Kuszczak aiming for the top
Tomasz Kuszczak says he’s pleased with how he fared over the festive break when he stepped in for first-choice stopper Edwin van der Sar.
Van der Sar returned from injury in the Reds’ recent FA Cup win at Villa Park but Kuszczak remains braced for a recall.
“It’s a difficult position I’m in because I know Edwin is number one,” the Polish goalkeeper told Manchester United Radio.
“But every day I’m ready for training and I approach every game ready to play. It’s important to me to play as many games as I can.
“It was a good exam for me over Christmas and I think I did quite okay. I certainly did my best and I tried to help the team win our games.”
Although Kuszczak is acutely aware of his understudy status, he insists being at Old Trafford is beneficial to his career.
“Every single game I play for United is a step forward,” he said. “I feel more comfortable and confident each time I play and that’s what a goalkeeper needs. The Champions League experience has been very good too, so I think I’m on the way up.”
Van der Sar may be Sir Alex’s current first choice but Kuszczak says he hopes to one day dislodge the Dutchman from the number one spot.
“I’ll do everything I can to push Edwin for the jersey and I think that helps both of us. We have a good relationship and there’s healthy competition on the training field.”
Saha's goals mission
Louis Saha is determined to fire United to glory this season and finally overcome his injury nightmare.
The Reds' striker has started just eight games this season after being dogged by setbacks throughout the campaign. He did, however, make a successful return to goalscoring form during United's Boxing Day victory over Sunderland.
And despite missing out the Reds' 6-0 victory over Newcastle last weekend, the 29-year-old says he is now ready to put his injury problems behind him and make an important contribution to the Reds' cause.
"It's great to score goals. I'm a striker and that's my job and now I want to concentrate on scoring more goals for the team," he told United Review.
"I'm very hard on myself and always want to do better, so I'm not very satisfied with how the season has gone so far on a personal level.
"I know I can do better, and hopefully I showed that against Sunderland. The manager's always shown a lot of faith in me and that gives me a lot of confidence.
"I'm definitely getting there [with overcoming injuries]. I played two full games in a row over Christmas and that was the first time I'd done that for a while.
"So things are improving and I'm looking to play even more. My target now is to stay fit and keep finding the back of the net."
With United well placed in the league, through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League and into the fourth round of the FA Cup, Saha believes 2008 could be another successful year for the Reds.
"We think it'll be and we hope it'll be, but we have to make sure we finish the season well," he insisted. "From this point, we have to be very clinical in terms of results."
Hope he can fulfill his mission but first must stay injury free la... if not cant even get into the feild dun talk abt scoring goals!
Reserves: United 4 Oldham 0
Looks like our reserve getting stronger n stronger!United’s Reserves continued their perfect record in this season’s Manchester Senior Cup, bagging another four goals at the expense of Oldham Athletic on Thursday evening.
Goals from Conor McCormack, Chris Fagan, Sam Hewson and Sean Evans took the Reds’ tally to 15 goals from just three matches in this season’s competition, and prolonged their unbeaten record in all competitions to eight matches.
McCormack opened the scoring after just two minutes, although there was a hint of fortune about the strike as a sizeable deflection took the effort away from Latics goalkeeper Les Pogliacomi.
Although visiting striker Ryan Brooke twice came close to squaring the match, Fagan slotted home a neat finish after 23 minutes to give Brian McClair and Jim Ryan’s side some much-needed breathing room.
Oldham then twice came within a whisker of reducing the arrears from direct free kicks, only for the post and Reds goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler to thwart Michael Pearson and Liam Dawson respectively.
For all the visitors’ close calls, however, the game was effectively ended in first half injury-time. McCormack was tripped inside the area and, although skipper Sam Hewson saw his initial spot-kick saved, he converted the rebound to put the tie to bed.
Hewson almost added a fourth following a slaloming run after the interval, but it was Sean Evans who added gloss to the scoreline with his own neat finish from close range, wrapping up another convincing victory for the Reds' second string.
Royals fear Ronaldo
Reading boss Steve Coppell has spent much of this week hoping for one thing – a Cristiano Ronaldo off-day when the Royals entertain United at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
The Reds winger’s form has been jaw-droppingly good in recent weeks, scoring 16 goals in his last 13 games.
