Monday, March 26, 2007

Ronaldo says he wants to stay at Old Trafford for years

Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted that he wants to stay Manchester United "for many years". Speaking after his two goals eased Portugal to a 4-0 victory over Belgium, the forward contemplated his standing in world football: "Am I the best in the world? I have been improving my game and I'm in a great shape this year. I feel mature. The Manchester United players are by my side and I also have a great help in the national team. But of course I believe I am one of the best.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Man Utd 1-0 Middlesbrough

Man Utd 1-0 Middlesbrough

Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half penalty was enough to send Manchester United through to the FA Cup semi-finals.

Ronaldo was chopped down from behind by Jonathan Woodgate with the winger clinically dispatching the spot-kick.

The excellent Mark Schwarzer had twice thwarted Wayne Rooney when the striker had been put clean through with Boro on the back foot throughout.

Tempers frayed in injury time with substitute James Morrison dismissed for a reckless lunge on the match-winner.

United's progression to the last four equals the record number of 25 appearances in the semi-finals - set by Arsenal - and the Premiership leaders will now meet bottom side Watford in the next round.

The home side, depleted and playing their fourth game in 10 days, controlled much of their quarter-final, with Middlesbrough intent on frustrating their opponents and catching them on the break.

United looked in no mood to let the game go the distance and quickly set about penning Boro in their own half - not that an edgy Middlesbrough side were eager to throw men forward at the other end.

In truth, their compact and stand-offish approach suggested they would be more than happy to take their chances in extra-time or penalties.

With players like Rooney not delivering the goods it was down to Ronaldo to be a match winner

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bolton thrashed 4-1 by rampant United

No stopping Ronaldo as Man United crush Bolton

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo set up three goals and South Korea's Park Ji-sung scored two of them as Premier League leaders Manchester United romped to a 4-1 win over Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

Ronaldo provided the cut-back for Park to score United's first after 14 minutes, put Wayne Rooney through for their second and then hit a shot which keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen spilled and Park tucked home in the 25th minute.

Ronaldo got a standing ovation from the Old Trafford crowd in the 70th minute when he was replaced by Alan Smith, who promptly set up Rooney for his second of the afternoon on the break.

Gary Speed scored Bolton's consolation goal from the penalty spot three minutes from the end as United notched their sixth consecutive league win.
The victory, which sent United nine points clear before second-placed Chelsea kicked off against Sheffield United, was marred though by the loss of United's England defender Gary Neville to an ankle injury after nine minutes.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson restated his intention not to plan retirement any time soon. “I have another couple of years, a couple of songs left in me yet,” he said. The prospect of another replay will not have the old boy crooning, but how the FA Cup needed the music Manchester United and Middlesbrough made.

There have been too many dirgeful matches to make this year’s competition a classic, but this was a tie of glorious convulsions led by United and then Middlesbrough before arriving at a draw and a replay on March 19. The home team felt aggrieved at the decision by Rob Styles, the referee, which enabled Cristiano Ronaldo to make it 2-2 from the penalty spot but, as an outcome, parity was just.

Unfortunately the injury list gets bigger and bigger. I wonder what Sir Alex thinks of the Ruud van Nistelrooy move to Madrid last summer when he sees Nistelrooy scoring for fun? Strikers are now in short supply at Old Trafford and I have a horrible feeling that we`ll miss out on the treble simply because we don`t have enough firepower up front.

Friday, March 09, 2007

United face Roma in Champions League

English trio kept apart in draw

Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United were kept apart in Friday's quarter-final draw Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United were kept apart in the Champions League quarter-final draw.

Jose Mourinho's side face Valencia, while Liverpool were paired with Arsenal's conquerors PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United meet AS Roma.

The draw was also made for the semi-final, and it will see Chelsea and Liverpool meet in a repeat of the 2005 clash if they both emerge victorious.

Manchester United will play AC Milan or Bayern Munich if they beat AS Roma.

All the Premiership sides are likely to be happy with their draw, with the prospect left open for an all-English final in Athens on 23 May.

Liverpool have already beaten PSV in the group stages, winning 2-0 at Anfield after drawing 0-0 in Holland - and they have the added incentive of having the second leg at home.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Larsson to play last United game against Middlesbrough

Henrik Larsson has confirmed he will sign off for Manchester United at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Saturday, despite Sir Alex Ferguson being short of strikers.

Larsson was on target in his final game at Old Trafford in the second leg of United's last-16 Champions League clash with Lille, heading home a 72nd-minute Cristiano Ronaldo cross to hand the Red Devils a 2-0 win on aggregate.

