Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Manchester Utd. prepared to beat West Brom

Saha, Gary Neville, and Korean Park Ji-sung will be the key players in a match where a youthful Manchester United chases a place in the Carling Cup quarter-finals. The rival is West Brom.

Neither Neville nor Saha have started a game since their recovery from their injuries, and Park needs match practice after spending most of his time on the bench since joining from PSV Eindhoven in the summer.

Tim Howard replaces Edwin van der Sar in goal and Cristiano Ronaldo will be among the substitutes, while impressive teenager Giuseppe Rossi is handed the opportunity to enhance his glowing reputation in attack.

Lineups:

Man United: Howard, Steele, Bardsley, Neville, Brown, Pique, O'Shea, Eckersley, Fox, Martin, Jones, Park, Fletcher, Richardson, Ronaldo, Saha, Rossi, Ebanks-Blake, Gibson.

West Brom: Kuszczak, Hoult, Albrechtsen, Clement, Gaardsoe, Moore, Scimeca, Carter, Chaplow, Wallwork, Johnson, Inamoto, Greening, Kamara, Kanu, Ellington, Horsfield, Earnshaw.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Good bye, George Best

George Best, former Manchester United and Northern Ireland football star, has died at the age of 59.

"It was a long and very hard fight, but Mr George Best has died in the ICU at Cromwell Hospital," a spokesman for the Cromwell Hospital in London confirmed to the press.

"The thoughts of all staff at Cromwell Hospital are with Mr Best's family at this time."

Best who has had an alcohol problem for much of his public life, had been in hospital since the beginning of October and was put on a life support machine last week after he developed a lung infection.

A footballing legend who was dubbed the 'fifth Beatle' in his heyday, Best won the European Cup with the Red Devils in 1968 and was also crowned European Footballer of the year in that season.

After making his first team debut at just 17-years-of-age, he scored 178 goals in 466 appearances for Manchester United and was capped 37 by Northern Ireland.

A stint in the North American Soccer League with the Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and San Jose Earthquakes amassed another 54 goals in 139 games.

As famous for his off-field behaviour as he was for his wizardry on the pitch, Best once quipped: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

As stated on the official Manchester United website, www.manutd.com, 'It is unlikely we will ever see his like again'.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ferguson: Man. Utd. should prepare for the next match and get over Keane

Sir Alex Ferguson insists his side is moving forward - and the coach works in the squad for the next Champions League game. The important matcj against Villarreal is very close, but Sir Alex fielded several questions about the effect Roy Keane’s departure has had on his squad.

"We must be focused on the game," said Sir Alex, speaking at his pre-match press conference.

Ferguson deflected one direct question on his reasoning for letting Roy Keane go. But he then discussed subjects such as the club’s next long-term captain and how the newer players in the team should add experience and consistency to their game. His message couldn’t have been clearer: he is only looking forward.

“That squad that won the European Cup in 1999 can’t last forever,” he said. “That’s natural, players age. That’s the bad part of managing this club for a long time, you watch your great players get older."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Manchester United wins over Charlton (3-1)

Dutch player Ruud van Nistelrooy scored twice for Manchester United starting a new age without Roy Keane. The victory was 3-1 at Charlton. Alan Smith scored his first goal of the season to set the Red Devils on their way at The Valley.

Darren Ambrose drew the home side level after the break, before Van Nistelrooy restored United's lead and then settled it with a low, 20-yard effort five minutes from time.

The Dutch ace once again captained United as they began life without Keane.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gary Neville returned in Manchester United victory

Manchester United's reserves beated West Bromwich Albion as Gary Neville was back on the field after a tough injury. The midfielder started the game and he was replaced by Danny Simpson in minute 62.

Kenny Cooper opened the scoring after 14 minutes, sliding to flick the ball in off the crossbar after a slick, incisive passing move that started in defence with Gerard Pique.

Giuseppe Rossi uncharacteristically spurned a golden chance to double the advantage 10 minutes later as he fired straight at Albion keeper Russell Hoult when clean through.

The little Italian made no mistake three minutes before half-time, however, as he expertly controlled Markus Neumayr's superb chipped through-ball before rifling across Hoult and inside the far post.

Meulensteen's side effectively put the game to bed in first-half stoppage time through the aptly-named Adrian Manchester. The luckless defender applied the finishing touch to Adam Eckersley's cross which just evaded Rossi at the near post.

