10, 16 and 89 minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo also netted as United inflicted a first home defeat on Bolton.

United are on 25 points, ahead on goal difference of Chelsea, who won 2-0 at Sheffield United earlier thanks to goals from midfield duo Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack either side of halftime.

Bolton are third on 20 with Portsmouth up to fourth on 19 after a 3-1 home triumph over Reading.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sir Alex targets 90 points

Manchester United take on local rivals Bolton this weekend

Sam Allardyce's side usually offer one of the most physically demanding tests of the campaign at the Reebok Stadium, but Sir Alex is keen for his side to remain top of the table. He said: "I know fine well things can change [at the top of the table] overnight. The top teams can lose a couple of games and you're back to square one again.

"The deciding factor is always around April in the title race, but by January you have a good idea of the teams who will be there at the end of the season. It's never changed."

The United boss wants his side in as strong a position as possibly come the turn of the year. That means carrying on the impressive start to the season, which the manager puts down to a fully focused group of players set on avoiding the mistakes prevalent at the start of the last two seasons in particular.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

4th round of Carling Cup sees Reds face Southend

Southend have been handed a dream date with holders Manchester United in the fourth round of the Carling Cup after United beat Crewe by 2 goals to 1.

The Red Devils survived a real scare before seeing off Crewe on Wednesday and they have once again been paired with lower-league opposition - this time in the guise of Championship Southend.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

United Beat Liverpool 2 - 0

Manchester United have just beaten their arch rivals Liverpool by 2-0.

That means that United stay top of the Premiership after goals by Paul Scholes on his 500th United appearance, and in the 2nd half by Rio Ferdinand.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Scholes prepares for 500th appearance

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson paid tribute to Paul Scholes on Friday as the midfielder prepares to join an elite band of players to make 500 appearances for the club.

Scholes, 31, will reach the landmark in Sunday's game against fierce local rivals Liverpool, joining current team mates Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs on the roll of honour.

"To reach 500 games and be only the ninth person in our history to do that is terrific," Ferguson told a news conference.

"It's a great credit to the boy. We are very fortunate that we have three great examples of our club in Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, which speaks volumes for the type of people they are. Those three have been fantastic servants to us."

"It's a credit, firstly, to their endurance to play as long as that in first-team football at this club, particularly with the demands and expectation, and their ability and their desire."

Manchester-born Scholes joined United as a teenage striker but soon evolved into an attacking midfield player who has scored 131 goals for United since making his debut in 1994.

He has won a string of domestic trophies under Ferguson, but missed their 1999 Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich due to suspension.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another win keeps United on top of Champions League

Sir Alex Ferguson's team all but secured their place in the next stage of the UEFA Champions League with a 3-0 win at home to FC Copenhagen.

Paul Scholes got Manchester United going with his 141st goal for the club on 38 minutes. It was a typically clean strike by the midfielder in stark contrast to John O'Shea's flukey second from a corner and Kieran Richardson's fortunate third from a mistake by the keeper.

The result maintained United's perfect start to the competition, with a hat-trick of victories, and they sit comfortably at the top of the group, with just three more games remaining.

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to United's starting line-up, as O'Shea kept his place at right back.

Ferguson was forced into two late changes as well though, as Darren Fletcher replaced Ryan Giggs because of illness and Wes Brown stepped in at the heart of the defence in place of Rio Ferdinand, suffering from a stiff neck.

The lateness of the changes meant United had one less substitute to choose from as Giggs took a place on the bench, but Uefa deemed Gary Neville's application to replace Ferdinand too late to approve.

Rooney took the captain's armband in search of his first goal in 12 hours of football for both club and country.

United made a lightning start to the game and were nearly ahead inside the first minute when Michael Carrick fed Rooney from the centre circle. The England striker laid the ball perfectly into Louis Saha, but the prolific Frenchman took his shot on early with his right, and saw it easily saved by Jesper Christiansen.

At the other end Nemanja Vidic was looking at his eminent best in the patched-up back four.

Ronaldo and Patrice Evra were also looking lively down the left, and the Portuguese winger had a good chance to break the deadlock when Evra was brought down on the edge of the box after nutmegging Lars Jacobsen. Ronaldo struck the free kick from near the by-line strongly, but it was well saved again by Christiansen.

