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Thread: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

  1. #741
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Papers: Fletch was off

    Fletcher Wanted To Quit
    Sir Alex Ferguson had to talk midfielder Darren Fletcher out of quitting Manchester United. Fletcher, 24, has been one of the Red Devils’ unsung heroes over the last year. But the Scotland captain still felt he was not getting enough football, despite coming up through the Old Trafford ranks as a trainee, and was ready to move in the summer. Ferguson said: “Fletcher signing a new contract has probably been the relief of the season for us because there were a lot of clubs trying to buy him. He had just one year left on his deal and he wanted more football than he got last season. I said to him ‘Look, you were brought up at this club, you’ve got to recognise we played you in all the big games last season until you got injured in February’. That injury kept him out for four or five weeks but he then came back and played in some more big ones, Chelsea away and Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final at home. Darren played in all the big games and I think that convinced him to stay. Now, with the injuries we’ve had, we’re seeing he’s such an important player for us. He’s developing and improving his game and taking it to a new level.”
    Neil Custis, The Sun

    While Fletcher has committed his future to the Reds, two United fringe players have been linked with moves away. The Daily Mirror claims Tottenham will try to sign Ben Foster on loan for the remainder of the season, while West Brom are apparently mulling over a move for Manucho.

    Sir Alex Ferguson's in-depth interview with GQ, which provided plenty of yesterday's headlines, has clearly irked ex-Red Gabriel Heinze. The Argentine has described Sir Alex's suggestion that Real Madrid signed him in a bid to lure close friend Cristiano Ronaldo as 'a work of absolute fiction.'

    Round up by Steve Bartram

    SAF should have let him quit!

  2. #742
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Edwin's perfect present

    As the Reds look to return to winning ways against West Ham this evening, Edwin van der Sar says victory would be the perfect way to mark his birthday.

    The veteran goalstopper is still going strong as he celebrates turning 38. After a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday, he says three points against the Hammers are imperative.

    "I want to win tonight, but at United you have to win every game, not just those on your birthday!" he told United Review.

    "The most important thing to do is stay in touch [at the top of the table]. We’ve already played some tough away games and if we can get a good result at Arsenal next month and don’t drop any cheap points we should be fine for the second half of the season."

  3. #743
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Giggs wants home double

    Liverpool may be leading the way in the title race after finally bringing Chelsea's unbeaten home record to an end. But no-one is panicking at Old Trafford, especially not United's most experienced campaigner.

    Ten-time title winner Ryan Giggs is experienced enough to knows prizes aren't handed out until May.

    Nevertheless, the 34-year-old is well aware of the importance of keeping in touch with the Premier League pace-setters and, having only managed a point at Everton last Saturday, it's vital the Reds secure back-to-back victories this week.

    "The fact that we're behind the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea means we need to get back on track as soon as possible," he told MUTV.

    "The good thing is we've got a game on Wednesday against West Ham in which to try and do that and another home match with Hull [on Saturday]. Hopefully we can get back to winning ways."

  4. #744
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Rooney: It's good to talk

    Wayne Rooney has come under scrutiny for his relationship with referees. But, at a time when the men with the whistle are finding themselves under the spotlight for a host of hotly-debated decisions, he's keen to encourage communication between players and officials.

    Football's authorities champion respect for referees, but Rooney believes better relations is a two-way thing. "You understand that referees make mistakes, players make mistakes," he told United Review. "But it's nice when they don't completely cut you off."

    Referring to United's home game against West Brom, when referee Mark Halsey justified his decision to disallow a first-half goal from Rooney, he revealed: "It's nice when officials speak to you. I like Mark [Halsey] as a referee.

    “I thought I maybe should have had a goal in the first half, that it shouldn't have been disallowed. He spoke to me and told me he thought there was enough contact on the defender. That was his decision and I said, 'fair enough'.

    "If you get a good relationship with a referee and they speak to you like that, it's better for the player and the officials."

  5. #745
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Seven goals from United's no.7

    United's Portuguese prince was crowned king this week when his peers voted him FIFPro World Player of the Year. So we thought we'd celebrate Ronaldo's success with seven of his 42 goals from last season.

    Sir Alex Ferguson presented him with the FIFPro award, voted for by his peers, on Monday at United's Carrington training HQ. And the Reds winger will show off the trophy to fans at OT before tonight's clash with West Ham.

