Saturday, 6 August 2011

Paul Scholes testimonial: Manchester United 6 New York Cosmos 0

Paul Scholes marked his Manchester United farewell with a trademark stunner as the champions eased to an emphatic win over the New York Cosmos in his testimonial.
The 36-year-old United legend, who retired at the end of last season, opened the scoring at a sell-out Old Trafford with a fierce 20-yard strike after just eight minutes.
Scholes left the field to a standing ovation after 75 minutes as United, featuring a number of players who may feature in the Community Shield on Sunday, enjoyed a comfortable run-out.
The famously reticent Scholes - who made 676 appearances and scored 150 goals in a glittering 17-year United career that included 10 Premier League titles - had certainly lived up to his pre-match hope.
"I'm not someone that likes too much attention and tonight that's what it is about," Scholes told MUTV before the game.
"All eyes are going to be on me, watching everything I do.
"I just hope I have a good game.
"I know how good these fans have been. They have been really good to me over the past 16 or 17 years so hopefully tonight I can do something to make them happy.
"Let's just hope it's a good game and there are plenty of goals."
Despite the proximity of the match to Sunday's season-opening Wembley clash against Manchester City, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson honoured Scholes by fielding a strong team alongside him.
The evening also gave United fans the chance to pay tribute to another club legend, Eric Cantona, now director of soccer at the Cosmos.
Cantona greeted Scholes before kick-off and was given a reception far louder than that afforded to all-time great Pele, who is part of the reborn Cosmos' promotional drive.
The revived American team are hoping to earn a place in Major League Soccer in 2013 and relive their 1970s glory days when a previous incarnation of the team featured Pele and Johan Cruyff.
They lined up with an invitational team filled with familiar names including two of Scholes' former United team-mates in Gary Neville and Nicky Butt.
Former Arsenal and Manchester City midfielder Patrick Vieira came off the bench in the second half and received the only boos of the night.
Scholes, who also won 66 England caps, set the game alight as the crowd beckoned him to shoot from outside the box early on.
Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel had little chance of keeping out a powerful effort that flew into the top corner.
Despite the routine nature of some of the contest, it was a genuine top-class strike evocative of so many from a fine career.
Scholes turned down the chance to add a second from the penalty spot, as Wayne Rooney did the honours after a foul on Ashley Young before Anderson, one of seven half-time changes, added a third after 50 minutes.
Danny Welbeck claimed the fourth after a defensive mix-up and Mame Biram Diouf beat substitute goalkeeper Chad Calderone twice in quick succession to complete the scoring.
Scholes, who made his debut in 1994, returned to the pitch after the game to address the crowd.
"I hope I gave them a few decent memories," he said, rather modestly.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes to say farewell at Old Trafford

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes  
Manchester United legend Paul Scholes
Paul Scholes will tonight say goodbye to United in front of a sell-out crowd at Old Trafford.

Around 76,000 fans will bid farewell to the legendary midfielder, who announced his retirement at the end of last season.

The former England international, who won 10 Premier League titles and helped United to two Champions League successes, bows out against a New York Cosmos side managed by Eric Cantona.

And United’s fans have shown just how much they appreciate Scholes by buying up all the tickets available for what is set to be an unforgettable occasion for the ginger magician, who is set to join Sir Alex Ferguson’s coaching staff.

And if he is able to transfer his ability as a player onto the training ground, the 36-year-old will prove an invaluable asset.

“A couple of years ago I felt like my career was never going to end, so you don’t think about what to do in the future in the same way as I have done over the past six months,” said Scholes.

“Football is the only thing I know a little bit about so I am going to give the coaching a go. If it doesn’t work or I am not very good at it I won’t carry on doing it.”

The 36-year-old has received a glowing endorsement from Cantona, who was one of his idols as he emerged from United’s academy.

“Paul Scholes was a great player,” said Cantona. “I knew him when he started young. He can play anywhere in midfield or up front, he can score goals, assist and tackle.

“He is a great player – I’m very proud to be here for him.

“When I was there I played with two generations of players. Ferguson brought in a lot of young players – young talent. Scholes was one of them. He has been very
successful at the club. I come back after 15 years and he’s still there. Anyone who can play for Man United that long is a great man.”

Ferguson is still hunting for the man to fill Scholes’ shoes, with Wesley Sneijder still at the top of his wanted list.

United are hoping the Dutch World Cup star will be willing to lower his wage demands – understood to be in excess of £200,000-a-week – to come to Old Trafford.

But, in Beijing with Inter Milan yesterday ahead of the Italian Super Cup against AC Milan, he insisted that trophies were his priority.

“I’m a footballer, I have many objectives and I want to win because I enjoy winning,” said Sneijder. “Saturday is the first big challenge of the season.”

And while Ferguson hopes to bring him to the Premier League, the 27-year-old said Jose Mourinho remains the best manager he was worked under.

He said: “I’ve played for many coaches and each one has been different from the others, but Jose Mourinho is still the one I liked best both as a coach and as a man.”

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Edwin Van der’s farewell party a star-studded show

Edwin Van der Sar leads the teams out with his children  
Edwin Van der Sar leads the teams out with his children
Edwin Van der Sar bowed out of football on an emotional high last night in Amsterdam.

His former club Ajax staged a tribute to the great goalkeeper with United stars Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney paying their tribute by joining their former teammate in his Dream Team.

Gary Neville also played for the star-studded side, managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, who took the lead at the start of the second half when Everton’s former Red Louis Saha latched onto Ferdinand’s through ball to score.

Van der Sar was beaten by a Rodney Sneijder rocket that came back off a post and Derk Boerrigter stroked in the rebound for Ajax’s equaliser.

A goal of genuine quality proved decisive. Giggs and Rooney were heavily involved in the build-up and Dennis Bergkamp drilled home.
United’s Under-13s drew 2-2 with their Ajax counterparts thanks to two goals by Callum Gribbin – Edwin’s son Joe played in goal for the young Reds.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson: Phil Jones ready for Manchester United first team

READY: Phil Jones  
READY: Phil Jones
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes 19-year-old new signing Phil Jones has the talent to break into the first team immediately.

Jones, who cost £16.5million from Blackburn, will face competition at centre-back from Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, as well as fellow up-and-coming defender Chris Smalling, but he has played for Rovers as a holding player in central midfield too.

Ferguson told club magazine Inside United: "We first identified Jones when he played for Blackburn's youth team against us a couple of years ago when they beat us 3-0. He was absolutely magnificent.

"You might think he might not play, but the ability he's got and the determination he's got, he could quite easily play. He's the future obviously, but he could certainly come in right away."

Ferguson revealed he intends to start with Ashley Young as a left-winger though will consider him in a number of positions, and also backed goalkeeper David de Gea to fill the void left by the retired Edwin van der Sar.

The Scot added: "Ashley can play in more than one position. He can play wide right, left, even behind the striker, so we have options there. But, initially, we'll start him as a wide left player."

In relation to De Gea, he added: "We worked hard to get the deal done because it wasn't easy. Atletico Madrid obviously regarded him very highly. But we managed to get it done and we're delighted he joined us.

"The past is the past and Edwin is part of the past. He had an incredible career with us. He was an incredible goalkeeper. But, hopefully, the future belongs to David de Gea."

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson in Euro glory plea to David Gill

David Gill looking for top class player to make United European champions again  
David Gill looking for top class player to make United European champions again
Sir Alex Ferguson has told David Gill to land him the ‘top- class’ player that can make United European champions again.

The pair are determined to secure the superstar name they have been hunting all summer before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Wesley Sneijder and Samir Nasri are at the top of that list – and with both players still available, Ferguson is refusing to give up hope on either one.

The United manager still has money to spend despite already splashing out £50m on Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David de Gea.

He is determined to add a marquee name to his squad as he bids to close the gap on Champions League winners Barcelona.