There was some good build-up being played by the United attack, but the final ball was not quite there. When Ronaldo received a good ball from Saha in the box he seemed certain to play in Rooney. But frustratingly the tricky winger instead chose to shoot, seeing his effort evade both the goal, far post and his lunging team-mate.

Saha saw another of his strikes go just past the post after some good individual work, but still the goal refused to come for The Red Devils.

Copenhagen were looking more adventurous than expected and using free kicks to flood the box. Atiba Hutchinson showed great strength and determination up against the United back four, before feeding Marcus Allback on the edge of the box. The former Aston Villa man turned and hit a fine snap-shot, which forced a smart save from Edwin van der Sar low to his right.

The visitors were showing glimpses of their threat with Michael Silberbauer and Allback showing some fine touches alongside Fredrick Berglund.

With the goals still frustrating him, Rooney turned provider and played Saha through into another one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper, but Christiansen again defied the Frenchman, this time with his feet.

Ronaldo dancing in the box then laid the ball off to Carrick on the edge of the area, but the summer arrival saw his fiercely struck shot well saved by the impressive Christiansen.

Then finally the defence was broken, as Evra squared the ball to Saha, whose lay-off to Scholes was powered into Christiansen's corner with a typically clean strike to make it 1-0 to United on 38 minutes.

The Red Devils could have doubled their advantage moments later when Ronaldo cushioned Fletcher's cross towards the top corner, but Christiansen pushed the ball wide with a strong hand, as United went in 1-0 up at half time.

Immediately after the restart Rooney had a great chance to score when Carrick's fine ball put him through on goal. Rooney chipped the keeper, but Michael Gravgaard got back well to head the ball away from the expectant Rooney and out for a corner.

From Ronaldo's resulting corner United were two up, as O'Shea somehow contrived to knock the ball in with his standing leg, as everyone else missed the ball. There were just 40 seconds gone in the second period as United had now effectively killed the game off at 2-0 to the good.

The Red Devils should have had a penalty on the hour mark when Scholes was set free in the box. The midfielder touched the ball past Christiansen at his feet, only to be felled, but referee Jan Wegereef took no action.

Alan Smith came on for Saha and Carrick made way for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Ferguson looked to exercise his substitutes.

But Copenhagen were not to be steam-rollered and Hutchinson and Allback combined well to force a good save from van der Sar not long after.

Smith had a great chance to mark his return to the competition when some fantastic work from Rooney and Solskjaer on the right saw the Norwegian feed the former Leeds United man in the middle. But Smith, playing as a conventional front man failed to connect properly with the ball and saw his shot drift harmlessly wide.

Richardson, fresh on for Scholes, soon forced Christiansen's first mistake in the Copenhagen goal though and it proved a costly one. The England starlet struck a low shot from 25 yards, and the shot-stopper fluffed his save, as the ball dribbled agonisingly over the line behind him with 83 minutes on the clock.

Solskjaer had a good chance to score when played in by Rooney at the death, but saw his strong strike deflected away by the legs of Christiansen.

The 3-0 scoreline was hard on the spirited Danes, but was an accurate reflection of the home side's dominance in the end.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Wigan 1-3 Manchester United

Half-fit and without a game for more than a month, Giggs was only named as a substitute by Sir Alex Ferguson as an emergency measure after Cristiano Ronaldo failed to recover from an ankle injury.

But the Welshman still had too much class for Wigan, turning the game on its head after Leighton Baines' stunning fifth-minute free-kick had given the Latics an interval lead.

It was Giggs' corner which provided Nemanja Vidic with the equaliser, by which point he had already succeeded in wiping all the early swagger out of Wigan's play.

A brilliant piece of control from Louis Saha allowed the Frenchman to put United in front four minutes after Vidic's header and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer maintained his recent fine form with a stoppage-time third to seal a deserved win.

For a long time though, it looked as though United would have to wait for their first Premiership away triumph since August.

Monday, October 09, 2006

United Eye Up Sporting Lisbon`s Nani

Manchester United swooped to take Cristiano Ronaldo from the same club for £12.25million in 2003.