But with the 35-year-old Swede returning to Helsingborgs as planned, Ferguson will be left with just one recognised frontman, Wayne Rooney, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Louis Saha both face time on the sidelines.

Larsson said: "It has been great but we said all along that March 12 was the thing. The Swedish season starts on April 1 and it doesn't give them much time to get a replacement striker. I am very proud to have been part of this team but unfortunately I will be going home."

While Ferguson admitted that he was disappointed that Larsson would be leaving, he felt that there was little that could change his mind.

The Scot said: "He has been a credit to himself. His dedication to his job has never changed and it has been a real joy to have him. We would love him to stay but obviously he has made his promise to his family and Helsingborgs and I think we should respect that - but I would do anything to keep him."

Despite seeing his men claim their place in the last eight of the Champions League, Ferguson was left cursing his luck as defender Mikael Silvestre was added to the list of United's walking wounded.

Silvestre was carried off on a stretcher with a suspected dislocated shoulder and the United boss added: "It is not looking good for Mikael at all. At first we thought he had broken his arm but now it seems it is a dislocation.

"It is another big blow for us because in the space of a week, we have lost five players. Louis will be missing for four weeks, although with hamstrings you can never be sure exactly how long they will be out.

"Ole will not be available until March 31, Darren Fletcher is out for two months and now Henrik is leaving us. It has been a bad week, apart from the results."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

United beat Liverpool by 1 goal

Liverpool - Substitute John O'Shea hit a dramatic stoppage-time winner as 10-man Manchester United beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield to take a huge step towards securing the Premiership title on Saturday.

Former England midfielder Paul Scholes was shown the red card five minutes from time by referee Martin Atkinson after aiming a punch at Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso.

But Ireland international O'Shea pounced unmarked in the first minute of stoppage time after a free-kick by Cristiano Ronaldo to give Sir Alex Ferguson's leaders a crunch victory.

United had failed for long periods to produce the form which has taken them top of the summit yet they were denied what looked a certain penalty when Daniel Agger brought down French substitute Louis Saha in the 78th minute.

In addition they lost Wayne Rooney to injury after he was involved in a crunching challenge with England team-mate Jamie Carragher which has left the striker doubtful for Wednesday's Champions League tie with Lille on Wednesday.

With Barcelona coming to Merseyside in the Champions League on Tuesday, desperate to overturn Liverpool's 2-1 first-leg lead, Benitez had more reasons than ever to indulge in the kind of rotation that frustrates many of the club's supporters.

He made 99 consecutive team changes up until last October and many feel the early-season tinkering was partly to blame for a lack of consistency that meant his team's Premiership title challenge was over before it had begun, with Liverpool suffering five of their seven league defeats to date before mid-November, all away from home.

But these are not normal circumstances and, with Steven Gerrard having expressed his disgust at the idea of United "virtually" securing the title at Anfield, the Spaniard was in no mood to play into Ferguson's hands.

Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy were all restored to the starting line-up, but there was no place for Javier Mascherano, the Argentinian, in Benitez's 16 man squad.

The return of those key players created the desired effect as the hosts made the brighter start with Agger going close from distance while Chile international Mark Gonzalez forced the game's first save after connecting with Steve Finnan's 16th minute cross.

Jose Reina did not have a save to make in a scrappy first-half although Ronaldo, with 16 Premiership goals to his name already this season, was threatening in spells and blazed his side's best chance before the break over the bar in the 23rd minute after good work by Henrik Larsson.

Liverpool continued to carve out the better chances in a fixture regarded as one of the most fiercely contested in the English calendar.

John Arne Riise, one of the goal heroes in Barcelona in February, almost found the net after letiing fly with another spectacular left-foot effort from 20-yards after good work by the busy Gonzalez in the 27th minute.

United fans had to wait two minutes before half-time for their team's first corner as the leaders struggled to impose themselves and it required a fine save by Edwin van der Sar to keep United level two minutes after the break.

A defence-splitting pass by Kuyt presented Bellamy with the chance of the game but the Welsh international was frustrated by United's Dutch keeper who stuck out a hand to prevent his goal-bound effort from crossing the line.

Moments later Bellamy had an effort ruled out for off-side while Riise went close again during a sustained spell of Liverpool pressure.

United, who had Ryan Giggs making his 700th appearance, were anything but their threatening best and Ferguson's frustration continued when Rooney limped off in the 72nd minute after being injured in a challenge with Carragher.

The game exploded in an amazing finale as Saha was upended by Agger in the 78th minute only for the referee to wave away United's appeals.

Then Scholes was red carded for swinging at (and missing) Alonso before O'Shea had the final say.