And Gill admits only the best will do when it comes to finding a replacement for the retired Paul Scholes.

The chief executive said: “I don’t want to talk about specifics, but it’s clear to say that in order to get into the United team you have to be a top-class player.”

Sneijder has left the door open to a £35m move to Old Trafford – even if his salary demands of more than £200,000-a-week are understood to be a stumbling block in any potential deal.

But he flew out to Beijing with Inter Milan yesterday as he continues to prepare for the new season with the Serie A giants.

Nasri was the man who commanded Ferguson’s attention at the start of the summer, with the French international yet to sign a new deal with Arsenal.

His contract expires next year – but Arsene Wenger has so far refused to cash in on player he could lose for nothing in 12 months’ time.

Ferguson has suggested that he believes Nasri will go elsewhere – with City appearing to be at the head of the queue for his services – but his future remains in question.

A cut price midfield option could yet be Joey Barton.

United have been alerted to his situation at Newcastle after the former City player was made available for a free transfer yesterday.

Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia has been handed a contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2015.

The Ecuador winger made a remarkable come back from a horror ankle break last season to play in the Champions League final.

“Antonio has made a fantastic contribution since his arrival,” said Ferguson. “His speed, crossing ability and versatility have been a big asset for us.

“He has a quiet, unassuming way of going about his business, which is underlined by great strength of character – as his recovery from such a bad injury last season proves."

Valencia added: “I am delighted to stay at United. Since my first day at Carrington, I have been happy here. I hope that I can continue to develop as a player.

“I am looking forward to making my contribution to helping this squad compete for more trophies.”

Monday, 1 August 2011

Dutch ace Wesley Sneijder opens the door on a £35m summer move to Manchester United

Wesley Sneijder has been linked with a move to United all summer  
Wesley Sneijder has been linked with a move to United all summer
Wesley Sneijder last night opened the door on a £35m summer move to United.

The Inter Milan midfielder, long identified as the Reds’ number one target to replace Paul Scholes, pointedly refused to rule out the prospect of a transfer to Old Trafford.

“There is always speculation, every year,”  the 27-year-old Dutch World Cup star said in  Ireland where he was in Dublin Super Cup action for his club.

“I’ve played for almost 10 years at the highest level and every year there is speculation. There is always a chance that something will happen.

“I’ve played in many big competitions, in Holland, in Spain and now here. We will see what’s going to happen.

“I’m happy to stay here, I’m happy to train every day with my colleagues and to play my games for the fans and everybody in the club and we will see.”

Sneijder’s wage demands of more than £200,000-a-week are understood to be the main stumbling block over a move.

Weekend reports claimed Sir Alex Ferguson had issued a take-it-or-leave-it offer, but he he denied  any ultimatum had been made. “Absolute nonsense,” he said. “I have never discussed him. There is nothing new.”

Meanwhile,  Fergie is banking on Tom Cleverley being United’s answer to Jack Wilshere – if he can’t land number one target Sneijder. The United manager is already considering alternative options in case he fails in his bid.

And Ferguson thinks Cleverley could prove a home-grown hero, just like Wilshere at Arsenal.

The England Under-21 midfielder was outstanding in United’s 2-1 win against European champions Barcelona on Saturday night. And it was enough to convince Ferguson that he can help fill the void left by Scholes’ retirement.

“It is an area we have to find a solution for,” he said. “That is why we played Tom Cleverley against Barcelona. Physically he is not the strongest but he is wiry and has a great idea of the game.

“He was our best player. He is a quick passer of the ball and he has good eyes.

Meanwhile, fans labelled as "anti-people" by United chief executive David Gill have launched a furious defence of their opposition to the Glazer family's ownership of the club.

Although Gill claimed the vast majority of United fans worldwide were supportive of the club's controversial American owners, he said there were some who would never change their view.

Among those are the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST), who have long campaigned against the Glazer family

"David Gill talks about the 'anti-people' being in a minority. What he fails to mention is the hundreds of millions of pounds the Glazers have taken out of the club in interest, fees, debt repayments, personal loans and expenses all on top of the actual debt," said Drasdo.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Manchester United have post-Sir Alex Ferguson plan, says David Gill

David Gill
Manchester United chief executive David Gill (right) with Seattle Sounders owner Joe Roth pose before the pre-season friendly between their clubs. 
David Gill, the Manchester United chief executive, has acknowledged he will always be unpopular with some supporters – the "anti-people", as he describes them – but he has spoken of his belief that the Glazer family have now won over the majority of the club's fans.
Gill, describing the Glazers as "genuinely long-term owners", reiterated the point by revealing that he and the American owners already have a strategy in place for when Sir Alex Ferguson retires. He said: "What we're trying to do is make sure we get the quality of team and the correct age profile so the new manager coming in, whoever that might be, has the nucleus of a world-class team."
Gill expects the Glazers to still be in control when Ferguson ends his long association with the club, but he was candid enough to accept that his comments would go down badly among the fans who were involved in the green-and-gold protest movement.
"We are never going to win [over] those people," he said. "If we won four European Cups in a row, there will be certain people who won't like the owners and what they stand for. The anti-people were here before the Glazers. But we are running the club for the vast majority of millions of fans around the world who believe the club is moving in the right direction.
"The minority – Must [Manchester United Supporters' Trust] etc – will always be against it, but the vast majority can't be dissatisfied with the seasons we've had [under the Glazers]."
The campaign against the Glazers has become less visible, in Gill's words, "once the Red Knights went away," referring to the consortium of businessmen who embarked on a failed bid to buy the club. "The green-and-gold campaign has not disappeared completely, but it has died down dramatically during the past season and we move on," he said.
Gill, speaking on the club's pre-season tour of the United States, dismissed the allegation that the Glazers, with an average net spend of £2.5m in their first six seasons, had not backed Ferguson sufficiently in the transfer market, citing the arrival of Ashley Young, David de Gea and Phil Jones for a combined £50m this summer. "One thing the owners have never shied away from is supporting Alex in terms of investment."
Similarly, he rejected the argument that the Florida-based businessmen had unfairly hiked ticket prices. "They are sensible prices to watch top-class entertainment and players worth millions on view. Other clubs have clearly raised their prices more than us," he said.
Gill has been singled out for particular criticism because of the way he fought against the Glazer takeover in 2005, once infamously saying that "debt was the road to ruin", before siding with the new owners and turning against the supporters' groups he had previously backed. "You say I did a volte-face, but we are going back many years now," he said. "Directors and chief executives aren't often liked, but I am trying to look after the employers and the fans, and there will always be an element among the fans who don't like you."
At times the anger has manifested itself in something more sinister, with graffiti appearing on his house and several incidents that have led to increased security. "It has calmed down now. It would be naive to say you don't want it to happen, not necessarily for yourself but because of your young children, but you just move on. I have never sought a profile; I just try to do my best for the club."
His son, Oliver, was booed when he was named as a substitute for one match, and has recently turned down the offer of a contract with the club to go to university. Gill, however, says it is unrelated. "He did take some stick, but he is quite a strong character. I don't think he ever thought like that."
Going into a season during which Ferguson will turn 70 and mark his 25th anniversary at the club, Gill talked about himself and the Glazers planning ahead to when the most successful manager in the business retires. "There won't be meltdown. It will clearly be a sea change for the club and we have to be ready."
He will be in charge of appointing the successor, although Ferguson will also be heavily involved. "I will co-ordinate the process, but, clearly, I will take great store in what he [Ferguson] says and what other key people at the club say. The owners will clearly have a view. All these things will come together. It would be a collective body, not a big body, but we would get all the input to make sure we make the appropriate choice."
There was no one in mind yet, he added, and he was unclear when Ferguson would stand down. "We never discuss it, put it that way. He delegates well and football keeps him young."