    After summer ankle surgery the Reds winger soon hopes to be back to his best and he's already targeting a similar haul this season, no matter how difficult that proves to be.

    The FIFPro world gong is likely to be the first of many global awards coming Cristiano's way this year, with the announcement of the Ballon d'Or accolade due to be confirmed on 2 December - Ronny's hot favourite, of course.


    Ronny's Honours

    FIFPro World Player of the Year
    FIFPro World XI
    PFA Player of the Year
    PFA Fans’ Player of the Year
    PFA Premier League Team of the Year
    Football Writers' Association Player of the Year
    European Golden Shoe
    Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year
    United Players' Player of the Year
    United Goal of the Season (v Portsmouth)
    Barclays Player of the Season
    Barclays Golden Boot
    Barclays Merit Prize
    UEFA Club Player of the Year
    UEFA Best Forward

  6. #746
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Noble eyes Reds scalp

    West Ham midfielder Mark Noble admits he’s relishing the chance to play at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

    The 21-year-old has been almost ever-present for the Hammers this season and hopes he can help spring another upset, just like on the closing day of the 2006/07 season.

    “On that day, and in the last 10 games of that season, we really gelled together,” Noble told the Reds’ matchday programme, United Review. “As much as United had chances, we defended really well and deserved to win the match.

    “The big games against teams like United test your character; the bigger the game, the more experience you get. You can challenge yourself and be a better player for it.

    “The derbies and matches against United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham are all fixtures I look out for at the start of the season.”

    But can West Ham, without a win since late September, really pick up three points at Old Trafford?

    “We’ve done well [this season], but we’re disappointed not to have picked up more points from the last few games,” Noble said. “We passed the ball well but couldn’t score. I am sure we can be a force to be reckoned with this season.”

    he want 3pts from Old Trafford! He think he shopping at supermarket want what got what!

  7. #747
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    8 more hrs to go! UNITED V West Ham.

  8. #748
    Senior Member Galdor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Cannot underestimate the Hammers. They have hammer us before.

    Hopefully we'll be able to perform up to the Champions' standard.

    Go for the 3 points Devils!
    Minolta. Konica Minolta. Sony

  9. #749
    Senior Member afbug's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Think will play better tonite. Its a home game and its only Man Utd's 4th home game this season. The schedule really dun favour Man Utd, esp after CL games, its always an away match.

  10. #750
    Senior Member Galdor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Glad that we managed a 2-0 victory.
    Minolta. Konica Minolta. Sony

  11. #751
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Report: United 2 West Ham 0
    United won with the minimum of fuss against West Ham, but this was still a performance very much to get excited about.

    Cristiano Ronaldo struck both goals on a night he paraded his World Player of the Year award, while Dimitar Berbatov shone and Carlos Tevez, Nani, Anderson and substitute Wayne Rooney all showed glimpses of why this is one of the finest collections of players Sir Alex has ever had. There were plenty of tricks, flicks, skills and thrills to provide warmth as Manchester’s winter chill made an early appearance.

    Sir Alex handed Carlos Tevez his first start in a month against his old club, as Rooney dropped to the bench, while there was no place for birthday boy Edwin van der Sar – he turned 38 today. He was replaced by Tomasz Kuszczak and Rafael was favoured at right-back ahead of Gary Neville and Wes Brown.

    United set out with the same attacking intent that has markedly changed the Reds’ goal return in the past month; the first chance came in the third minute when Nani squared the ball to Berbatov, but Hammers skipper Matthew Upson got enough on the ball to deflect the striker’s shot over the bar.

    Nani went close himself two minutes later after a neat move from the Reds. Darren Fletcher’s lofted pass was nodded into the Portuguese winger’s path by Anderson, and Nani’s first-time, left-foot shot flew narrowly past the far upright. Whether it had all come a little too easy to Sir Alex’s men in the opening exchanges, a short spell followed where red passes too frequently went astray, and players were caught in possession. But it didn’t last long.


    Before kick-off Old Trafford paid tribute to Ronaldo as he collected his FIFPro World Player of the Year accolade on the pitch. So often last season Ronaldo provided the goals just when United needed them, so it was no surprise that he was the man to step forward. Nani was the provider, his centred ball across the penalty area finding his countryman free, and Ronny struck the ball left-footed past Robert Green.

