English Championship

Fenlon in dark over Griffiths

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Fri, 10 May 2013 17:52:00

Jose Mourinho has backed David Moyes to be a success at Manchester United and admits he was honoured that Sir Alex Ferguson rang him personally to tell him he was retiring.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Mourinho paid tribute to Ferguson, who will step down at Old Trafford at the end of the season after more than 26 years in charge, and admits the landscape of the Premier League will be different without him around.

"When Sir Alex called me to give me the honour of knowing from him his decision, I was surprised and sad," the Real Madrid boss said.

"At the same time, I was happy to feel his emotion, and pride for such an amazing career.

"It will be difficult for me, and I think all managers, to go to Old Trafford and play against Manchester United, without this mythical figure waiting for us.

"I think David is a great choice. I like him as a person, I like his character as a manager. I believe Manchester United will support him, I think he has the qualities to do a good job.

"I wish Sir Alex a happy life, and I wish David a successful career at Old Trafford."

Mourinho was second favourite to take over from Ferguson for a while after Wednesday's announcement, but he said the Old Trafford position was not discussed and he gave another broad hint what his next club will be.

"We are good friends, and my good friends know which club I would like to manage when I finish my work at Real Madrid," Mourinho added.

He was also asked if he would tune in when Ferguson takes charge of his last match at Old Trafford on Sunday, and said: "No, certainly not - no, I don't want to cry!"

Sir Alex Ferguson will take charge of his final game at Old Trafford on Sunday before addressing the crowd following the Premier League encounter with Swansea.

It promises to be an emotional day, with the Scot's 13th championship trophy also to be collected, and feelings will be heightened because of the sudden nature of his exit.

So far, the man himself has handled the situation in the same clear-sighted way his manages his team.

"He said: 'I've got to tell you, I'm doing this, this is why I'm doing it.' And that's it," Darren Ferguson told twentyfour7football.com.

"His last game on Sunday at Old Trafford could be a bit emotional because it's my dad, it is what it is, no one will ever replace him. But he's ready to go."

Most assume the decision has something to do with the 71-year-old's health given he has always said that would be the determining factor in any decision to quit and it was confirmed last week he would have a hip operation in the summer.

However, Darren Ferguson is adamant that is not the case.

"There's no problem with his health, contrary to what some people are saying," he said.

"He's got a small hip operation but there's no difference to most 71-year-olds. It's not a health decision.

"Basically he feels he's gone out at the right time, he's left the club in a fantastic position and they've hired a very good manager to replace him."

That manager is, of course, David Moyes.

The Everton boss is going to see out the season on Merseyside and made it clear he did not wish to speak about United at a press conference to preview his own club's encounter with West Ham on Sunday.

However, as has been demanded of all other top flight bosses over the past 48 hours, Moyes was asked what he felt about Ferguson's exit, which, despite the obvious personal interest, he insists caught him by surprise.

"I don't think anyone thought the day would come when Sir Alex Ferguson retired," he said.

"We all thought he was superhuman.

"I didn't know anything about it. But I do know he will be sorely missed. The respect he is held in is beyond any real words.

"He has always been someone I have admired, then started to compete against. That was daunting enough.

"Everyone has great admiration for him. Any words I say won't do it justice because of what the man has done."

By next August, Moyes will be doing his job, coaching a team from a dug-out facing the stand that bears Ferguson's name, knowing outside there is a statue that stands in acknowledgement of the incredible number of trophies he has won.

Yet skipper Nemanja Vidic feels the transition will work out just fine.

"I am looking forward to working with David and I believe I will have the same success I had with Sir Alex," Vidic told www.manutd.com

"David and Sir Alex share some similarities - they are very passionate, they are both winners and you can see the way they approach the games and how they run things."

It has been suggested Moyes will work his new charges hard in training but that merely ties in with the regime that is about to reach its glorious end.

"David Moyes did a great job with Everton," said Vidic.

"He is the man who gets his players to work hard and show discipline.

"He did that well with Everton because in the last few years they've been successful in getting into the top six."

Sir Alex Ferguson's last Old Trafford team selection is awaited with interest.

He has been saying for some time now he hoped to have Paul Scholes available, which would mean the pair could say goodbye together given the 38-year-old is expected to retire at the end of the season.

Wayne Rooney may also be involved despite asking to leave for a second time a fortnight ago.

There was less than 36 hours between Sir Alex Ferguson announcing his decision to retire and Moyes' appointment as Manchester United's new boss, underlining the speed with which the United hierarchy wanted to get the succession issue settled.

For Kenwright, the process is going to take slightly longer.

Wigan's Roberto Martinez has already been ousted as favourite by Neil Lennon, whose performances in the Champions League with Celtic this season offers an experience at the highest level even Moyes cannot match.

However, such is the mature manner in which Moyes has handled his own exit, his relationship with Kenwright remains strong enough to have significant input, just as Ferguson did in United's decision to go after his fellow Scot.