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson is ready for next great challenge

Rio Ferdinand is ready to lead United’s quest for a 20th Premier League title  
Rio Ferdinand is ready to lead United’s quest for a 20th Premier League title
Rio Ferdinand knows the pressure starts tonight against United’s Champions League final conquerors Barcelona.

Less than three months after lifting the Premier League trophy, United are bidding to do it again with title number 20 – and also go one better in Europe.

Ferdinand, 32 who has a personal battle to keep his regular place with the Reds signing Phil Jones from Blackburn for £16m, said: “The pressure is not overwhelming... it is part of being a Manchester United player.


“You have to deal with all that stuff. It represents the difference between adapting to life at United and not because it is never going to change.”

With huge changes to Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad, Ferdinand accepts some players are easier to replace than others.

He said: “I have always said it, Paul Scholes is my favourite player.

“He is one of the top two players I have ever played with. It is his decision to stop and you have to respect that.

“When Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy left for instance, we didn't get like-for-like replacements.

“We got different players who had a great impact.”

With Fergie reaching his 25 years at OT milestone in November, Ryan Giggs spoke for the dressing room when he said: “He’s probably the greatest manager that’s ever lived... but it is more than that. If we were winning things and not playing attractive football, the fans wouldn’t stand for it.”

Ferguson has made a subtle shift in his philosophy with Gary Neville, Edwin van der Sar and of course Scholes all retired, Owen Hargreaves has been released and both Wes Brown and John O’Shea have moved to Sunderland.

All six had passed 30, only Hargreaves lacking significant United experience, and that was entirely due to his many fitness problems.

As two of the three new players Ferguson snapped up within weeks of that record 19th title being celebrated are not 21 yet – Ashley Young was the exception – and development is anticipated from a Youth Cup-winning team of whom Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison were a significant part, it is the start of a new era.

Fergie’s next challenge – in all probability his last great challenge – is to find a way of overcoming a Barcelona side who were so superior in the Champions League final at Wembley in May.

Typically, Ferguson cannot wait to get started.

“Barcelona could probably have done that to any team,” he reflected. “They are the team of the moment.

“It is the same players who have been there for a while now; Messi, Xavi, Iniesta. They can dominate any game.

“Everyone says what a great final it was, that Barcelona were fantastic and we were disappointing.

“It is not the kind of thing that makes you think ‘let’s not bother with European football any more, we are never going to beat Barcelona’.


“Manchester United are bigger than that. We have a better philosophy than that.

“The challenge will be ‘can we improve enough to get to the final next season and win?’”

One player up against the Reds in tonight’s Washington friendly  is Barca’s Gerard Pique who admits he is flabbergasted at how long Sir Alex  has remained at the top with United.

Pique spent four seasons at United, having been snapped up from Barcelona as a 17-year-old and made 20 appearances before returning to Catalonia.

“I have never seen anything like this in Spain,” he said. “He is a great coach but he also treats the players really well.

“No matter what it is, he will be there for you.”

Friday, 29 July 2011

Inter Milan tell Manchester United: Make us an offer for Wesley Sneijder

Wesley Sneijder 
Wesley Sneijder
Inter Milan have told Manchester United Wesley Sneijder is available – at the right price.

The Reds will have to smash the club record £30.75m they paid for Dimitar Berbatov to land the Dutch playmaker but, significantly, the Italians have finally admitted their prize asset is for sale.

Sneijder, United fans’ favourite to fill the hole left by Paul Scholes’ retirement, is rated at £35m.

And Inter chief executive Ernesto Paolillo last night admitted: “Is Wesley definitely not for sale? I don’t think there’s anything that can’t be sold, it all depends on the price.

“You never say no if a big opportunity comes your way, but it does have to be a real opportunity.”

He added: “Are Manchester United still after Sneijder? We haven’t seen or heard from anyone.”

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has played down the Sneijder link, but has never ruled out a swoop.

And Old Trafford’s chief executive David Gill has said that there is a chance of another import before the August window shuts.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Javier Hernandez knock takes shines of Manchester United's 4-0 win over MLS All-Stars

CONCUSSION: Javier Hernandez  
CONCUSSION: Javier Hernandez
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Javier Hernandez will be out for a fortnight after suffering mild concussion in training for Manchester United's 4-0 win over the MLS All-Stars.

Hernandez spent last night in his hotel room in New Jersey after being released from hospital after being admitted following training 24 hours earlier.

Although medical staff found no major damage, Ferguson has confirmed the Mexico forward will not play for a couple of weeks, even though he will continue to train and remain on tour.

"He got concussion in training and we dealt with that," said Ferguson.

"We took him to hospital, he had a scan, it was all clear.

"He is back in the hotel. He is in his room and will be out for a couple of weeks.

"He would never have been available for Barcelona anyway because he has just come back from his break after the Gold Cup.

"He will travel with us though. He is okay for that."

In Hernandez's absence, Dimitar Berbatov took the opportunity to shine, helping to create United's excellent opener before smashing home the third right after half-time.

Both fulfilled the Bulgarian's preferred criteria of 'beautiful goals' and helped break his duck for the tour.

In between, Park Ji-sung scored a fine goal to maintain his impressive recent form.

The South Korean then indicated he would be willing to sign the two-year contract extension Ferguson confirmed in Seattle last week had been offered.

"Why not?" said the midfielder

"I keep saying I want to stay here for more years to win things with Manchester United.

"Hopefully one day we will get together."

United's fourth straight victory on their five-match tour was completed by Danny Welbeck, to leave David Beckham empty-handed against his former club.

"When you don't put chances away against a team like Manchester United, they will capitalise," said the ex-England skipper.

"I had many successful years playing under Sir Alex Ferguson. I wouldn't be where I am today without him.

"He gave me a chance when I was 16. I owe him a lot. To play against a team that is still managed by him is emotional."

Whilst Beckham returns to his day job with LA Galaxy, United will head to Washington on Friday for a meeting with the team that clinically defeated them at Wembley in May.

"It is only pre-season," cautioned Ferguson.

"I just want the players to go out and enjoy it."

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Manchester United will push to make one final summer signing

Douglas Costa has emerged as a cheaper alternative 
Douglas Costa has emerged as a cheaper alternative
United chief executive David Gill has thrown open the door for one final summer signing.

Sir Alex Ferguson has been downbeat about bringing in a replacement for Paul Scholes during the Reds’ three-week tour of the United States.

With Luka Modric seemingly bound for Chelsea if he leaves Tottenham and Samir Nasri earmarked for a move to City should Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger fail to keep hold of the Frenchman, only Wesley Sneijder appears attainable from the three players most regularly tipped as potential recruits.

While the overall cost of getting Sneijder from Inter Milan has so far proved prohibitive, Shaktar Donetsk’s Brazilian Douglas Costa has emerged as a cheaper alternative.

“We are looking at one more player to bring in,” Gill said.

“Nothing is happening and nothing is imminent but we will see what happens when we get home.

“There will still be 31 days of the transfer window to see if anything develops.

“The important point to understand, and Alex has made clear, is that we need someone who is going to improve the quality of the squad.

“We have a great squad and to get into that squad you need to be a world-class player.

“If you can’t get the players you want, there is no point buying someone for the sake of it.

“But you never know. There is often movement in August.

“I am not saying I am working on anything specific because I’m not. But that situation could change quickly when we get back to Carrington.”

Costa’s agent says United have registered an interest in the 20-year-old, who was heavily linked with Old Trafford in mid-season.

He would be the cheapest target in the running and command the least wages.

Inevitably, City are also interested, while the Ukrainian side have already rejected Arsenal’s attempt do a swap deal involving Denilson.

“I have had some contacts with important teams in Italy, Spain and England. Manchester City and Manchester United have informed themselves (about the player)," said Costa’s agent Cesar Bottega.

“If an opportunity from an important league arrives then we will consider it."