As a former United wide man himself, Coppell has ultimate respect for United’s Portuguese prince. But that hasn’t stopped him fearing what Ronaldo could do to his side this weekend.
"Ronaldo's goalscoring record is phenomenal for a wide man," Coppell told local reporters.
"You can have nothing but respect for his talents. When I was player I went into the start of a season thinking a goal every six games would be a great return for a winger. But Ronaldo is scoring almost a goal a game - and he's not even a striker.
"He's scoring goals and he's also creating things for the team as well. He's got an awful lot going on in his game and he's a threat to any side in the world. You can only stand back and admire him because he's broken the mould in terms of what wide players can do.”
But if Reading’s players think they have only got Ronaldo to worry about, Coppell has some
other words of warning.
"It’s not just Ronaldo, then there's Wayne Rooney. On the four occasions United have lost this season, he hasn't played. I watched their FA Cup tie at Aston Villa and he really made the difference when he came on for the last 20 minutes. That's why he cost £25 million as a 17-year-old, he makes things happen."
But Coppell’s compliments should also come with the caveat that his side are well-drilled at frustrating United. In five meetings in the last two seasons – twice in the FA Cup and three times in the league – Reading have drawn three matches, with United’s two victories both narrow 3-2 successes.
"We've got to think we can get something from these games,” added Coppell. “These are the elite teams by some way and they are always going to be difficult tests for us.
"But we've got to think we're capable of getting points off them. We know we're capable because we've done it before, but that doesn't make it any easier."
Match Pack: Reading
Another goal feast coming up!Sir Alex Ferguson hopes United's scoring spree continues at the Madejski Stadium so there's no repeat of the opening day stalemate with Reading.
Form Guide: In their last six games, Reading have lost four - to Portsmouth, Aston Villa and twice against Tottenham, including Wednesday’s FA Cup replay defeat which denied them a fourth round clash with the Reds. United have won five of their last six games, culminating in last weekend's 6-0 demolition job against Newcastle.
Ins and Outs: Louis Saha (knee) should be available again after missing the Newcastle game, while Wes Brown, who was also absent last week, returns after suspension. Reading may be without defender Michael Duberry (knee) and midfielder John Oster (ankle), who are still recovering from injuries, while Emerse Fae and Andre Bikey are away at the African Nations Cup.
Star Men: Dave Kitson is the Premier League's highest-scoring British player with eight goals, while team-mate Kevin Doyle has reportedly attracted interest from Chelsea and Aston Villa. Cristiano Ronaldo is United's man of the moment - his first hat-trick took him to 22 goals for the season so far, so he needs just one more to equal last term's tally of 23.
Rivals watch: Birmingham v Chelsea, Fulham v Arsenal, Liverpool v Aston Villa (Mon).
Another 3 points for us.
Minolta. Konica Minolta. Sony
18/01/2008 10:15, Report by Fred Done, Betfred
After last Saturday's six-goal second-half salvo, United head to Reading - the team that's held them twice in the league since the Royals were promoted in 2006.
Another Madejski Stadium stalemate this weekend - it finished 1-1 last term - is a 3/1 chance, with United at 2/5 and the hosts 11/2 to take a shock three points.
Sir Alex’s side could not be any more confident in front of goal after the rout of Newcastle and Cristiano Ronaldo is favourite at 7/2 to open the scoring after bagging his first United hat-trick last weekend. If you think his second treble will come in this match, the price is 20-1.
Wayne Rooney is just given the edge over Carlos Tevez as first scorer at 7/2 and 4/1 respectively, while the other goalscorer against the Magpies, Rio Ferdinand, is 25/1 to strike first.
Reading have twice conceded seven away this season but they tend to keep things much tighter at home. 2-0 to United is priced at 5/1, while 3-0 is at 8/1.
"Tevez-tating" Offer: If Tevez scores last, we will refund as a free bet all losing first/last goalscorer, correct score and scorecast bets on Reading v United.
Scholes nearing comeback
United have been given a welcome boost with the news that Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Louis Saha are all close to full fitness.
Owen Hargreaves has also recovered from a knock and is available for the Barclays Premier League trip to Reading on Saturday.
