Thursday, March 26, 2009

Time for Ronaldo to step up

With nine games to go in the Premier League and a mini-crisis to avert it's time for Cristiano Ronaldo to step up to the plate.

The champions looked to be in cruise control before Liverpool crashed the party at Old Trafford and the response everyone expected never materialised at Fulham, despite United dominating the second half for long periods.

The two defeats have left Sir Alex and his men licking their wounds and how United could do with an on-song Ronaldo for the run-in.

The talented winger has been a shadow of his former self this season, but after a staggering 42-goal haul last term, how was he ever going to better that this term?

It was an almost impossible ask but after setting such high standards last season the Portuguese ace has not quite been on top of his game, although many people have overlooked the fact that Ronaldo has scored 18 times this season.

United return to league action against Aston Villa and only a win will do as the champions aim to fend off Liverpool, who are a point behind but have played a game more.

Ronaldo is currently on international duty but does have a calf strain - which has been seen with a heavy strapping on - and if he misses out for Portugal the player could be a doubt for United's tussle with Villa.

Ronaldo has come under fire from critics this season for looking disinterested and this has continued to ignite speculation that his move to Real Madrid is a formality.

The winger undoubtedly pondered a switch to the Spanish capital in the summer and a move at the end of the season may not be an unwise football bet to make. However, another league title for United would soften the blow for Fergie and United's fans.

By Phil Tomlinson

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We won't stop United, says Fulham boss

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has told United’s Premier League title rivals to be ‘realistic’ in their pursuit of the champions. Fergie’s charges face Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday as they look to extend their four-point lead at the top of the pile and Hodgson has told the chasing pack not to expect too much from the Cottagers.

“Listen, we have to work very hard to win our games," said Hodgson. "I can't stand here and say at the moment that our team is on a par with Manchester United because everyone knows it isn't but we'll give it our best shot.

"We'll work very hard, but the Liverpools and the Chelseas who are chasing Manchester United can't really expect that much of Fulham and think we'll beat Manchester United for them. Those teams chasing must be realistic.

"The lead is still four points and Manchester United have a game in hand, which could stretch the lead to seven points, and seven points is a massive gap. I think everyone will realise the chance is slim."

United’s uncharacteristic slip-up on Saturday has given both Liverpool and Chelsea a glimmer of hope, but the Red Devils still have a game in hand on their rivals. United’s pursuit of their 12th consecutive league win came crashing down around them at Old Trafford as a penalty, a free-kick and two long balls provided Liverpool with a shock 4-1 win.

Nemanja Vidic, who has been outstanding all season, got caught out by Fernando Torres and Patrice Evra mistimed a tackle on Steven Gerrard as the visitors grabbed a half-time lead.
Vidic’s red card after a rugby tackle on Gerrard completed his miserable day and Fabio Aurelio fired in the free-kick before Andrea Dossena lobbed in a late fourth.

Fergie thought United were the better side, but I’m not so sure too many United fans agreed with that comment as Liverpool capitalised on numerous mistakes.

But you can be sure Ferguson’s men will respond with a good result at Fulham and prove Saturday was just a blip.