The creative midfielder, who scored five goals in 27 games for the Ukrainians last term has three years left on his current deal.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson throws down the gauntlet after missing out on his targets

Ryan Giggs is set to play a key role again next season 
Ryan Giggs is set to play a key role again next season
Sir Alex Ferguson aptly chose Soldier Field to break the news that United won’t be starting the new season with a new midfield

Instead the Reds boss is looking to upgrade a few of his current engine room to gel together to form a unit that will take the champions forward in the post-Paul Scholes era.

Having been knocked back over Arsenal’s Samir Nasri, seen Chelsea firmly grab pole position for Luka Modric should Spurs relent and admit unlikely success in the pursuit of Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder, Fergie has given up the ghost.

“We are always looking for good quality players,” he said after United’s 3-1 win against Chicago Fire.

“We started the season with the players we have and I am satisfied with that. We are not looking at the moment but we are looking at combinations of central midfielders now at the club.”

You would never rule out the canny United boss suddenly announcing a new arrival having thrown everybody off the scent but on the face of it the possible finality of that declaration is not what Reds fans wanted to hear.

With Scholes injured for a big chunk of last season, and despite the excellent achievement of a record-breaking 19th title, it was done largely without flair and invention from the midfield.

Critics and the majority of fans alike were as one on that one.

With 21 days to go to the Premier League opener against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, United’s support are now resigned to the fact that the new midfield conductor will have to come from within.


But ripping up the Paul Scholes like-for-like identi-kit search policy is nothing new for Sir Alex and even when he’s gone for a clone when replacing an influential figure in his XI it has been others who’ve arguably come to the party strongly to ease the transition. And there has been no let up in the success story even when the biggest names have departed.

In 1997 the shock retirement of Eric Cantona saw Fergie go for a similar player in Teddy Sheringham. He wasn’t an instant success and initially many of the Reds support needed convincing.

But despite Sheringham’s difficult introduction United had still won the Treble two years after Cantona had left.

Though Cristiano Ronaldo wore David Beckham’s number seven shirt after the latter moved to Real Madrid in 2003 and played on the right wing, the teenager wasn’t a mirror image of the departed Beckham.

Yet within four years he’d become a title winner, eventual World Player of the Year and was the inspiration behind the 2008 League and European Cup

After Roy Keane quit in 2005 Michael Carrick was bought the following summer to wear his number 16 shirt but he wasn’t a Keano in disguise. Yet the Reds were dominating England and Europe not long after the Irishman was history.

Those players were imported to bring the numbers up but now the onus is on those already at Old Trafford.


Darren Fletcher’s illness has added to the problem. The Scot remained behind in Manchester on a personal training programme after the debilitating virus that cost him his place from March onwards last season set him back again.

Medical bulletins on the midfielder have not been forthcoming from United but it is unlikely he’ll make the start of the season.

Not being in Paul Scholes’ shadow could add new responsibility to Carrick’s imprint on the Reds and he’s the most experienced player with a passing game in his locker to take on the mantle.

Anderson has shown in fits and starts he has some of the tools to do the job but the 22-year-old Brazilian needs to step up consistently to fully convince his initial fans that he is the long term answer.

Ryan Giggs will be central to the equation but for how long and for how many matches can the evergreen Welshman be an influence?

England Under-21 Tom Cleverley has numerous backers believing the home produced midfielder can transfer his form on loan for Wigan last year into a red shirt.

And from the younger ranks one player above all others is being championed for a potential starring role very soon and that is the 18-year-old French lad Paul Pogba.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand warns his less-vaunted team-mates

Manchester United Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand leaves the field with Wayne Rooney after the match against the Seattle Sounders. 
Rio Ferdinand has warned challengers for his Manchester United place that any player awestruck by the former England captain's standing at the club will be "shipped out".
The 32-year-old Londoner is in no mood to surrender his place in the team, but he says young challengers for his central-defensive position must not be fazed by reputation alone. "They can't be in awe of me," he said. "If they are, they will get shipped out. That is the way it is. Your desire has to be to play. I understand and respect that. That is why they are here."
This week, Ferdinand spoke enthusiastically about the abilities of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and the £17m new signing from Blackburn, Phil Jones.
But stepping aside to let them into the first team is a different proposition completely, in Ferdinand's view. "I remember what I was like when I was young," he said. "I remember looking up at Slaven Bilic, Marc Rieper, Alvin Martin and Steve Potts at West Ham. I was only a kid but I used to sit on the bench and think I should be playing. I am sure these guys think the same thing. If they have got anything about them, they should.
"They are all talented footballers and, I believe, Manchester United players. At some point I am sure they will take over the reins. But I am competitive and I don't want to be giving up my position to anybody. My task is to prove I am hungrier than them."
Having arrived on United's US tour late due to their participation in the European Under-21 Championship with England, Smalling and Jones are now expected to make their first appearances in Saturday night's encounter with the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field.
Sir Alex Ferguson has already made the point to Jones that Ferdinand has missed matches through injury during the previous three seasons, heightening the new man's chance of getting games.
Ferdinand has to live with that knowledge, knowing any problem will be seized upon with suspicion and worry, even when he only gets a tap on the ankle, as was the case in the final seconds of Wednesday's 7-0 rout of the Seattle Sounders.
though he claims there are no fitness concerns blighting his pre-season campaign. "My fitness is OK," he said. "I am nowhere near where I want to be yet, but we have three weeks left.
"Last season, I had no problems with my back, which was a good thing, but I did pull my calf which kept me out for a chunk of the year.
"Hopefully this time around I won't have anything like that and I can continue to play a consistent amount of games."
The new goalkeeper David de Gea is also set for his first United appearance, with many fans anxious to see whether the 20-year-old can match the heady expectations that have brought comparisons with Chelsea's Petr Cech from Ferguson himself.
The retirement of Edwin van der Sar has brought an obvious pressure to perform, whilst Anders Lindegaard and Ben Amos clearly have a vested interest in trying to make life as difficult as possible for De Gea.
Not that Ferdinand believes that should be an issue.
As he comes up to his 10th season at Old Trafford, he knows handling pressure is merely an extension of the job his team-mates have to perform.
"Over the years this club has been very successful," he said.
"In the last couple of years we have won trophies as well. It is great to see. But it does bring pressure.
"It is not overwhelming though. It is part of being a Manchester United player. You have to deal with all that stuff. It separates you from being a Manchester United player and not

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fergie banking on Manchester United's David de Gea

Manchester United arrive at the airport ahead of their pre-season match against Chicago Fire as part of their pre-season tour of the USA  
Manchester United arrive at the airport ahead of their pre-season match against Chicago Fire as part of their pre-season tour of the USA

New United goalkeeper David de Gea can take the Premier League by storm according to Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Spaniard makes his debut today when the Reds take on Chicago Fire at Soldier Field.