Scholes has been out of action since October after injuring knee ligaments before United's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kyiv. He returned to training over Christmas and will be checked out by United's medical team next Thursday.
If given the go-ahead, he will start full training and could be available for the FA Cup fourth round clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday week.
“We are waiting for clearance from the medical staff next Thursday," assistant manager Carlos Queiroz said on Friday.
“We think the medical staff will give Scholes clearance to start full training. If he does get the all-clear he can play immediately. It’s a possibility [he could be involved against Tottenham], or at least he will probably be on the bench.”
The influential midfielder has been training for a number of weeks now and is said to be in excellent shape. “His fitness is fantastic," added Carlos. "He’s training like an 18-year-old. He’s very excited, he can sense that he’ll be back soon."
Neville, meanwhile, could fly out with the squad to Saudi Arabia on Saturday evening for their four-day training camp.
The Reds' defender made his second comeback in the Reserves last week after ten months on the sidelines with ankle ligament trouble. He felt his hamstring in the match against Everton and was forced off at half time.
But Sir Alex Ferguson and his coaching staff will make a decision about the skipper after training on Friday. If he's left behind, he will play for the Reserves against Bolton next Wednesday.
Saha is also ahead of schedule in his race to overcome a knee complaint. The striker missed United's 6-0 demolition of Newcastle last weekend with the knock and the club confirmed he would be out for around three weeks. But Queiroz says is a step ahead in his rehabilitation and is likely to be back "earlier than expected".
Giggs has a case for defence
The spotlight may seem permanently fixed on Cristiano Ronaldo and the Reds’ attacking exploits lately, but Welsh winger Ryan Giggs is calling for recognition for United’s defenders.
Six second-half goals against Newcastle last weekend showed how quickly and easily United can turn on the style going forward, but it stole the limelight from yet another water-tight defensive performance.
The Reds are yet to concede a goal in 2008, making it 17 clean sheets in all competitions this season, and Giggs is in no doubt the solid defensive underpinning is fundamental to United's position as league leaders.
"The way our defence is playing at the moment is really helping us,” Giggs told MUTV.
“We have had so many clean sheets this season and you need that foundation to go out and play with flair."
But the 34-year Welshman says United’s defence will have to be on top form to keep Reading out at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
Steve Coppell’s side have managed to pick up three draws in five meetings with United in the last two seasons in the league and FA Cup. Giggs says the Reds defence will be just as important in keeping Reading out as United’s forwards will be to breaking the home side down.
“Reading are a team that won't just sit back and defend,” he added. “They will go out and try to score goals so hopefully it will be an open game.”
Vidic: Ronaldo still improving
Nemanja Vidic reckons Cristiano Ronaldo is producing his best form ever this season, but says the in-form Reds winger is still improving.
If Premier League defenders think they’ve got it tough having to face Ronaldo talents, spare a thought for United’s Serbian centre-back who comes up against the Portuguese wing wonder every day in training.
But it is on the training ground against the likes of Vidic and Rio Ferdinand that Ronaldo has been able to hone his talents.
The 22-year-old winger is a notoriously hard worker in training, the fruits of which can be seen on the pitch, with 22 goals already this season, just one short of his tally last term.
Vidic believes Ronaldo's performances have lived up to, and once again surpassed, all expectations.
"We are very strong with him in our side," Vida told MUTV. "Last season was great for him, he scored so many goals and played so well.
"But he was under big pressure to improve again this season and, up to now, he has been great in the games and also in training.
"You always need to improve at this club. Everybody has sides to their game that they can improve and he has tried to fix his in training."
The question is, still a number of years short of reaching his peak, how much better can Ronaldo get?
Potters complete defender swoop
Stoke City claim to have completed the permanent transfer of United defender Ryan Shawcross in a deal initially worth £1million.
The 20-year-old defender has been in superb form on loan at the Britannia Stadium this season, scoring an amazing seven goals, and the Potters moved swiftly to secure his signature amid interest from other clubs in the Premier League and Championship.
As well as the initial £1million fee, United are reportedly set to reap up to the same amount again dependent on appearances and the possibility of Stoke winning promotion.