    United’s relentless forward march soon paid dividends with the second goal arriving 15 minutes before the break. It was a goal of sublime creation. Anderson’s channelled pass set Berbatov on his way, but with the ball tight to the byline the Bulgarian had precious little space to operate in. No problem. He stopped the ball with his left foot, pirouetted and flicked the ball over James Collins’ challenge with his right. Having skipped away it was a matter of squaring the ball across the six yard box for Ronaldo to slide in and grab his second of the night.

    There was a palpable feeling of resignation among the away supporters as they ironically chanted “we’re going to win 3-2”, and it’s something that opposition teams have become accustomed to doing against the Reds: accepting that, at times, United are unplayable.

    The second half started with the Reds comfortably in control; without any strong urgency to rack up a big score, but always displaying a desire to entertain, Berbatov in particular working through his full repertoire of languid yet awe-inspiring touches.

    And if you think this article displays a lack of incident from Gianfranco Zola’s men, it’s simply that there was so little to report. It was all one-way traffic; exquisite football, at times carnival-like stuff, and West Ham had no response. Tellingly, a glance at the home bench showed Rooney and Ryan Giggs, among the Reds’ best performers in recent weeks, while Michael Carrick, Gary Neville, Ji-Sung Park, Ben Foster and John O’Shea provided further options perhaps only Chelsea can match.

    Rooney and Carrick entered the fray with 20 minutes to go and West Ham hearts must have sank further still. Even Anderson was taking long-range shots from 30 yards.

    Of course, the finest football does not guarantee trophies, but if United can perform like this throughout the season, the top honours will certainly be attainable - and there will be plenty of great football to look forward to along the way.

    Team Line-ups

    Manchester United: Kuszczak; Rafael (Neville 82), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Fletcher (Carrick 68), Anderson, Nani (Rooney 68); Tevez, Berbatov.
    Subs not used: Giggs, Foster, Park, O'Shea.
    Booked: Evra

    West Ham: Green; Faubert, Upson, Collins, Ilunga; Bowyer (Sears 68), Mullins, Behrami (Boa Morte 45), Etherington (Collison 46); Bellamy, Di Michele.
    Subs not used: Lopez, Lstuvka, Davenport, Reid.
    Booked: Collison, Collins.

    Attendance: 75,397

  12. #752
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Sir Alex: We were too relaxed
    Sir Alex Ferguson says his players were “too relaxed” in the second half against West Ham, despite being impressed by his team’s exquisite football in the first 45 minutes.

    West Ham barely got a kick in the first half as Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice to give United a commanding lead, but Sir Alex believes it was a chance missed to build on that scoreline and bolster the Reds’ goals tally.

    “The first half was magnificent,” said the Reds boss told MUTV. “When you get a performance like that in the first half you’re looking forward to a second-half of the same.

    "You hope you can maybe add to the goals tally because you never know, goal difference could be important come the end of the season.

    “We didn’t capitalise on our first half performance. They just took their foot off the pedal, playing a couple of gears below what they are capable of. It was too relaxed for me.”

    Berbatov summed up the classiness of some of United’s attacks when he set up Ronaldo’s second goal. His wonderful piece of skill to beat James Collins on the byline had his boss in raptures.

    “Berbatov’s play for the second goal was absolutely magnificent,” he said. “You’d pay double the money to watch that.

    "It was fantastic imagination, control and balance. Ronaldo just had to tap it in. How [Berbatov] managed it, I don’t know. I want to see a replay of it again. It was absolutely stunning.

    “Ronaldo took both goals well. He’s getting there. He’s missed the benefit of the pre-season work. He’s been getting his pre-season work in by playing games.

    "He’s doing well, and has five goals this season. Hopefully he’ll get to 42 goals again. He’s capable of that because he is such a threat in the penalty box.”

  13. #753
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Clean sheet pleases Kuszczak

    Tomasz Kuszczak's first senior appearance since mid-September was hardly worth the wait as West Ham forced just one save from the Pole in United's goal.

    That said, Edwin van der Sar's deputy was just delighted to be on the pitch - it gave him a good view, at least, of the Reds' stunning first-half performance and also presented him with a welcome clean sheet.

    "It's always nice when I can play, I hadn't played for six weeks," Tomasz told MUTV.

    "The first game after a break like that is always difficult, more mentally than physically, because it's not easy to concentrate for 90 minutes when you have almost nothing to do. But this is the goalkeeper's job and we have to do it properly."

    Kuszczak's only previous action in the first team this season was at Chelsea, and only then as a substitute for Edwin van der Sar - the man who celebrated his birthday as United entertained the Hammers.

