Saturday, April 28, 2007

United come back to beat Everton

Man. United have just beaten Everton at Goodison Park by 4-2 after being behind at half time by 2-0. The difference was a certain Cristiano Ronaldo who came on as a substitute in the 2nd half for United.

Meanwhile , Chelsea only managed a 2-2 draw against Bolton at Stamford Bridge. The difference in points now stands at five. The reds are certainly now well in the driving seat for the race to the Premiership Title.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Last minute goal seals win over AC Milan

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson believes Wayne Rooney's dramatic late winner against AC Milan on Tuesday has given his side a golden opportunity to reach the final of the Champions League. United will take a 3-2 lead to the San Siro Stadium for next Wednesday's second leg of their semi-final after coming from 2-1 down at half-time to win thanks to two goals from Rooney, including one in time added on for stoppages.

The Reds deserved their victory being far more inventive than the opposition. Their was ome great interplay with Scholes, Giggs, Ronaldo and Rooney. Hopefully they`ll be able to reproduce that same form when they meet again next week.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ronaldo picks up two prestigious footballing awards

I can`t do any better than to reproduce this article from the Manchester Evening News about the double awards that Cristiano Ronaldo picked up last night.

MIKEL Arteta was speaking for footballers all over the world when he declared that Cristiano Ronaldo is so good he scares the life out of his opponents.

"Ronaldo is a total football artist," said the Everton midfielder. "The boy frightens even us as professional footballers."

Arteta was eulogising over a young man who was last night crowned PFA Player of the Year - the sixth United player to lift the prestigious award in its 33 year history - and Young Player of the Year.

Ronaldo, who is United's top scorer with 21 goals and the Premiership's leading provider with 13 assists, follows in the footsteps of Mark Hughes, Gary Pallister, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Teddy Sheringham and Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

And for those that have watched the Portuguese winger rise from adversity to become one of the finest players of his generation, the accolade will come as no surprise.

The great Eusébio once descibed Ronaldo as "an icon waiting to happen". Now his time has come.

"Over the season he has stood out and shone like a beacon," said the Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock, whose team succumbed to Ronaldo's magic as United beat the Blades 2-0 at Old Trafford last Tuesday.

After the 22-year-old signed a new five-year £31m contract to keep him at Old Trafford until 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson insisted he is as good as Pele and Diego Maradona were at the same age.

What many may fail to realise is the odds that Ronaldo has had to overcome to get where he is today. The spoilt brat tag he has at times carried could not be further from the truth.

Ronaldo was born in Funchal but grew up in San Antonio, a working-class district on the island of Madeira.

He endured a tough childhood, living with his parents Jose Dinis and Maria Dolores, brother Hugo and sisters Elma and Katia in a bungalow so small that their washing machine was kept on the roof.

Maria dos Santos, a teacher at Ronaldo's primary school Escola Sao Joao, said: "From the day he walked through the door, football was his preferred sport. If there wasn't a real ball around - and often there wasn't - he would make one out of socks."

Ronaldo moved to Lisbon at just 11-years-old without his parents. The boy who was renowned for keeping cans in the air with his feet was to be nurtured at Sporting Lisbon's Alcochete academy but life would not be easy.

"Coming from Madeira he has a unique accent and in Portugal some people make fun of it," explains Sergio Krithinas a Portuguese journalist. "Once his teacher [at Escola Barreiros] was calling everybody's name and when she said `Cristinao Ronaldo' he said `I'm here' with his Madeira accent and everybody started to laugh at him. So he launched a chair at the teacher."

On the pitch, however, Ronaldo's talent was never questioned and in the summer of 2003 United acted.

Inspired by Ronaldo, Sporting beat the Reds 3-1 in a pre-season friendly and in the dressing room afterwards the United players begged Fergie to sign the 18-year-old. Soon United's new No7, David Beckham's replacement, was unveiled.

His debut - a 29-minute cameo against Bolton - was nothing short of sensational and the manager later admitted: "It looks like the fans have a new hero".

The irony is that if Ronaldinho's move from Paris Saint-Germain to United had not fallen through at the 11th hour, it is likely Ronaldo, who was being strongly trailed by Arsenal at the time, would never have signed.

More recently Ronaldo has had to overcome the death of his father, false allegations of rape, the media frenzy around accusations that he encouraged Wayne Rooney's sending off in England's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Portugal and doubts surrounding his on-field integrity - booing and diving slurs follow him still.

Despite all that he has won over many of his fiercest critics and the approval of his peers.