Potters manager Tony Pulis told the Sentinel: "Four clubs from the Premiership and Championship were chasing him, so to win the race is a tremendous result for us.
"I think a big factor in our favour was how happy Ryan is here, so the dressing room deserves a big pat on the back. If the spirit in there hadn't been so good, he might have been tempted to go elsewhere.
"He's a big, likeable lad who everyone seems to have taken to since he has been here. Despite coming from Manchester United, there has been no 'big-time Charlie's airs' about him. He's simply got his head down and worked hard with the rest of the lads. He' been a credit to himself and to Manchester United.
"He's still only a lad of 20 who's going to be a bit naive and will make mistakes. But what we have bought is potential because over the next two years he will develop into a top, top defender."
Papers: Boot change for Reds
Stars to ditch fancy boots
Manchester United stars will ditch their fancy boots for next month’s derby with City as a tribute to the Munich air disaster victims. Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand have all asked their sponsors for black boots to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. A United source said: “It was the players’ idea. They are aware of the significance of this game.”
The Daily Express reports that United have been warned of a possible terrorism threat when they travel to Saudi Arabia for a friendly this weekend, with warnings of recent attacks on people from western countries. However the paper states that the Reds have done a risk assessment and have been assured of their safety when they travel to play in Sami-Al-Jabeer’s testimonial on Monday night.
The Daily Mirror reveals that Reading have dropped their controversial plan to carry out drug searches on Reds’ fans when Sir Alex Ferguson's side travels to the Madjeski Stadium on Saturday to face The Royals.
What a tough 2 nil win.
Arse an Chelskis got their win
Not so good results for us considering Gunners outscore us 1 more goal....so the goal dif is closer now
Hargreaves FK effort I tot was a certain goal but it was a great save by their GK. 2-0 win is not too bad lah but finishing was not too good.
Fielded a full team squard and buang!!!
Report: Al Hilal 3 United 2
An acrobatic overhead kick proved the difference in Riyadh as United’s exhibition match against Al Hilal ended in a 3-2 defeat.
Bader Al-Kharashi scored the spectacular winner on 73 minutes in a game to honour Saudi Arabia’s most famous footballer, Sami Al Jaber.
Jaber, 35, represented Saudi Arabia at four World Cup finals and scored in three. His club career, which began in 1988 and ended only this season, has been spent entirely at Al Hilal, except for a four-game spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2001.
Despite United’s impending heavy fixture load, Sir Alex remained true to his word and sent out a strong team in the impressive King Fahd Stadium. Cristiano Ronaldo was undoubtedly the fans’ favourite, drawing cheers and whistles of admiration with every touch. He dazzled in the early minutes with fancy footwork but failed to test Al Hilal goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Deayea with a long-range strike.
It was the home side who came closest to opening the scoring on seven minutes when Yasser Al Qahtani beat the Reds’ offside trap and teased Edwin van der Sar to the right-hand side of his area. With the Dutchman stranded, Al Qahtani crossed into the middle but the ball was just too high for the man of the moment, Al Jaber, who failed to meet the cross.
The execution may not have been perfect but the move sent out a clear statement of intent: the Saudis were not about to lie down and let United steal all the headlines. That message was rammed home on 19 minutes when Al Hilal took a shock lead, albeit slightly fortuitously when Al Qahtani capitalised on a ricochet off Rio Ferdinand to fire past van der Sar.
The lead didn’t last long, however, and United turned defence into attack with trademark speed on 25 minutes. Seconds after Ferdinand had put his body on the line to block another Al Hilal shot, Ronaldo was riding a challenge in the centre circle before releasing Carlos Tevez through the middle. Tevez, one on one with Al-Deayea, made the finish look easy as he slotted the ball under the onrushing goalkeeper with his left foot.
The 1-1 scoreline reflected the balance of play, although neither side had really broken sweat. Testimonial matches are rarely played at the highest intensity and this was no exception. Few tackles were felt at full force, with Ronaldo allowed to display his full repertoire of tricks and flicks.
After setting up United’s equaliser, the Reds’ no.7 got on the scoresheet himself just after the half-hour mark when he met Nani’s corner with a firm header at the near post.