Fergie is expecting big things from de Gea, pictured arriving in  Chicago with his team-mates. "He might do what Petr Cech did at Chelsea and take the English game by storm. He has similar qualities,” said Ferguson.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney expects tough competition for places but the boxing fan is ready to go the distance

Wayne Rooney celebrates with Ji-Sung Park after the striker scored one of his three Manchester United goals against Seattle Sounders – a hat-trick which delighted his boss Sir Alex Ferguson  
Wayne Rooney celebrates with Ji-Sung Park after the striker scored one of his three Manchester United goals against Seattle Sounders – a hat-trick which delighted his boss Sir Alex Ferguson

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Seattle 0 United 7

Wayne Rooney bagged a 21-minute hat-trick as Manchester United continued a goal-filled tour of the United States by hammering Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
Introduced as a second-half substitute, Rooney quickly cut loose, drilling home his first just after the re-start and completing his treble 18 minutes from time.
It was part of a seven-goal romp which takes the Red Devils' total in two games so far to 10, with Michael Owen, Mame Biram Diouf and Park Ji-sung netting the rest.
The only downside was a knock picked up by Rio Ferdinand near the end that left the defender limping at the final whistle.
United fly on to Chicago tomorrow before further engagements in New Jersey and Washington and with just over three weeks to go before they begin their Premier League title defence, Sir Alex Ferguson's men have already served notice they will not easily be dislodged from their status as England's number one.
United had been promised a different type of atmosphere in Seattle and they were not disappointed as in excess of 67,000 supporters showed their appreciation for their visitors, whilst leaving no doubts over who they wanted to win.
With David de Gea not pushed into the fray just yet, Anders Lindegaard took his opportunity to impress, denying Alvaro Fernandez, then producing a fine double save in repelling Fredy Montero and James Riley.
Indeed, it was somewhat against the run of play that United went in front through a typical Owen poacher's effort.
Getting himself into space as Patrice Evra ran onto Ashley Young's lay-off, Owen met the Frenchman's low cross perfectly and quickly stabbed it past Kasey Keller.
Owen has looked impressive in pre-season so far and, starting alongside Federico Macheda, had another effort cleared off the line by Osvaldo Alonso.
That was another piece of opportunism but there were no excuses for the chance he spurned three minutes before the break, when he was brilliantly sent through by Ryan Giggs.
Owen steadied himself but Keller read his mind, the former Tottenham keeper making a decent stop.
Sir Alex Ferguson made four changes at the interval and within three minutes, Diouf had got his name on the scoresheet.
Supposedly attracting interest from Blackpool, the Senegal-born player ran onto Nani's through ball before turning sharply and drilling home from an acute angle.
Fellow substitute Rooney added another shortly afterwards, with Nani again the provider and the England striker added another midway through the second half as he rolled a precise finish into the corner.
By now, United were really into their stride and Rooney set up Park for their fifth before completing his hat-trick from Gabriel Obertan's cut-back.
The Frenchman has not made that much of an impression in his time at Old Trafford to date but he rounded off the romp two minutes from time.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Steve Bruce set to hold peace talks with Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson

Sunderland chief Steve Bruce wants to hold clear-the-air talks with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson following the breakdown of Darron Gibson’s proposed move to the north east.

But while ex-Red Bruce is anxious to ward off any breakdown in his personal bond with Fergie, the player’s future remains up in the air.

Midfielder Gibson was part of potential triple package moving from Old Trafford to the Stadium of Light, along with Wes Brown and John O'Shea.

But while Brown and O'Shea completed their moves to Wearside, Gibson’s deal suddenly collapsed.

That prompted Fergie, currently on tour with the Reds  in America, to criticise the Black Cats over the breakdown of the deal.

“He was at the point of going to Sunderland and somewhere along the line, I think Sunderland moved the goalposts,” said Fergie.

“From what I can gather, they gave him an offer and then changed it. That annoyed Darron and I think he's quite right. If you can't trust them on day one why wait until day two?”

When the Reds flew off to America last week, Gibson stayed in Manchester  to sort out his future, but now the Republic of Ireland star is ‘in limbo’ according to Sir Alex.

He added: “Darron was undecided about what to do  - and we both felt he’d be better staying back. He seems to be in limbo at the moment.”

However, Bruce believes the rumpus will be smoothed over.

“Sunderland have always had a great relationship with Manchester United and long may that continue,” he said.

“I know Sir Alex is away at present and with the time difference I haven’t had a chance to catch up with him, but once he’s back I’m sure we’ll have a chat and clear things up."

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson's verbal volley for new Chelsea chief

Andre Villas-Boas  
Andre Villas-Boas
The mind games have started – even though Fergie’s target at Chelsea has barely got his feet under the table.

After mental warfare with Kevin Keegan, Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez, to name but three, the United chief’s latest target with his verbal barbs is Chelsea new boss Andre Villas-Boas.

Sir Alex Ferguson, with one eye on an obvious rival to the Reds’ bid to land title number 20, said Villas-Boas had been presented with ‘an enormous challenge’.

Villas-Boas became Chelsea’s fifth manager in four years this summer, replacing Carlo Ancelotti, who was dropped after just two seasons.

Considering the huge demands made by owner Roman Abramovich, it represents an extraordinary leap of faith from the mega-wealthy Russian.

Villas-Boas only has two seasons of top-flight experience in the Portuguese Liga behind him - his performance at Porto last season was impressive considering he won three trophies, including the Europa League, and the title by 21 points.

And at just 33, he is the same age as some of the players he has taken charge of at Stamford Bridge.

Ferguson said: “It is a big step for Chelsea and an enormous challenge.”

It took the Scot back to the start of his own career almost four decades previously.

That was at East Stirling, where Ferguson was employed on a part-time basis and collected just £40 a week - his first task being to find himself a goalkeeper because the Scottish minnows did not have one.

“I was 32 when I started but I was managing a wee Second Division team in Scotland," Ferguson said. “All I had was a physio. I had no assistant manager or anything like that.

“He has the advantage, irrespective of his age, of having the staff he wants to have.

“It is a strong possibility he will have enough staff to overcome that type of move.”

Villas-Boas has already appointed former Chelsea midfielder and West Brom boss Roberto di Matteo as his new assistant and installed Ivan Ortega as his fitness coach.

Further appointments are bound to follow as Villas-Boas adjusts to his new environment.

"He has a very experienced bunch of players there and for a young manager having to go to a club of that size, experienced players are a help to him.

“We expect Chelsea to be challenging again.”

He also expects Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool to be breathing down United’s necks.

“Let’s be honest, you hate losing to any of them,” he said.

“One of those four will always be a thorn in our flesh. They are our immediate challengers. History doesn’t change.

“Okay, one or two may go off the radar for a spell. But long term you know they are going to there.

“Liverpool went off the radar for a bit. They are now back on it. Arsenal have been on the radar since I came down here. They have always been a challenger to us. Maybe not as much as they were eight years ago but Chelsea had a lot to do with that.

“It was the same last season. Chelsea were chasing us hardest. Arsenal looked as if they could get there but they just faded towards the end.

“No matter where it comes from, somewhere along the line we are going to be faced with a big challenge from one of those four great clubs.”

Monday, 18 July 2011

Nemanja Vidic insists Manchester United are not scared to face the threat presented by Barcelona

Nemanja Vidic at the launch of United’s new away kit at Niketown in Seattle, Washington 
Nemanja Vidic at the launch of United’s new away kit at Niketown in Seattle, Washington
Debates have raged all summer as to where United are at right now – a team to be feared or one living in fear.

Should the focus fall on the fact they have won four out of the last five Premier Leagues, and only lost the other by a point?

Or was their defining moment in the Champions League final when they were outclassed by Barcelona at Wembley, reduced to chasing shadows as the Catalans, in Sir Alex Ferguson’s words, mesmerised his team.

You don’t have to spend much time in Vidic’s company to realise which camp he is in.

“I don’t know why you are always asking Manchester United players how we are going to bridge that gap,” he said.

“Like I say again, this team is successful. We are doing some good things.

“We don’t have any problem with the Barcelona players. We respect them but we are not scared to play against them.

“It is hard when you get to the final and lose. It is always in your mind.

“Barcelona performed much better than us. We could and should do better.

“But this is a new season. We have to forget what happened, take some points from that game and improve.”

There were a few eyebrows raised last summer when Ferguson promoted Vidic to skipper, ahead of Rio Ferdinand, after deciding Gary Neville’s appearances were too sporadic to keep the job.

Once again, Ferguson was making an astute move.  Leader on the pitch, forceful voice off it.

“We have a lot of players for that position,” is the Serbian’s response when asked whether a central midfield presence – a Wesley Sneijder for instance – would represent the final piece in Ferguson’s jigsaw.

“We have Anderson, Fletcher, Giggs, Carrick. Tom Cleverley can play in that place.