Though clearly deflated going into the interval the Baggies started the second half with more purpose, and reduced the defecit with a fine strike from Stuart Nicholson after 55 minutes.

Racing on to a long ball, the forward skipped away from Eckersley and Jonny Evans before rifling a shot high past Tim Howard.

Substitute Darron Gibson almost added a stunning fourth goal, but his 25-yard volley from Neumayr's corner was scrambled away well by Hoult.

Having been heavily involved in the first two goals and smashed a superb second-half drive against the upright, Neumayr deservedly etched his own name on the score sheet after 74 minutes.

Lee Martin's crossfield ball led to confusion in the visitors' defence and the German pounced after Hoult had spilled the ball to hammer United back into a three-goal lead.

The win gives the second string their sixth straight league win and puts them five points clear of second-placed Middlesbrough with a game in hand.

United: Howard, Neville (Simpson, 62), Eckersley, J Evans, Pique, Fox (Gibson, 46), Neumayr, R Jones, Cooper (Campbell, 79), Rossi, Martin.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fletcher has United support

Manchester United player Darren Fletcher says he's got Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson support. The midfielder is believed to have been one of the chief targets in Keane's infamous MUTV rant.

However, Darren answered by scoring an apparently deliberate header in United's victory over Chelsea last Sunday, and now insists that he has the support of both his captain and manager.

"I'm feeling fit, that is the main thing, and obviously I'm being asked to do different roles - sometimes out wide, sometimes in the centre but I'm just happy to play wherever the manager and club want and if I'm starting I'm obviously pleased," he said.

"I've been through much more difficult periods, everybody knows what happened, we know at Manchester United and that's the way it will stay.

"I've been injured for a year and a half and have been through a lot worse than that and was just looking forward to the (Chelsea) game.

"I've got a great manager behind me and a great captain who supports me.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Locker room bugging alerts Manchester United

Manchester United is launching an investigatioin after its locker room was bugged during last week's victory over Chelsea.

Manchester United said Saturday on its Web site that audio tapes apparently recorded at Old Trafford locker room on Nov. 6 were offered to The Sun newspaper. The Sun gave United the tapes Friday.

United beat Chelsea 1-0, ending the Blues' 40-match unbeaten Premier League streak.

The tapes reportedly included pre-match and halftime talks, and post-game celebrations.

"We are grateful to The Sun for bringing this breach of security and privacy to our attention," United director of communications Phil Townsend said. "We have launched our own investigation and, if necessary, will involve the police."

United after Aldo Duscher

Apparently, Manchester United is looking forward to sign up argentinian Aldo Duscher. The Deportivo La Coruna midfielder is said to be an £8million target for Old Trafford, and defender Heinze would welcome his fellow Argentine to the club.

"I have read [the stories about United] and it would be fantastic to play together,” said Heinze. "Aldo is an excellent player who, for me, has already demonstrated that he is worthy of a team like Manchester United.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Fletcher scores for Manchester Utd. victory over Chelsea

Darren Fletcher scored with a header as Manchester United achieved a victory that cut out the results crisis. But the team still has 10 points to make up on Chelsea, which last lost in the league to Manchester City a year ago.

"We didn't deserve to lose this game," said Chelsea coach Mourinho, whose team now leads second-place Wigan by six points instead of nine. "Today we showed why we are champions and why we are top of the league. I believe that there is no problem for us. I am not afraid for the future.

"In the same way I give (United) credit. I hope they can realize why Chelsea are champions, top of the league and I believe will be champions again."

Chelsea's runaway start to the season, winning the first nine games to leave its big rivals well behind, had led to dismay that the English league had lost its competitive edge. But the 67,864 fans packed into Old Trafford were on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Ruud van Nistelrooy sent an easy chance over the bar and Wayne Rooney saw a goalbound shot beat the goalkeeper but bounce off a defender.

When Chelsea had the United defense creaking in the second half, goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar dashed off his line to block Frank Lampard's close range shot and Chelsea defender Asier del Horno volleyed over the bar while unmarked.

"It was a fantastic game, a magnificent spectacle," said United manager Alex Ferguson, whose team appeared in crisis after a 4-1 Premier League loss to Middlesbrough followed by a 1-0 Champions League defeat at French club Lille.