Sir Alex’s men would have gone into the break 2-1 up had the referee not awarded Al Hilal a highly dubious penalty on 38 minutes. Not that anybody seemed to mind. In fact, even the United boss was smiling when he realised the decision was engineered, it seemed, in order to give Sami Al Jaber the opportunity to score in his own testimonial.
It had been an innocuous challenge from Rio Ferdinand but Al Jaber was emphatic with his finish from the spot, sending substitute goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way and the ball into the top corner. The 70,000 who had gathered in the King Fahd Stadium to pay tribute to Al Jaber’s career erupted with delight, their hero savouring every moment of applause.
Sir Alex made four changes at half-time, the most unpopular of which was Ronaldo’s withdrawal. The trade-off, however, was the introduction of Wayne Rooney, another favourite among the Saudi Arabian fans. Owen Hargreaves, Ji-sung Park and Nemanja Vidic were also granted time on the pitch, with Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Carlos Tevez rested.
There was more penalty drama early in the second half when John O’Shea was adjudged to have brought down Al Jaber, although replays showed only the slightest of touches. Al Jaber, presented with a chance to score his second from the spot, passed on the opportunity, graciously allowing team-mate Mohamed Al Shalhoub to take the kick.
Shalhoub stepped forward and duly found the net, but the bizarre award of the penalty was nothing compared to the official’s even stranger request for it to be re-taken. Unfortunately for the home crowd, Shalhoub lacked composure the second time around, screwing his shot wide of Tomasz Kuszczak’s post.
And then came the moment Saudi football fans never wanted to see. Fifty-six minutes into the game, the fourth official held up the number nine and brought an end to Sami Al Jaber’s night. In the stands supporters stood and voiced their appreciation, while hugs and kisses abounded on the pitch.
Sir Alex made his own significant substitution on 65 minutes when 17-year-old Danny Welbeck has handed a taste of first-team action. Just last week, Welbeck was playing for United’s Academy side; here he was in Saudi Arabia performing in front of 70,000 fans.
Welbeck showed some assured touches on the ball and almost found the net with a smart header on 86 minutes.
Before that, Wayne Rooney went within inches of giving United the lead. Owen Hargreaves missed a free header in front of goal, but the ball hit Rooney at the back post and looked destined for the net until a goal-line intervention kept the score at 2-2.
The scoreboard operators were spared on that occasion but were called into action on 73 minutes when Bader Al-Kharashi secured the win. A looping header across goal seemed to pose little danger to the Reds’ defence until Al-Karashi launched himself into the air and executed a terrific overhead kick that flew into the bottom corner.
Danny Welbeck had a chance in the final minute to level the scores but the youngster blazed over from the penalty spot after being brought down inside the area. Had he scored, Welbeck would have been hugely unpopular for the night belonged to Sami Al-Jaber, Saudi Arabia's favourite footballing son.
United: Van der Sar (Kuszczak 30, Heaton 65); Simpson, Ferdinand (Vidic 46), O'Shea, Evra (Hargreaves 46); Eagles, Fletcher, Anderson (Welbeck 65), Nani; Ronaldo (Park 46), Tevez (Rooney 46)
Subs not used: Brown
Our consolation :
U18s: Liverpool 0 United 1
United's Under-18s snatched a late victory over rivals Liverpool, which goes some way to getting over Wednesday's disappointment of crashing out of the FA Youth Cup.
Reds winger Anton Bryan struck 11 minutes from time with a shot from the edge of the area to clinch the win in a hard-fought north-west derby.
The 1-0 win, which followed Wednesday's surprise 2-1 defeat to Carlisle in the Youth Cup fourth round, was a welcome boost to Paul McGuinness' young side.
It extends the Reds' unbeaten league run in 2008 to three matches, and means United have taken an impressive 11 points from the last five games.
McGuinness said after the Youth Cup defeat in midweek that his young players had to lift themselves for the rest of the season, and they made the first step towards doing that with this victory.
United are next in action against Liverpool's Merseyside rivals Everton at Carrington on Saturday 26 January.
United: Amos; McCormack, James, C.Evans, Dudgeon; Stewart (Bryan 57), Eikrem (Norwood 72), Drinkwater, Galbraith; Brady, Macheda (Brandao 72).