And now Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant Carlos Queiroz has identified the 19-year-old Nani as another potential Old Trafford star of the future.

The right-sided midfield player was a key figure in Sporting's second-place finish in the league last season and has already netted three times in six games this term.

He is contracted to the Lisbon outfit until 2008 and his club want to extend it by two or three years, while also eager to insert a clause stating that he cannot be sold for less than £17.5million during that period.

Word is though he definitely isn`t for sale.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ferguson says players ego and power can ruin game

Fergie has not hesitated to act in the past when he feels players have got above themselves - as David Beckham and Roy Keane both discovered to their cost.

Ferguson believes that with the pressure of results always on them, managers must maintain rigid discipline with the players.

Asked in an interview with UEFA's The Technician magazine about the biggest challenges facing coaches, Ferguson said: "There is a player ego that you have to deal with. As a coach the one thing you must have is control.

"You can't afford to let players take charge of a training session, there has to be a strong discipline in the training and in general.

"Simple rules must apply such as time-keeping and concentration at training.

"More and more we are dealing with player power. I grew into all of that but a young coach must realise that he is walking straight into all of that.

"They have to find a way of navigating all of these pressures.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Reds top of the Premiership after Newcastle destruction

Manchester United returned to the top of the Premiership table with an impressive destruction of Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

The Magpies showed little by way of attacking intent, but they did not possess the defensive quality to keep Sir Alex Ferguson's men at bay and a brace of goals from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hardly did justice to the home side's superiority.

Only the woodwork, some good keeping and profligate finishing kept the scoreline respectable, but this should in no way detract from a performance which confirms United as genuine challengers to Chelsea.

Glenn Roeder's decision to leave Obafemi Martins on the bench gave an indication that The Magpies made the trip to Old Trafford in a mood to stifle and it was the home side who started much the brighter, with Gary Neville nearly embarrassing Steve Harper with a cross-shot and Wayne Rooney almost nipping in between Steven Taylor and the Newcastle keeper.

Harper has had a couple of shaky moments since replacing the injured Shay Given, but he proved his class 15 minutes in as he arched his back to tip over a powerful header from Nemanja Vidic who had beaten Craig Moore with ease at a corner.

Rooney has yet to hit form this term and he flattered to deceive on 20 minutes when striking a shot wide from 20 yards.

The England striker was involved in a quicksilver move which almost yielded the first goal. Solskjaer, Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo combined to play in Darren Fletcher on the edge of the box and his shot thudded against the post.

Newcastle's defensive approach had reduced Red Devils keeper Edwin van der Sar to the role of spectator for the opening 30 minutes and his first piece of action was a routine save from James Milner.

Harper, in contrast, was far more busy and he was relieved to collect a deflected free kick from Ronaldo on 37 minutes.

The keeper could do nothing to prevent Solskjaer from opening the scoring on 41 minutes as the Norwegian was on hand to tap home from six yards after a shot from Ronaldo had bounced off a post and into his path.

Solskjaer effectively put the game beyond Newcastle two minutes after the interval with one of the most fortunate strikes of his illustrious career.

An awful defensive header from Taylor fell at the feet of Vidic who shot towards goal but his effort spun off the heel of Solskjaer and into the net.

Newcastle looked like rabbits in headlights and Ronaldo should have added a third a minute later, but his drive from eight yards crashed against the crossbar.

The woodwork was proving a real thorn in the side of Ronaldo as it came to Newcastle's rescue once again after the Portuguese star had slid in a shot after mesmerising Stephen Carr inside the Newcastle box.

With Paul Scholes orchestrating play like an experienced general and Ronaldo's box of tricks tying Carr in knots, the only surprise was that The Red Devils failed to rack up a cricket score.

An arm from Taylor denied Fletcher a third and to rub salt into the wounds the incident was not picked up by Mike Dean, while van der Sar ensured he would keep a clean sheet when pulling in a drive from Peter Ramage.

Harper had made a number of fine saves during the 90 minutes and he was on hand to push away a powerful drive from Scholes with nine minutes remaining.

Solskjaer came within inches of registering a hat-trick, as his deflected shot drifted just wide of the far post with Harper well beaten, but it mattered little as Ferguson's charges fired out a title warning to Chelsea and co.