    Sir Alex Ferguson later explained van der Sar's absence on MUTV.

    "Edwin turned 38 today," said the boss. "We don’t need him to play every game because we have two very capable goalkeepers in Tomasz Kuszczak and Ben Foster.

    "Ben being back fit is a big bonus to us because he is an outstanding goalkeeper. I may play him at Celtic Park next week. They will all get their minutes on the clock."

    Kuszczak hopes to get his next 90 minutes as early as Saturday, when the opposition at Old Trafford will be Hull City. The Tigers were easily beaten 3-0 by United's title rivals Chelsea but Tomasz insists it's too early to worry about such matters.

    "There are still many games to play," he said, when asked about Chelsea's and Liverpool's latest victories.

    "For now, we need to look at our own performances, play well and win games and then see what happens in a couple of months.

    "We looked sharp in the first half tonight. It was nice to watch - the players' combination play and understanding was very good and we scored two goals.

    "The second half was steadier and we should have played quicker and scored more goals. But we won the game and that's the most important thing."

  14. #754
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Ratings: United v West Ham

    Tomasz Kuszczak: Hardly troubled all evening. Just the one save from Luis Boa Morte on 75 minutes. You felt sorry for him, standing still in the cold all evening…

    Rafael: A bundle of energy, the youngster threw himself into every tackle and looked to get in early crosses when he charged down the right flank.

    Rio Ferdinand: Sometimes you wonder if it’s all too easy for Rio. Perfect positioning meant he never had to get out of first gear all evening.

    Nemanja Vidic: Solid alongside Rio and, like his central defensive partner, in complete control of proceedings. Faultless when called upon and cut out a number of West Ham crosses.

    Patrice Evra: For a little man, Patrice is astonishingly good in the air. With little to do defensively, he was free to tear up and down the left wing.

    Cristiano Ronaldo: While far from his most impressive performance, the Portuguese winger looks to have rediscovered his goalscoring touch. You can’t ask for much more than two goals, can you?

    Anderson: Confident and composed in the centre of the park, he rarely gave the ball away. Won headers and tackles and even tried his luck from distance. Still yet to score for the Reds.

    Darren Fletcher: United’s primary ball-winner when play broke down, Fletch used his possession wisely, often spraying the ball across the field to change the angle of attack. A super performance.

    Nani: One of the Reds’ best in the first half, Nani gave his marker a torrid time, constantly twisting and turning to make space and cross. Almost scored with a scorching shot across Robert Green.

    Carlos Tevez: Quiet by the Argentinian’s usual standards, although he did go close with a header in first-half injury time. Came under close attention from West Ham’s centre backs.

    Dimitar Berbatov: His mazy run caused havoc in the Hammers’ defence just prior to the first goal, but if you thought that was good check out his sublime skill to lay on Ronny’s second. Pure genius.

    Substitutes

    Wayne Rooney (on for Nani 68): A lively cameo. It seems whenever Wayne’s left on the bench he feels he has something to prove. He took control of the game when he came on, and almost fired in a rocket from long range.

    Michael Carrick (on for Fletcher 68): His first match back from injury, Carrick was confident on the ball and unafraid to stick his boot into challenges. A valuable 22 minutes.

    Gary Neville (on for Rafael 82): Not on the pitch long enough to make an impact.

  15. #755
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Galdor View Post
    Glad that we managed a 2-0 victory.
    Yeah...Ronaldo scored his 4th n 5th goal of the season!

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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by melvin View Post
    Yeah...Ronaldo scored his 4th n 5th goal of the season!
    Good! His scoring touch is back!

  17. #757
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy81 View Post
    Good! His scoring touch is back!
    Hope he can scored another 45 goals this season!

  18. #758
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Papers: Red-hot Ron

    Ronaldo hammers home title warning
    Cristiano Ronaldo received a world player of the year award and Golden Boot before kick-off. Then within half an hour, he showed just why those prestigious trophies will be forcing their way on to his already cluttered mantelpiece. Two first-half goals, a match-winning display and all with the minimum of effort. The world award is from FIFPro decided by 50 players from around the globe — and there is no greater honour than to be recognised by your contemporaries in any trade. Ron was rightly acknowledged with that, while his 31 league goals last season landed the Golden Boot. He received both awards with some humility, aware that many Manchester United fans still see his summer attempts to engineer a move to Real Madrid as treacherous. It was muted cheers at best but the noise level went up when he found the back of the net.
    Neil Custis, The Sun

    Ronaldo looks set to add another award to his already bulging collection after being nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year.