"For the first hour we were terrific and then, until the last five minutes, we were under the cosh. They threw everything at us and that's what champions do."

Ferguson bristled when reminded that his team appeared to be in disarray during the buildup to the game with injured team captain Roy Keane criticizing teammates for the slump.

"We once went 13 games without winning. There's always pressure here," said Ferguson, whose future after 19 years at the club appeared in doubt. "Winning is always important here. How you handle yourself and compose yourself is important. I think the players and staff have shown great dignity despite the criticism leveled at them."

Hoping to rebound from the defeat by Betis, the Blues could have been two goals up before going behind to Fletcher's header.

Didier Drogba expertly controlled a long through ball from Lampard but his hurried, angled shot was blocked by Van der Sar. Left back Del Horno was left alone at the far post when Damien Duff swung over a free kick from the right only to shoot wide of the post.

As if stung by those two close shaves, United put together two standout moves and went ahead.

Mikael Silvestre's long ball sent Rooney down the left and the 20-year-old England star pulled it back expertly for Paul Scholes. The midfielder met it first time but his shot flew just past the post with 'keeper Petr Cech beaten.

It was the prelude to a well worked goal which had a lucky finish.

Rooney won the ball on the edge of the Chelsea area and fed Scholes, who slipped it out to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese winger turned a defender and floated a cross toward Fletcher, who jumped to lob a header inside the far post.

"I believe that he didn't intend to score," Mourinho said. "He tried to play in into the central area."

Instead the ball looped over the heads of Cech and defender John Terry and inside the far post.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Live or die: Manchester United vs Chelsea

Manchester United is about to play the most important game of the season on Sunday against Chelsea FC and a defeat could dent their title hopes and even Champions League qualification.

United have been in dire form recently, slumping to defeats at the hands of Middlesbrough and Lille, causing matters off the field to hit the back pages as much as matters on the field.

Earlier this week, Red Devils skipper Roy Keane blasted his team-mates and claim players such as Alan Smith, Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea aren't fit enough to wear the United shirt.

However, the MUTV interview with the Irishman was not aired to the public but Sir Alex Ferguson will reportedly show the interview tomorrow afternoon in the United dressing room as motivation.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho insists motivation is not a problem for Manchester United and also insists United will bounce back. He said: "If a team is not used to losing, it's not easy to live or play when you do lose. Sunday is the best game for them. They don't need motivation or commitment.

"They will be speaking about this game as the one to bring them back to the good level. So it won't be easy for us.

"But while these are the most difficult matches to play, they are the easiest matches to prepare for because I don't need to motivate the players."

Sir Alex Ferguson is likening the fixture to the game his side ended Arsenal's unbeaten run of what would have been 50 Premiership games. "We stopped Arsenal on 49 games, we made sure of that. There are some similarities, but I think Chelsea are made of sterner stuff. They are a very powerful team and committed to defending. It’s not going to be easy to beat them, but I think we can. We need to start well and make them think for a bit. I know we have the ability to do it.

"If we get a good start and the crowd really get going then they’re a formidable lot our lads. I certainly don’t think they will let the players down."

Team News:
Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Gabriel Heinze, Quinton Fortune, Louis Saha and Gary Neville are all noticeable absentees while Chelsea seem to be at full strength for Sunday's encounter.

Alex Ferguson demands fans support

Sir Alex Ferguson is demanding disgruntled Manchester United fans to get behind his players as they bid to bounce back from back-to-back defeats at the hands of Middlesbrough and Lille when Chelsea visit Old Trafford.

The Red Devils, who are without the likes of outspoken captain Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Gabriel Heinze because of injury, have come in for much criticism in the last few weeks which have seen them win just one of their last five matches in all competitions.

And Ferguson fears that negativity from the United faithful could bring untold damage to his team as they bid to get their season back on track and make inroads into Chelsea's 13-point advantage over them at the top of the table.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Van Nistelrooy tries to explain crisis

Van Nistelrooy saw the trudge over to the corner of the Stade de France, where the Manchester United fans who had bothered to stay to the end were standing, a few claps and a resigned shrug of the shoulders. Some United supporters responded with V-signs.

Ruud would not forget his short time as captain of Man. United and he might have wondered what - when his agent, Roger Linse, appears so keen to dangle his name in front of Real Madrid and Barcelona - he was doing out there at all.