"He is the toughest player I have ever come up against," said Reading's captain Graeme Murty, who has been terrorised by Ronaldo twice this season. "He's well on his way to becoming the best player in the world.

"As an opponent you've seen what he has to offer on the TV and you try to steel yourself for it but nothing can quite prepare you for Ronaldo when he is in full flow."

Manchester Evening News

Magpies do United a big favour

With United dropping points on Saturday Chelsea failed to take advantage of the situation yesterday when they only managed a 0-0 draw at Newcastle.

Jose Mourinho took managerial mind games to a new level when he suggested English football was now governed by a rulebook weighted heavily in the favour of title rivals Manchester United. He was complaining about the lack of penalties teams playing against United get, compared to the penalties the Reds get.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Title hopes in the balance after 1-1 draw with `boro

United had got off to a perfect start when Kieran Richardson tapped the ball into the net after Wayne Rooney had broken clear and rounded Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. That was after just 3 minutes, and most of us would have assumed a win was going to be comfortable. No, not to be....

Rio Ferdinand suffered a groin strain just before half time, and was clearly unable to move with any freedom. A cross came over and Ferdinand had to just watch it sail past him over his head. Wes Brown was unable to deal with it and Mark Viduka headed past the United goalkeeper.

A game to forget, United were never at their very best. In all honesty a draw was more than a fair result. In fact Middlesbrough might feel hard done by judging by the number of chances they had compared to United`s efforts.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Moyes to sue Rooney

Everton manager claims striker 'injured his professional and personal reputation and caused serious embarrassment and distress'

England striker Wayne Rooney is being sued by his former manager David Moyes over comments made in his autobiography, it was confirmed today.

The book, entitled My Story So Far, accuses the Everton manager of being overbearing, controlling and ultimately responsible for Rooney's £27m transfer to Manchester United in 2004. Moyes is reportedly claiming more than £300,000 in libel damages from his former player.

In the book Rooney claims he told Moyes he wanted to leave Everton after a newspaper claimed he had visited prostitutes. The footballer goes on to suggest Moyes leaked details of the conversation to the Liverpool Echo newspaper, which led Rooney to controversially quit the club he had supported from childhood.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

United six points clear of Chelsea

Wayne Rooney steered Manchester United to a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United that sent them six points clear at the top of the Premier League last night.

Manchester United were seeking to keep the pressure on second-placed Chelsea, who face West Ham United today, and took a fourth-minute lead through midfielder Michael Carrick.

Rooney made sure of the points five minutes into the second-half, lashing the ball home after a fine move.

Manchester United are on 81 points from 33 games while champions Chelsea have 75 from 32. Arsenal have 62 from 34 matches, one point ahead of Liverpool who play Middlesbrough today.

Meanwhile, Frank Lampard expects Chelsea to shrug off the strains of their gruelling schedule and come out with all guns blazing as they try to keep the pressure on Premiership leaders Manchester United.

Jose Mourinho's side are still on course for an unprecedented quadruple after their herculean efforts against Valencia and Blackburn Rovers last week.

But there is no let up in Chelsea's hectic fixture list.

The reigning English champions managed to haul their weary bodies through extra-time to see off Blackburn in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final, just five days after snatching a dramatic Champions League win in Valencia.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Watford no match for United`s superiority

Aidy Boothroyd's line about victory here equalling the shock of the moon landing might have needed a tweak involving Man setting up house on Mars if Watford, the Premiership's bottom club, had actually managed to knock out the Premiership leaders. Instead, the team whose warm-up for this tie was the midweek demolition of Roma in the Champions League reached the first FA Cup final at the revamped Wembley, in front of a crowd that rolled and rocked Villa Park.

United's eighteenth appearance in the showpiece event came thanks to a scintillating Wayne Rooney display that included two goals and allows United's fans to keep dreaming that the 1999 Treble can be emulated. It also means the neutral might hope that when Chelsea meet Blackburn this afternoon in the second semi-final, Jose Mourinho's men will prevail. That would set up the middle one of three possible meetings between the clubs that could decide the FA Cup, Premiership and Champions League - an unprecedented finish to a season that already should linger in the memory.

The Portuguese winger began on the right in the same fluid 4-2-3-1 formation as Tuesday, with Paul Scholes in for Darren Fletcher and Patrice Evra instead of John O'Shea. That had Wayne Rooney on the left behind Alan Smith, a decision that had the best endorsement when the former scored after six minutes.