    The Sun features quotes from Sir Alex's United Review column in which the manager revealed he had a heart-to-heart with Carlos Tevez to reassure him his future is at Old Trafford.

    In other news, Italy legend Arrigo Sacchi has launched an amazing attack on Sir Alex and ignited a fresh war of words over Ronaldo. The former AC Milan chief accused Fergie of double standards for putting the boot in on Real Madrid over their chase for Ronaldo. But Sacchi insisted United should be in the firing line for nicking his teenage striker Giuseppe Rossi in 2004.

    Round up by Gemma Thompson

  19. #759
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Sir Alex assures Tevez

    Carlos Tevez has been reassured that he remains an integral cog in the United machine, despite earning his only start in October against West Ham on Wednesday.

    Sir Alex admitted that Tevez began to tire in the second half of the 2-1 win over Gianfranco Zola's men, something he put down to the forward's lack of starts in the last month.

    In his United Review programme notes before the game, Sir Alex was keen to stress Tevez's importance to the team.

    "Our attackers have been drawing all the attention," he said. "Wayne Rooney is having the time of his life and striking up a fine partnership with Dimitar Berbatov, now coming into his own after his late transfer and missing our pre-season preparation.

    "Those are the names on everyone’s lips, and I am as thrilled as anyone by their form. But my thoughts have centred more on the forward who has been the odd man out.

    "I'm thinking of Carlos Tevez, and the fact that I have not started him in as many games as he would like. But looking at the big picture, Carlos remains just as important to us as the guys who have been hogging the headlines of late."

    Sir Alex last week had a meeting with the Argentina international to reaffirm Tevez's standing at Old Trafford.

    "I sat down with Carlos only last week to stress to him that our faith in him is absolute, that he remains a top player in the eyes of myself, the players and our supporters.

    "It’s just that three players won’t fit into two positions, and while I am tempted to accommodate all three star forwards, my job is to balance the team."

    Incorporating Berbatov, Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo in the same line-up is a difficult - if not altogether inconvenient - challenge for the United boss.

    "It could be done against certain opposition," he said. "But it isn’t the real solution and we are doing so well I don’t want to meddle too much.

    "I think Carlos understands this – and of course I have explained that when the season really hots up, we’ll need absolutely everyone."

  20. #760
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Manchester United VIII - King of Europe/Double Champions!!!

    Attested development

    Michael Carrick made a welcome return from injury to face his former club on Wednedsay. ManUtd.com tracks his route from lanky lad to Reds lynchpin…

    The archetypal ‘Boy Wonder’ tale runs: toddler kicks ball in nappies, hurtles through age groups, bursts to prominence while barely above legal driving age. But that’s not Michael Carrick’s style. Although playing five-a-side at precisely that age suggests a prodigious genius, the Wallsend-born youngster’s evolution into world-class midfielder has been a slow-burning affair.

    True, he represented the fabled Wallsend Boys Club, and spent every spare moment practising with younger brother Graeme, but Carrick was a devoted student, always focused on his schoolwork. His football talent was apparent, without being glaring. Although a star performer for Wallsend – a club known for unearthing rough diamonds – scouts were impressed, but not blown away. Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland ran the rule over this leggy prospect, but all shied away from commitment. Sunderland didn’t even offer him a trial.

    “It was a hell of a loss for Newcastle not to have got Michael to the club as a 12-year-old,” admits former Magpies manager Glenn Roeder, who worked with Carrick at West Ham. “He’s probably the best player to come out of Newcastle for a generation. You can’t put in what God left out: Michael was born to be a footballer. I think they saw a tall lad who was skilful, but didn’t appear to have pace. He only played either side of the halfway line. But West Ham had a scout up here that took a fancy to him.”

    Harry Redknapp was at the Upton Park helm when Carrick was snared, part of a golden Hammers generation which spawned Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand. Whereas the others were obvious thoroughbreds from day one, it took Carrick time to settle. The
    personality and football intellect were ticked boxes, but the midfielder needed to catch up with himself physically.

    “Michael came down at an early age, skinny as a rake,” Redknapp recalls. “He had a terrific football brain even then, but absolutely no strength whatsoever. He always knew what he was doing, but couldn’t get around the pitch because he was so thin. Then he shot up a foot in a matter of months. He grew beyond his strength from 5’6” to 6’1”. He was like a beanpole; no strength, growing pains and problems with his knees. It was a case of waiting for him to develop and fill out.”