"Is this our most difficult time?" he said when asked if he had known a crisis like this. "Yes, it must be. When I came here 4½ years ago, we were unbeatable but I have committed myself to the club and now, in the bad times, I want to give it my all and get Manchester United back to where I want to see them. I am not off."

The great Dutchman might have a long wait for United to regain this lost summit. When he scored the winner against Benfica - one of only two goals United have managed in this campaign - it was his 38th in 41 starts. It is an astonishing strike-rate, but what is more surprising is that only once have these goals brought him anywhere near a European Cup.

It seems unlikely he will be returning to Paris in May for the final unless United can address an abysmal run of away results. In 2½ seasons they have played 10 away games in Europe, of which two have been won - against Rangers and Panathinaikos, the last in November 2003. In the last five matches they have not managed so much as a goal, and now they are stumbling within the walls of their own fortress. Should they fail to beat Villarreal at Old Trafford later this month, there is a real possibility that a side who have failed even to make the quarter-finals of the European Cup in the past two seasons will not clear the group stages for the first time since 1994.

With United's aircraft due to depart Charles de Gaulle Airport on Wednesday night, Van Nistelrooy might not have had time to list all the reasons why the club have declined so sharply. However, he did his best.

"We are not playing well, we have difficulties keeping the ball. It is not fluent when the ball goes from player to player and we don't have fluent attacks. We don't tend to play in the opponents' half, with good crosses coming in and winning the second ball. We don't put teams under pressure and our confidence seems to be down."

Specifically, Van Nistelrooy thought the service that once fuelled his shooting had begun to run very dry indeed. "Things are different now. I remember games when I was having four or five chances, constant service, which is great. I enjoy that but now it is very different and I have to give my all in this situation."

It is quite a list for United's management to correct before the champions arrive at Old Trafford on Sunday. They might yet attack Chelsea with all the edge they displayed when Arsenal came to Manchester last October in search of their 50th Premiership match without defeat. They would probably settle now for a stalemate and Van Nistelrooy did not pretend the two teams would be meeting on equal terms.

"When you compare our squad with Chelsea's in terms of numbers, that says it all. Whether they play team one or team two, they are both full of internationals who have been at World Cups. You can't compare them with any other team."

Lille wins over Manchester United 1-0

Lille got an historical victory over Man. United when Acimovic ran onto a pass from Gregory Tafforeau that split United's defense, took a touch to control the ball and struck it into the roof of the net. Lille has five points from three matches in Group D, the same as United. Villarreal, which won 1-0 at Benfica, leads the group with six points.

"We deserved the win in terms of the way we played and the spirit we showed," said Lille coach Claude Puel. "We've been on a learning curve in the Champions League. We had to play at our best level tonight, and we did that."

Tafforeau nearly added a second-half goal for Lille in the 54th, but United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar tipped his curling free kick over the crossbar.

Ruud van Nistelrooy had the best chance for United when his 58th-minute header rebounded off the crossbar and dropped close to the goalline.

"It was a difficult game, whoever scored first ... it would be hard for the other team to come back," United coach Alex Ferguson said. "The pitch was poor, it's hard to pass on it. The ball jumped around a lot."

Ferguson felt his team "didn't deserve to lose" and dismissed talk of a confidence crisis in the team following a 4-1 loss to Middlesbrough last weekend.

"I think the pitch was more of a problem than the confidence," he said. "We just have to regroup and not feel sorry for ourselves."

The match was played at Stade de France because Lille's temporary stadium at Villeneuve d'Ascq was considered too small.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Manchester Utd. with new captain against Lille.

Dutch player Ruud van Nistelrooy will captain Manchester United for the first time on Wednesday night in their Champions League game against Lille. The choice has been a polemic topic ever since Paul Scholes was sent off in the first meeting with the French side a fortnight ago.

With Scholes suspended and Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville all injured it had been suggested that out-of-form Rio Ferdinand could take over the captain's armband - even though it is an honour he has not been given by Sir Alex Ferguson since his much-publicised contract dispute erupted at the back end of last season.

However, even though Ferdinand will play at the Stade de France, Ferguson will make Dutch international striker Van Nistelrooy his captain, overlooking the obvious claims of compatriot Edwin van der Sar, who captains the Holland striker at international level.