This presaged a sticky period in which United harried, were allowed too much space inside their opponents' half and forced Lee to miskick clearances. But, with their first moment of real pressure, Watford picked up some hope.

Hameur Bouazza, Watford's best player, hassled Wes Brown to win a free-kick. A corner resulted, from which Edwin van der Sar offered the first of various weak punches. The Dutchman was then involved in a mix-up with Rio Ferdinand that led to Watford's equaliser. Last week at Portsmouth a similar breakdown had yielded an own goal from the United No 5. Here, they got in a tangle that also involved Watford's central defender, Clarke Carlisle. This injured the United keeper. From the restart, Tommy Smith eventually received the ball inside the area and found Bouazza. The French striker's left-foot volley was impressive, but took a telling deflection off Gabriel Heinze.

That was in the 26th minute and parity lasted around 120 seconds. Rooney exchanged passes with Alan Smith down the right, then advanced and advanced on Lee. His pass, always meant for Ronaldo, bobbled off the keeper. United's darling was hardly going to miss from two yards.

This frantic start was evidence of the game's openness, which was great for the fans, but until Ferdinand's removal through injury five minutes before the break hardly the best for Watford's chances of defeating a side who just love to attack. Rooney, in particular, took advantage, offering a reminder of the buccaneering talent that has been evident only in flashes this season - a remarkable 50-yard diagonal pass around the half...#8209;hour that took out Watford's defence was particularly memorable.

Now came the restart and Watford's best chance. United at first struggled to adjust to the midfielder Darren Fletcher slotting in at right-back and Van der Sar still appeared to be troubled from the effects of Carlisle's challenge. Bouazza had a shot, was nearly played in by Gavin Mahon and then had a searing run down the left that frightened the rejigged rearguard.

It was Rooney, though, in what was his best performance this season, who confirmed the win with a finish just a little farther out than Ronaldo's. There was even time for Kieran Richardson to chip sweetly beyond Lee. Both had been put in by the excellent Smith.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Manchester United (4) 7 AS Roma (0) 1

Manchester United (4) 7 AS Roma (0) 1
Agg: 8-3

This was one of those enchanted evenings that Manchester United supporters fantasise about, when the self-styled Theatre of Dreams lived up to its name, and when one of Europe's most vaunted opponents were brutally put to the sword. Not only did Sir Alex Ferguson's pacey passion-players race to their biggest European win in 39 years, but they conjured up a sublime performance that will live even longer in the memory.

Rampant United tear Roma apart
Mercurial: Manchester United's Ronaldo celebrates Roma's fall

This was one of those magical nights when it seemed every United touch turned to gold, when every move brought a goal, a remarkable hour and a half of relentless attacking when the outstanding Michael Carrick and Cristiano Ronaldo both bagged braces, and when Wayne Rooney, Alan Smith and even little Patrice Evra scored. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it took only 90 minutes to destroy Roma's defence.

This was one of those games when fans ran through the record books, let alone the songbooks, when they took photographs of the scoreboard as a reminder that seven goals were indeed put past a side who had entered the quarter-finals with the best defensive record around.

This was one of those routs when United were in such command that Ferguson was signing autographs even before the final whistle confirmed passage to a semi-final against either AC Milan or Owen Hargreaves' Bayern Munich, at Old Trafford on April 24 and in the shadow of the Alps on May 2.

Victory was made all the sweeter following last week's troubled trip to the Olympic Stadium where United fans were baton-charged by police, but at least they came away with Rooney's away goal. For a lover of Westerns like Ferguson, last night was a case of The Magnificent Seven following The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

So Ferguson's pursuit of a craved second European Cup continues apace, this astonishing triumph moving him to within 270 minutes of true greatness. His players filled the headlines, and their boots, but this was a script with one author: Ferguson set United up so well temperamentally and tactically that Roma were swept away.

Ferguson had called for "a cauldron of noise'', and the fans certainly did not disappoint, screaming exhortations from the first whistle. A wave of emotion washed down from the terraces, crashing all over the stunned Italians, goal after goal flying past Doni, their Brazilian keeper.

How the majority of the 74,476 revelled in this remarkable performance, glorying in the sight of their team looking world-beaters. Missing regulars like Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic and Paul Scholes, United were certainly not lacking in passion and understudies like Darren Fletcher excelled, constantly biting into tackles on the brittle visitors. Avi Glazer picked the right time to leave the family bunker in Florida and visit his family's famous overseas investment.