    Harry was happy to wait, signing Carrick professionally in 1997. Two years later, months after scoring twice in the Hammers’ FA Youth Cup final 9-0 two-legged triumph against Coventry, 18-year-old Michael made his senior debut in a 3-0 victory at Bradford. Loan deals at Swindon Town and Birmingham City beckoned, and his displays caused such a stir that even Arsène Wenger – when asked which English player he’d love to sign – said: “I’d take Carrick tomorrow.”

    Expectations snowballed, and Carrick’s increasingly eye-catching form for West Ham led to a nomination for the 2000/01 PFA Young Player of the Year award, eventually won by Steven Gerrard. Just when all seemed to be building to a crescendo, so came the bum note that was West Ham’s 2002/03 campaign. Carrick missed much of the season through injury, his form suffered and his popularity dipped among vexed Hammers fans. As relegation was duly confirmed, Fredi Kanouté, Joe Cole, Trevor Sinclair, Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe all upped sticks. Carrick, however, ignored the stampede. “My thoughts are with West Ham,” he said. “I have a debt of loyalty to the club. We got us sent down, so we have to get us back up.”

    That stance won over the Hammers faithful, as did a season of superb performances in the second tier, which secured a place in the PFA First Division Team of the Year. West Ham’s defeat to Crystal Palace in the play-off final left the midfielder at a crossroads; run, or run the risk of stagnating. With only a year remaining on his contract, West Ham were happy to listen to offers.

    Harry Redknapp, by then at Portsmouth, seemed certain to be reunited with his protégé after agreeing a knockdown £2.75million fee, only for late interest from Arsenal and Tottenham to scupper it. Eager for regular football, Carrick opted for White Hart Lane, but hit an immediate obstacle – manager Jacques Santini signed him, yet seemed loath to select him. When the Frenchman was replaced by Martin Jol three months later, however, the Dutchman made him a midfield mainstay.

    “The first time I saw him on the training pitch I thought: ‘he’ll be an England international’,” says Jol. “Everyone could see it. He’s one of the biggest talents in England. He’s a complete midfielder.” Carrick flourished at White Hart Lane and was named in England’s 2006 World Cup squad. At this point rumours abounded of United’s interest, but Carrick wasn’t a new item in the shop window; he’d been on our hit-list for years.

    “Michael was identified before he was at West Ham,” Reds assistant manager Mike Phelan revealed. “But West Ham got in there quick. We saw him young and always admired his talent - the timing never fell right. Around the time we signed him, we wondered whether to go for a defensive midfielder or one who could set the play rolling, and Michael fell into that category. We targeted him as a player who fitted into our grand scheme.”

    With the timing finally right for player and club, Tottenham were persuaded to part with one of their prized assets for £14million, with the potential for further payment depending on United’s success. While some eyebrows were raised at the Reds’ outlay, Sir Alex Ferguson had no qualms. “It was maybe two pence more than I would have paid, but no more,” he said at Carrick’s media unveiling.

    It was also revealed that the new boy would inherit the no.16 shirt vacated by Roy Keane. Some would have sought to distance themselves from the task of replacing a living legend, but Carrick relished the challenge. “I nearly snapped the gaffer’s hand off when he offered it.” Self-assured off the pitch, his on-field approach remained composed during his bedding-in period, and a string of fine displays silenced any doubters. Two years and three major trophies later, Carrick has made himself almost indispensable.

    “He gives a feeling of well-being within the team,” says Phelan. "Where other players might want to rush, he takes his time. He can take the sting out of the game, and also keep the pace of it up. It’s his control, attitude and way of thinking. He’s learned a lot through playing with good players, and being at a club that is constantly striving for more. He’s a winner, and he wants to be the best midfielder in the country.”

    At West Ham, Carrick’s was the neglected talent, often mentioned as an afterthought. At Tottenham, Carrick was the hub of flirtation with Champions League rather than the Championship. Even at United, amid the praise heaped upon the Reds’ glittering stars, praise for his role in the recent silver-laden seasons has been slow in coming. But those in the know have been assured this was a talent which, like a fine wine, would mature with time. Typically, his impact this term, rendered stop-start by injuries, has been slow to materialise. But now he's ready to bring his own carefully considered threat to our quest for silverware.

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