“It is important to have new players to bring energy and hunger and to fight for positions. We have really healthy competition in the team.

“The most important thing for a team like Manchester United to remember is that in the last five years we have won four titles and played in three Champions League finals.”

Vidic was speaking at Niketown in Seattle, at the unveiling of United’s new black and blue away kit.

It was one of a succession of commercial obligations during a three-week, five-match United States tour that has been something of a breakthrough given supporters
are waiting outside the team hotel for autographs – unimaginable when they came to the city eight years ago.

This time, rather than train at the impressive Nike HQ in Portland, United are using the impressive facility provided by Seattle Seahawks NFL team as they begin preparations for a new season where an intense challenge is expected from a very noisy neighbour.

“It is clear Manchester City have the money and they will sign new players,” said Vidic.

“They will definitely be in position to fight for the league.

“But we have to focus on ourselves. We have to think about what happens at our door not our neighbours’ and I believe we have enough good players and a good team to challenge for the trophy.” 

Whether United succeed in their Sneijder quest, find an alternative or not, one aspect of their drive for honours will have to be taken on trust.

Edwin van der Sar’s retirement has left a gaping hole that has to be filled.

Anders Lindegaard arrived in January but Ferguson has invested his faith, plus £18million, into Spain Under-21 star David de Gea, who was still a teenager when he won the Europa League with Atletico Madrid in 2010.

De Gea flew into Seattle over the weekend and will not play against the Sounders on Wednesday. His debut is likely to come in Chicago next weekend.

“It is important when new players come, to adapt, to feel the team, not just on the pitch but outside it,” said Vidic.

“He definitely has talent. He is young and he has big ambitions.

“There will be a big pressure on him because Edwin left and he was a very important player for us.  But I am very confident De Gea will do well.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

De Gea dives in at the deep end for Manchester United in Seattle

Plunging a 20-year-old 'keeper into the job of establishing himself as United's number one to replace a European Cup winning veteran is no new thing.
David de Gea is set to meet his new United colleagues for the first time in Seattle this weekend with a ringing endorsement from Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Reds boss believes he called it wrong almost a decade ago when he scouted Chelsea's Petr Cech as a teenager in France.
“I went to see Cech when he was at Rennes," said Ferguson. "He was 19 years of age at the time and I said to myself, 'Yeah, he's too young', but Chelsea bought him not long afterwards for £7 million or something and he's never been out of the team.”
So it is a case of once bitten twice shy for Fergie when de Gea precocious talent was identified as the best around to replace the retired Edwin Van der Sar
“Youth, age, it doesn't matter when you have the ability of a goalkeeper like Cech or, we know, de Gea has. He's young, he's quick and he has fantastic presence and composure. His use of the ball is outstanding.
“All of these plus points are things that don't go away. He's got these natural things."
If de Gea kicks off the competitive job of filling Van der Sar's gloves against City in the Community Shield next month he will be three months short of his 21st birthday.
That will be seven months older than Gary Bailey was when he was thrust into the Old Trafford spotlight in 1978.
Thirty three years ago United manager Dave Sexton was struggling to replace United's long established goalkeeper Alex Stepney when he finished at the Reds in the summer of '78 to go over to America after 546 games at the club.
Irishman Paddy Roche had a bash at making the job his but couldn't shake off a mistake-riddled tag attached to him.
After shipping five goals at Birmingham City in November '78 Sexton acted.
Gordon McQueen was United's central defender takes up the story and explains why de Gea won't have it as tough as Bailey's introduction.
“Dave Sexton went to sign Jim Blyth from Coventry City but he failed his medical and everything then happened so quickly,” recalls Gordon.
“The manager said he was throwing Gary in for his debut against Ipswich Town at Old Trafford.
“We hadn't played much with Gary at all because he hadn't been at the club for long. I think he'd had a few youth matches but hardly any, if any reserve games.
“We went out in front of the Stretford End before the game for 10 minutes and had a few practices on crosses and that was it. It wasn't easy but Gary had a good debut.
“The key to it all was his character. He was a strong character and had a great amount of belief in his own ability. He was very confident.
“That helped so much when he had a few bad games and made some mistakes. I think he had a tough time in his second game but his self-belief got him through it.
“David de Gea's situation is massively different in that despite him only being 20-years-old he has had a couple of seasons with Atletico Madrid and has played for the Spanish Under 21s.
“In comparison to Gary that is a lot of experience and that should stand him in good stead. I have watched him a few times since I knew United were interested and he looks a tremendous athlete.”
However, whereas de Gea has the benefit of matches under his belt against Bailey's rawness, for United's South African the spotlight didn't blaze as fiercely.
“Of course, there was a certain amount of expectation at Old Trafford in those days. There was always that stress but it has grown so much now.
“United are expected to win every game these days and to win a trophy every season. That's an incredible pressure to come into. There will be a big focus on David replacing Edwin Van der Sar. Everything he does will be under the microscope. In the 70s I think Gary got a bit more leeway.
“As defenders you just get on with the job of working with whoever is chosen to play behind you and the object is to work up an understanding as quickly as possible.
“In Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, de Gea has got two of the most experienced central defenders around in front of him. That's a huge help and I don't think it will be too long before they work as a unit.
“I understand David doesn't speak English yet and obviously communication between the keeper and his back four is vital. “Leave it or clear it” sounds very similar in the heat of battle if you don't know the language that well!
“But the club will address that and I think it will take care of itself.”

Saturday, 16 July 2011

'Special' Federico Macheda piles pressure on Dimitar Berbatov

Special K is ready to push Dimitar Berbatov ever closer to the Old Trafford exit door.

Federico Macheda – nicknamed Kiko – fired a warning to the out-of-favour Bulgarian with a show-stealing performance as United kicked off their US tour.

The Italian under-21 international scored twice in the 4-1 win over New England Revolution – piling yet more pressure on Berbatov and giving the Reds boss a possible selection headache.

Ferguson once tipped Macheda to be as big a star as Cristiano Ronaldo – and couldn’t hide his excitement about his ‘special’ starlet.

“Macheda’s finishes were first class,” said the United manager. “He is special. At 19 years of age, we still have great hopes for him.”

Macheda is relieved to be back after a nightmare loan spell at Sampdoria, and believes he can make the grade.

“I am happy because I had a difficult six months,” said Macheda. “I couldn’t wait to get back here from Italy, even though it is my own country.

“There is a different mentality in Italy. They don’t see young players like they do in England. They don’t tend to choose them, especially when things are not going well. I am not scarred by it.


“You learn a lot from bad experiences.

“I grew up as a man. I have another mentality now.

“When you leave Manchester United, go somewhere else and come back, you realise how different it all is.

“It is better to work really hard and I hope to stay here.”

Berbatov has looked on the way out at United ever since being dropped for the Champions League final in May.

The £30.75m record signing has been linked with a host of Serie A clubs, as well as Valencia and Bayern Munich, but has joined United on their pre-season tour.

Despite finishing last season as the Premier League’s joint leading scorer with 20 goals, he has increasingly looked surplus to requirements.

Javier Hernandez’ outstanding first season in English football saw the Mexican established as firmly as Wayne Rooney’s strike partner.

Michael Owen has since been handed a new one-year deal and Ashley Young has been signed in a £16m deal from Aston Villa.

With Danny Welbeck and Macheda returning from loan spells, Ferguson admits he has been given a headache in terms of his attack.

“The problem for all the strikers last year was that the form of Hernandez was just too good,” he said. “We couldn’t leave him out, which caused a headache for me.


“I am going to be picking from six strikers, which isn’t a bad thing but sometimes that can be a confusing aspect of team choices.”

It remains to be seen how Young will fit into United’s system – but he could potentially become a seventh option up front, if Ferguson chooses to play him in an attacking three or behind a main striker.