United's nervy weekend display at Fratton Park seemed a world away, a distant planet, from the devastating attacking that accounted for Roma here. The Italians drowned in a cauldron of English adrenalin. First came Carrick after 11 minutes, setting the scene for an extraordinary evening with a majestic strike. The creative catalyst was Ronaldo, who cut in from the right, eluding Alessandro Mancini, but rather than continue on a mazy run, the Portuguese cleverly slipped the ball inside to Carrick, who brilliantly chipped Doni: 1-0.

The poacher turned goal-maker moments later. Carrick rolled the ball wide to Gabriel Heinze and suddenly red shirts were flooding forward from every angle, teeming with menacing intent. Heinze found Ryan Giggs, who elegantly transferred the ball towards Smith, a blur of movement down the centre. Cristian Chivu, belying his experience, failed to cut the ball out, and Smith was through. Doni advanced but Smith was too focused, too determined.

He had waited 15 months for his first European start, and such a committed footballer who lives for football, whose idol was Francesco Totti, was driven by a huge desire to make life uncomfortable for Totti's team. Smith's finish was emphatic, superbly placed past Doni: 2-0. And to think that Smith almost joined Cardiff City on loan after Christmas.

There was more, thrillingly so. Ronaldo and Smith combined, Giggs crossed and there was Rooney, angling a shot across Doni: 3-0. The party really got started. With goals from three Englishmen, no wonder the watching Steve McClaren wore a huge grin. Romans were being devoured by lions. Then England's World Cup nemesis took centre stage. Ronaldo collected the ball from the lively Giggs, and caught Doni cold at his near-post: 4-0. United's glee club chanted "attack, attack, attack'', their words brimming with irony.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ferguson expects Reds recovery tonight

Ferguson expects United recovery

Sir Alex Ferguson is confident Manchester United will create chances against Roma in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg.

United trail 2-1 from the first leg but Ferguson believes his side are in a strong position to turn that around.

"We do recover from defeats and usually we recover well. Our attacking impetus will be much stronger than it was in Rome," he told the club's website.

"We will make opportunities, and if we take them we have a great chance."

Ferguson is also confident that keeper Edwin van der Sar will perform well despite his recent errors which contributed to United's defeat in the first leg as well as Saturday's loss to Portsmouth.

"Edwin has the experience. He knows how to deal with it," said the United boss.

"You don't get 120 caps for your country without being able to handle situations like that. He'll be OK."

Van der Sar has not been helped by playing behind an unsettled back four as United struggle with injuries.

Captain Gary Neville and central defender Nemanja Vidic will once again be missing against Roma on Tuesday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Minister's call for Roma answers

The British Embassy says 11 Man Utd fans were taken to hospital

A Home Office minister has said answers are needed from Italian police following brutal clashes with Manchester United and Roma fans.

Vernon Coaker's remarks came after baton-wielding police fought with supporters at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

The British Embassy said 11 Manchester United fans were taken to hospital, with two reportedly kept in overnight.

Mr Coaker said: "The scenes that we saw on our television screens were extremely concerning."

He told BBC Radio Five Live that he wanted to see reports from Italian and UK police, the British Embassy, the clubs concerned and the fans themselves.

"We need some explanation of what actually took place and the police response to it," he added.

Riot police

Manchester United said the police's response was a "serious over-reaction" and accused the police of handing out "indiscriminate beatings".

Uefa is to investigate the trouble involving many fans from both sides. Italian police - whom some fans accused of brutality - justified their actions.

Local media also said five people - three English and two from Italy - were injured in clashes as fans made their way to the stadium.

Two Roma supporters received hospital treatment after the clashes, it was reported.

During the game, which Roma won 2-1, both sets of fans could be seen throwing missiles at each other.

This is the sort of thing that happens in the ground every week but is not reported

The two sets of supporters were separated in one section of the ground by a barrier with riot police gathered on the Manchester United side.

After each goal both sets of fans surged towards the barrier.

At one stage, riot police with shields and batons were seen repeatedly striking Manchester United supporters.

Manchester United said in a statement: "The disturbing scenes witnessed in the Stadio Olimpico last night shocked everyone at Old Trafford.

"In what the club views as a serious over-reaction, local police handed out indiscriminate beatings to United supporters.

"In those circumstances, neither Manchester United, nor AS Roma is able to call the police to account."

The club said welcomed the government's examination of the incident and said it would collect witness statements from fans to submit to the Home Office.