"I'll help Everton as much as I possibly can," said Moyes. "Walter Smith recommended me for the job here and if there is anything I can do to help Bill Kenwright with what happens next I will be more than happy to do so.

"It is a great opportunity. Everton is a well run club and we don't get ourselves into too much trouble.

"There is a brilliant training ground and a great set of players with a terrific attitude. Whoever comes in is coming into a really good environment."

The situation is different to the one he inherited 11 years ago.

Though Moyes offers Smith the credit for stabilising a club who had flirted with relegation far too often, he needed to ensure the Merseyside outfit were consistently pushing towards the top end of the table.

He has managed it too, and would be hot favourite to land a European spot had clubs from outside the top five - Swansea and Wigan - not managed to win the Capital One Cup and reach the FA Cup final respectively, claiming those Europa League berths for themselves.

"When I took over we were bobbing along not far off the bottom of the Premier League," said Moyes. "Now, it is a club that, on Sunday, will still be competing to be in Europe. That is a big thing."

It is one of the reasons why there was never any real doubt Moyes would be able to complete the final two games of the campaign, despite announcing he was joining a club Everton fans have not always been well disposed to.

The last player to make the switch to Old Trafford from Goodison Park, Wayne Rooney, received tough receptions whenever he returned - he was even abused by a sponsor on one occasion - although, after nine years, the ire has now quelled.

For Moyes though, it was important his exit was handled properly, and to that end, he has done a superb job.

"Hopefully on Sunday the fans will react in the same way they did when I first stepped through the door," he said.

"You can never tell with football fans. They support their team and I would understand it if they weren't happy.

"But I will be standing in the same position as I always have done, trying to see if we can keep everything focussed and moving in the right direction.

"The fans have always been great to me. It is 11 years since my first game against Fulham but I remember it as though it was yesterday.

"I was a relative unknown coming from Preston, but they got behind me.

"It's not normal nowadays that a manager stays in their job for 11 years. If I hadn't had their backing it wouldn't have happened."

And so Moyes prepares for what he calls a "short cheerio", knowing the emotion that will come from all sides of a famous old stadium.

"I really enjoy the people I work with," he said. "I enjoy Goodison.

"It is an old lady of a football stadium, which can be raucous on its day.

"It has been such a big part of my life. But another way of looking at it is that I might have been sacked and the whole story would have been different.

"I think you accept as a manager that, at some time, you are going to have to leave.

"I always hoped that when I left Everton I would be able to walk back through the front door."

Victory for Inverness against Dundee United on Saturday would spell the end of County's hopes of making the Europa League before they take on Motherwell on Sunday.

But few expected the Dingwall side to be in the top six in their debut top-flight season and Adams will watch neighbours Caley Thistle take on Dundee United with the knowledge that his team have over-achieved regardless of the fate of their European challenge.

Adams said: "We've still got an opportunity, we play after Inverness and St Johnstone and if Inverness win and St Johnstone don't, then they're in Europe.

"It's in Caley Thistle's hands and has been for the majority of the season.

"We know going into our game what we have to do after Caley Thistle and St Johnstone will have played, at it might be impossible.

"However after Saturday it might mean we'll need four points, it might we'll need six points. But we'll just see what happens with both teams tomorrow."

Adams, whose team took points off Celtic for the third time last weekend, added: "Taking a point against the champions was excellent last week and going unbeaten against them at home over the season is also good, who would have believed that at the start of the season?

"We've had a fantastic season and we're just delighted, it looks like we're going to cement fifth position and perhaps go as high as third."

The talk just a few weeks back was of the promoted side ending their seven-year Premier League absence with a top-10 finish.

However, Saints' four-match winless streak has been compounded by the teams around them picking up results, leaving them just four points above the drop zone.

Southampton boss Pochettino admits 18th-placed Wigan's midweek defeat in their game in hand to Swansea was a relief ahead of their own penultimate match of the season at Sunderland, where both sides are able to secure survival should they win.

"It is clear that we welcome any losses of rival teams that are in similar positions to ours," the Argentinian said. "We're always keeping an eye on those sort of games.

"We know that we have two games left, we need to do our job and get the maximum number of points from these last two games.

"We are very aware that the game on Sunday is going to be quite intense and that both teams are going to be playing for more than just the three points.

"We know that the atmosphere is going to be very much charged. We're going to face a side that has been physical ever since the arrival of Paolo di Canio so we are prepared to compete on Sunday."

Much of Southampton's success this season has been based on their ability to find the back of the net.

Their 47-goal haul is better than any other team in the bottom half, although they have not managed to score in their previous three matches.

"We have had trouble basically finding the back of the net," Pochettino said.

"We need to be confident that in the next game we will be able to score because goals are what actually get you results so we need to keep the focus."

Club record signing Gaston Ramirez and left-back Danny Fox are both suspended for the trip to the Stadium of Light, while Pochettino today revealed a further three players are doubts for the match.

"We're looking at the recovery of Morgan Schneiderlin and Maya Yoshida," Pochettino added.