“His capabilities are such that he can play at wide left, he can play in behind the strikers and he can play wide right,” said Ferguson after the New England game. “He showed he’s a fantastic crosser of the ball.

“I think he hit three fantastic crosses in the game, which maybe isn’t something we’re used to with the way we play.

“But if we do get used to it then there’s goals there. I was very satisfied.”

Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia has returned to Manchester to recover from an ankle injury picked up at the Copa America.

“It is nothing serious, but he wasn’t going to be taking part in the rest of Copa America, so there is no point in him coming out here if he is injured,” said Ferguson. “We have the facilities back at Carrington. That is the best place for him.”

Friday, 15 July 2011

Ashley Young impresses on Manchester United debut

Ashley Young in action on his Manchester United debut Ashley Young in action on his Manchester United debut
Ashley Young made an impressive Manchester United debut against New England Revolution in front of 51,000 at the Gillette Stadium.

He produced a number of decent crosses from his wide role and showing enough signs to suggest he will have no problem settling into his new surroundings.

"That was his position until last season when they started playing him behind the strikers in a more advanced role, like the way we use Wayne Rooney," said Ferguson.

"His capabilities are such that he can play at wide left, he can play in behind the strikers and he can play wide right.

"He showed tonight he's a fantastic crosser of the ball. I think he hit three fantastic crosses in the game, which maybe isn't something we're used to with the way we play.

"But if we do get used to it then there's goals there. I was very satisfied."

Wayne Rooney added: "Ashley has settled in well.

"Everyone knows what Ashley is capable of. He put some excellent crosses in tonight and we are looking forward to playing a few more games with him.

"We have an exciting young team now. Hopefully we can bring more success to the club."

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Federico Macheda: Spell away has made me realise how special Manchester United is

Anders Lindegaard and Federico Macheda Anders Lindegaard and Federico Macheda
Federico Macheda is relieved to be back with Manchester United after a nightmare spell in Italy, and believes he can make the grade for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Frustrated at his lack of opportunities at Old Trafford last season, Macheda asked Ferguson if he could leave for a short spell and turned down the option of remaining in the Premier League in favour of a stint with Sampdoria.

The move turned out to be a disappointment. Macheda failed to score in his 13 appearances, Samp were relegated and no-one emerged with any credit.

Little wonder the 19-year-old is so happy to be back amongst friends, and back amongst the goals after bagging a double in a tour-opening 4-1 win over New England Revolution last night.

"I am very happy because I had a difficult six months," said Macheda.

"I couldn't wait to get back here from Italy, even though it is my own country.

"There is a different mentality in Italy. They don't see young players like they do in England. They don't tend to choose them, especially when things are not going well."

However, on the basis that anything which does not kill you must be doing some good, Macheda is pleased to have endured the experience.

"I am not scarred by it," he said. "You learn a lot from bad experiences.

"I grew up as a man. I have another mentality now.

"When you leave Manchester United, go somewhere else and come back, you realise how different it all is.

"It is better to work really hard and I hope to stay here."

Whether that happens depends on how Ferguson chooses to accommodate his six forwards.

In addition to Macheda, Danny Welbeck returns from a loan spell and is due to link up with his team-mates in Seattle.

Michael Owen has been retained after signing a one-year contract extension and the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez was potent enough to keep the joint Golden Boot winner, Dimitar Berbatov, out of the side for the big games towards the end of the campaign.

Given such numbers, it would be no surprise if Ferguson utilised the loan system once more, or even sold Berbatov - as looked likely when he did not even make the bench for May's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona at Wembley.

For now, Ferguson has to try to squeeze them all in.

Hernandez's absence from the opening section of United's five-match United States tour is a help.

It will not be long before the Mexican returns, though. And then the problems begin.

"The problem for all the strikers last year was that the form of Hernandez was just too good," said Ferguson.

"We couldn't leave him out, which caused a headache for me.

"I am going to be picking from six strikers, which isn't a bad thing but sometimes that can be a confusing aspect of team choices."

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Michael Owen: Manchester United positives outweigh bench time

Michael Owen 
Michael Owen
Michael Owen has admitted the opportunity to remain with a top club took precedence over his desire to play every week when he was deciding whether to accept a new one-year contract at Manchester United.

It was anticipated Owen would leave Old Trafford this summer after his initial two-season deal expired.

After all, the former England striker made only 17 appearances last term and the majority of his stint at United involved being introduced from the bench.

With a major hamstring injury thrown in, it was difficult to see Sir Alex Ferguson concluding Owen had a future.

However, the first indication United would offer an extension came when the 31-year-old was handed a place on the bench ahead of Dimitar Berbatov for the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in May.

Although Owen was not called upon as Ferguson's team slipped to a dismal 3-1 defeat, it was the prelude to talks which led to a significant decision from the striker.

"You want the best of every world as a footballer," "You want to be playing at the best club - I'm at that - and you want to be training with the best players and under the best manager - I am certainly doing that.

"You want to play at the best stadiums and in big games and obviously it's near to where I live.

"There are lots of positives. The only slight negative is the amount I played last season.

"The option is there to go to a lesser club and play more often but I'd prefer to play in a top team with all the things that come with it."

In his post-season conversations with Ferguson, though, Owen was assured he will play a meaningful role in the quest for silverware.

He does acknowledge that was the case during his debut season, only for the hamstring curse to strike in the middle of a Carling Cup final triumph over Aston Villa at Wembley.

"The first season was great and had some great moments - scoring in the cup final and the goal against Manchester City, hat-trick in Wolfsburg," Owen added.

"Last year wasn't quite so good, but the manager has spoken to me and said I'll be firmly in his plans this season.

"He expects me to play a lot more."

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Manchester United gear up for US tour

The players prepare to jet out
The players prepare to jet out
Premier League champions Manchester United will warm up for the task of retaining their title with their first match since the Champions League final on Wednesday at midnight against New England Revolution.

And for Fergie it will be a match-up with former Liverpool player Steve Nicol.

Fergie was Nicol’s boss at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico when the Reds manager was in temporary charge of the national side.

Nicol, who won five titles with the Merseysiders in his 13 years at Anfield, has been head coach at New England Revolution since 2002.

United then move to Seattle for the second match of the trip. Having had a week’s break since the opener, they will play Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field in the early hours of Thursday morning, July 20 (3am BST).

Three days later, on Saturday July 23, United will meet Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in Illinois (10pm BST).

And it is a challenge Chicago’s interim head coach Frank Klopas is relishing.

“You have to put things in perspective – we’re up against a team who will just be starting their pre-season preparations and the main exercise for them will be to hone their fitness,” he said.

“It’s a game for our players to enjoy, but of course we want to do our best and a positive result can definitely help from a confidence standpoint. Obviously, the size of their squad and the quality of the players is very different to what we’re used to. United are a team that likes to play good football and pass the ball around. It’ll be a good test for us and one we’re looking forward to.

“We like to pass the ball around as well and we have good pace on the wings. In some games you need to be a bit more direct and we have the players to do that as well.

“United have some pretty big centre-backs so I don’t think we’ll have much success against them in the air. We’ll be looking to get in behind them and use our pace instead. It should be exciting.

“It’ll be an honour to test myself against Sir Alex Ferguson.

“What he has achieved for so many years at the top level is quite amazing. It’s not easy to manage a club of that size and consistently win trophies, but he’s done it and he’s been able to keep producing top teams. I have tremendous respect for him and he is a great person to learn from.”

United move on for the July 27 match with David Beckham and the MLS All-Stars, who will also include former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry in their line-up. Kick off is 2am BST on Thursday, July 28.

The five-match tour concludes with the mouth-waterer against Barcelona at midnight, Saturday July 30.

The rerun of the Champions League final will give the Reds an opportunity for revenge after the Wembley thrashing by the Spaniards.

But Pep Guardiola won’t have Lionel Messi to call on this time as the Argentine genius will be on holiday following CopaAmerica duty with his country this summer.