'Justified response'

Before the game Manchester United fans were warned in letters and on the club's website to avoid certain areas of the city, as they could be attacked by Roma's hardcore "ultra" fans.

The city's mayor Walter Veltroni criticised Manchester United officials and said the advice could create a "negative climate".

Achille Serra, head of Rome Police, told BBC Rome's Christian Fraser the police action was a "justified response", and said there would be no inquiry unless he were shown evidence of any alleged police brutality.

Mr Serra added that if there were evidence of any brutality he would condemn it - but he said there was no such behaviour.

William Gaillard, from Uefa, said the body was very concerned at the number of violent incidents this year.

"We will be waiting for the delegate's report, and the control and disciplinary body will be looking at the television images to see the dynamics of what actually happened."

In February the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) suspended all matches after a policeman was killed at a Serie A game between Catania and Palermo.

Three Middlesbrough fans were stabbed and 10 others hurt during fights with Roma fans at an Uefa Cup quarter-final last year.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

United come back to beat Blackburn 4-1

Wayne Rooney's miserable few days continued in the form of two glaring first-half misses, but with his team-mates in such form, coming from behind to beat Blackburn emphatically, he was able to disappear for fiancee Coleen McLoughlin's twenty-first birthday party last night with his club still well on course for the title.Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer provided the decisive goals that earned United three priceless Premiership points, but it was the performance of the player who scored the equaliser, Paul Scholes, which was the rallying point for United. Few, if any, observers noted Scholes's absence from the England team as a factor behind their abysmal form this week, but Steve McClaren will be well aware of how his team could have used his services.

Even United's current injury curse - Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic the latest to be lost with a shoulder injury that will sideline him for four to five weeks according to Sir Alex Ferguson - does not seem capable of applying the brakes to United's triumphal march towards yet more silverware.'I think we looked like a championship side,' said Ferguson. 'You would expect a championship team to show that kind of nerve, determination, drive, resolve. We had all that today. Everything you are looking for in a football team was there. There are just seven games to go - that makes me nervous now. But, without question, that was one of our best performances of the season and throughout the game they had a lot of handicaps. They had just come back from internationals, they had to overcome being 1-0 down, so to keep making chances and to keep their nerve and show their composure was fantastic.'
All true, although for the first 45 minutes, it was a very different United display, and one that had Old Trafford legend Mark Hughes daring to dream of another Blackburn upset against his mentor. Matt Derbyshire compounded such belief before the half hour as Carrick turned Morten Gamst Pedersen's cross against his own keeper and post and the young forward reacted sharply to open the scoring.

But the second half? It was a different story, much to the frustration of Hughes. 'They are champions elect and they are good value for it,' said the Rovers boss. 'This year they have played the best football, the most expansive game, and this game was a key game for them. They sensed that, the crowd sensed that and they knew we would give them a real test today. I feel we did that, to a certain extent, and I feel from this point onwards they will go on and win it comfortably.'

United looked like a different team from the kick-off after the break, Scholes orchestrating play in the centre, Ronaldo tormenting Rovers down either flank and an equaliser soon looked a formality. Hughes' mood in conceding it would not have been improved, however, by Christopher Samba losing possession on the edge of his own area to Scholes after 61 minutes. The midfielder skipped past Ryan Nelsen and Stephen Warnock before finishing convincingly.
That goal was the catalyst United needed to go on to comfortable victory and, after Brad Freidel saved superbly from Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs then struck the bar with the goal at his mercy, the rout was on.

In the 73rd minute, Ronaldo surged past Tugay on the left and his cross reached Carrick at the back of the area, who had the presence to steady himself and score with a precision finish.
Ten minutes later, Ronaldo provided the creative spark once again - his thunderous free-kick being parried by Friedel for Park to slot in the rebound - and, in the final minute of normal time, substitute Solskjaer appeared unmarked on the end of Park's cross to fire home unopposed and wrap up an impressive victory for the hosts.

'The reason United are top of the league and champions-elect is that they are able to galvanise themselves when they are struggling,' added Hughes. 'When they are struggling to find a little bit of form, they are able to get themselves together and go again. That's certainly what they did in the second half.'

Still, there surely must be some concern over Rooney's form over the past eight days. Twice, with the score goalless, the young striker had only the excellent Friedel - a strong candidate for man of the match despite leaking four - to beat but struck the ball against the keeper on both occasions. If United are to win the treble, which Ferguson insists is only a distant possibility, Rooney will surely have to rediscover his form.

Domestically, for the time being, there is no such need with his team-mates playing in this manner.