United will have new boys Phil Jones and David de Gea joining the rest of the squad on tour at some point during the trip following their duties for England and Spain at the European Under-21 Championships last month.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Manchester United: First televised fixtures released

The first set of Sky's televised Premier League matches has been released and Manchester United's opening clash at West Brom will now take place on Sunday August 14 (kick-off 4pm).

United are on the box the following Monday at home to Tottenham (kick-off 8pm), and then on Sunday August 28 at home to Arsenal.

The big clashes against Chelsea (Sunday, September 18) and Liverpool (Saturday October 15) will be televised, as will the Manchester derby, which will now take place on Sunday October 23 (kick-off 1.30pm).

United will also appear three times on ESPN - the away games at Bolton, Stoke and Swansea.

Manchester United's Sky televised fixtures

Sunday  August 14 West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United (4pm)
Monday August 22 Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur (8pm)
Sunday  August 28 Manchester United vs Arsenal (4pm)
Sunday September 18 Manchester United vs Chelsea (4pm)
Saturday October 15 Liverpool vs Manchester United (12.45pm)
Sunday October 23 Manchester United vs Manchester City (1.30pm)

United's ESPN televised fixtures

Saturday September 10 Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United (5:30pm)
Saturday September 24 Stoke City v Manchester United (5:30pm)
Saturday November 19 Swansea City v Manchester United (5:30pm)

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Darren Fletcher to miss Manchester United's US tour

STAYING HOME: Darren Fletcher 
STAYING HOME: Darren Fletcher
Darren Fletcher will miss Manchester United's pre-season tour of the United States.

The Scotland captain was sidelined for nearly all United's Premier League title run-in after being struck down by a virus which triggered significant weight loss.

Although Sir Alex Ferguson spoke optimistically about Fletcher's chances of making his squad for the Champions League final, eventually he failed even to make the bench for the 3-1 defeat by Barcelona - his second final heartbreak after he missed the 2009 showpiece between the same two teams due to suspension.

It was envisaged Fletcher would have fully recovered during the summer and he would be on Monday's flight across the Atlantic.

However, when United confirmed their travelling party on Saturday afternoon, Fletcher was not in it.

Instead the 26-year-old will remain in Manchester, spared the accumulation of travelling time to spend the next three weeks trying to get himself right for the new campaign.

If all goes well, Fletcher could be involved in Paul Scholes' testimonial against New York Cosmos on August 5, or the Community Shield showdown against Manchester City two days later.

But Fletcher knows if he fails to play a significant amount over the course of those two games, the chances of him being involved in the Premier League season opener at West Brom will be slim.

A United spokeswoman said: "Darren will remain at Carrington to undergo an individualised conditioning programme given he missed a large proportion of last season.

"This will help him catch up fitness-wise to the levels of the rest of the team.

"We tried to accelerate things but we want to give him the best opportunity to be fully fit for the new season. We feel a reduction in the amount of time Darren spends travelling will help him achieve this."

With Fletcher missing, Ferguson will take an initial squad of 21 with him on Monday.

Of his new signings, only England international Ashley Young will be on board, having taken the number 18 shirt vacated by newly-retired Paul Scholes.

David de Gea and Phil Jones, who will wear one and four respectively, have both been given an extended break and will join later in the tour along with Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling, who signed a new five-year contract on Friday.

Of his experienced players, Darron Gibson and Tomasz Kuszczak miss out, the clearest hint yet that neither has a United future.

None of the Reds' Youth Cup-winning squad make the journey but Federico Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf will be there after spending last season on loan, whilst Nani and Dimitar Berbatov will also be involved despite speculation linking them to summer moves away from Old Trafford.

United open their tour against New England Revolution in Boston on Wednesday before heading to Seattle, Chicago, New Jersey and Washington.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Chris Smalling signs new Manchester United deal

Chris Smalling 
Chris Smalling
Defender Chris Smalling signed on at Manchester United for another five years and immediately set his sights on remaining at Old Trafford for a long time after that.

It has been like the end of an era at United throughout 2011 so far.

Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar have all announced their retirements, whilst long-serving duo Wes Brown and John O'Shea left this week for Sunderland.

As ever though, Sir Alex Ferguson is re-energising his team.

Vast experience remains in the form of Ryan Giggs, now into his 21st year at Old Trafford, Rio Ferdinand, who is about to start his 10th and Wayne Rooney, who has seven years' service behind him despite only being 25.

And it is easy to see Smalling still being around in another decade too, after pocketing a lucrative new contract as reward for an outstanding debut season following his arrival from Fulham 12 months ago.

"This is a great club and in the short time I have been here I have already achieved more than I could have ever expected to," said the 21-year-old Londoner.

"I am looking forward to a long and successful career at Manchester United."

Sir Alex Ferguson is of the same opinion about a player who far exceeded expectations during his debut United campaign, considering he had been playing in the non-league for Maidstone less than two years before joining the Premier League champions.

"Chris has been outstanding since joining us from Fulham last year," said Ferguson.

"He is an extremely talented young defender. He is quick, strong and reads the game well. He is a great asset to the team."

Ferguson has brought in more youth this summer in the form of Spain Under-21 keeper David de Gea and Blackburn defender Phil Jones, aged 20 and 19 respectively.

It means United have a talented trio who could be around for a long time and, including the likes of Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba, two of the more notable members of last season's FA Youth Cup-winning team, could form their own version of the famed 'Class of 92'.

Not that Neville views it as particularly extraordinary at a club like United.

Indeed, the former England star denies the days of one-club men like himself are drawing to a close.

"It is very easy for clubs like ourselves, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal to keep players for their whole career," he told Key103.

"Why would players, who have grown up in the area and been part of successful teams, want to leave?

"AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Juventus have all kept players for long periods of time.

"We have been at the right club, within 20 minutes of our home and the manager never wanted to get rid of us.

"For us it is easy to say we are loyal and one-club men. We were at the right place at the right time and delivered the right level of performance.

"Rio Ferdinand supported West Ham as a kid. He is not a mercenary for wanting to move to Leeds and then Manchester United. It is the same with Wayne Rooney.

"They are trying to get to the pinnacle of the game."

Friday, 8 July 2011

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson pays tribute to Wes Brown and John O'Shea

Wes Brown 
Wes Brown
It’s two down and one to go for ex-Manchester United skipper Steve Bruce in his triple raid on his old club.

Wes Brown and John O’Shea have completed their moves to Sunderland – both on four-year deals.

And all indications are they will soon be joined by former Reds team-mate, midfielder Darron Gibson.

Former England international Brown, 31, opted for Bruce’s Black Cats despite interest from Bolton and Stoke, which would have meant him not having to move from his Cheshire home.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has allowed the trio – all established squad players – to move north after his own £50m transfer swoop – with one more stellar signing widely expected.

Sunderland had a joint bid of more than £12m for Brown, O’Shea and Gibson accepted last month. O’Shea finalised his deal last night, while fellow Republic of Ireland international Gibson is expected to sign for Bruce next week.

Bruce said: “We are delighted to welcome a player of Wes’ ability, experience and character to the club.

“He has been a fantastic professional for United through the years and not only will he strengthen our defensive options, he will also bring with him a winning mentality and level of maturity which can only be positive for the players around him.”

Brown won 23 England caps before announcing his retirement from the international game last summer.

“John has been a solid, consistent part of United’s squad for well over a decade which goes to show the fantastic pedigree of player we have signed,” said Bruce of O’Shea.

Fergie admitted it had been a tough decision to allow both to leave. He said: “Wes has been a great asset to the club during the most successful period in its history. He was a product of the youth system and marked himself out from an early age as one of his generation’s most natural defenders.

“John has been an outstanding servant to the club. His versatility, calmness under pressure and his commitment to the cause at United means fans will remember him with great affection.”