"Morgan had a very strong knock in the game against West Bromwich and that made him available for the game against Tottenham. Maya had some problems in the pelvis.

"Mayuka's father passed away on Tuesday. He travelled to Zambia then and will return tomorrow, when we will see what mental state or conditions he returns in.

"We will see if he is okay even to travel with the team. We will look at that when he arrives and I want to send my deepest condolences to him and his family for the bad news."

Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the Pittodrie outfits' famous 2-1 win over Spanish giants Real Madrid at the Nya Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg.

The greatest day in the club's 110-year history is still cherished by the club's supporters, perhaps more so as their 17-year wait for a trophy lingers on.

Managed by Alex Ferguson, the Scottish side not only shocked the Bernabeu big guns to lift the trophy but also shot down German cracks Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals.

Eric Black and John Hewitt were the Reds heroes as they held out for their extra-time victory and for skipper Miller, it was a success which took the Dons to the peak of the game in Europe.

The defender told STV: "It's a huge achievement to lift any major trophy - but a European trophy is pretty special.

"I don't think we realised at the time how special it was. As the years have gone by, we realised it. We put Aberdeen's name on the map. When we travelled abroad, people knew who we were.

"We were just a little provincial club from Scotland. But we won a European trophy and that gives you pedigree. When you see that we are sandwiched in between Juventus and Barcelona on that cup, it sums up what we did.

"We didn't just win the trophy, we did it with style. We put out Bayern on the way and beat Real in the final, so that shows that we did it with style."

Aberdeen were forced to pre-qualify for the tournament but fought their way past Swiss side Sion in the Preliminary Round before knocking out Albania's Dinamo Tirana, Lech Poznan of Poland, Bayern and then Belgians Waterschei Thor on their way to the final.

But for Miller, it was their two-legged triumph over the German Cup winners from Munich that convinced him they were real contenders for the trophy.

"We definitely went in thinking we could win the final," said the former Scotland defender of his side's meeting with the Castilian kings.

"The mind set in those days was that the German sides were the top dogs in Europe. The Bundesliga was huge. They had one of the best international teams in the world and some of the best players.

"We always felt that if we could overcome the Germans, which we did in the quarter-finals against Bayern Munich, then we would have a chance of lifting the trophy.

"Strange as it may seem, we went into the game with Real feeling like we were the favourites, even though we were classed as the underdogs.

"We were confident that we could do it and on the night we were by far the better team."

The victory in Sweden was boss Ferguson's first continental cup success and was quickly followed up seven months later when European champions Hamburg were beaten 2-0 in the Super Cup final as Aberdeen became the only Scottish side to win two UEFA trophies.

That and three Scottish Premier Division championships convinced Manchester United he was the right man to replace Ron Atkinson as Old Trafford manager three years later.

He steps down from his post at the end of the season after 26 years in charge of United having led the club to 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League wins.

But Miller is in no doubt it was the night of glory in Gothenburg that made all his success with the Red Devils possible.

He said: "It was significant in that it was a magnificent achievement. It caught attention, and it caught the attention of Manchester United.

"We are talking about taking a small provincial club that had no history of dominating in Scotland, with little resources, to the top of European football and then beating the European Cup holders the next season. That was bound to grab the attention of big clubs.

"It had a major impact in Manchester United offering Sir Alex the opportunity to go down there and rack up unbelievable success."

Griffiths has been in fine form this season and was rewarded for his efforts by being named the Scottish PFA young player of the year last weekend.

Hibs are keen to retain his services but Wolves have a one-year option on his contract and will decide whether he returns to Molineux.

Griffiths was reportedly back down south this week holding talks with the club but Fenlon was no clearer on the situation on Friday.

He said: "We've done as much as we can as a club and everybody knows where we stand on it and what we want to do.

"But he's a Wolverhampton player and they will decide what happens.

"I haven't spoken to anybody there to be honest and they don't have a manager at the moment so that's a difficult scenario for them.

"We have him on loan and we would be delighted to have him for another season if possible but we will just wait and see where that one goes."

Regardless of what the future holds for Griffiths, Fenlon would love to see him on the scoresheet against city rivals Hearts on Sunday, having netted against them earlier in the season.

He added: "He is a Hibs fan so it's probably a little bit more extra special for Hibs supporters to be scoring against their biggest rivals.

"We'd love to see him do that at the weekend if possible."

Hearts had previously dominated in this fixture but matches between the Edinburgh sides have been much closer this season, since Hibs' 5-1 capitulation in the Scottish Cup final.

Hibs have claimed the only victory so far this term, with the other three encounters ending all square and only three goals scored in all four meetings.

Fenlon said: "We have improved. Hearts probably won the games too easily last season and we have made them more competitive this year.

"We have won one and the other three have been drawn. They have been decent games but you'd like see maybe a little more football in them.

"They are probably so intense and fast and frantic that the football probably suffers a little bit but hopefully that will change come Sunday."

And, with a Scottish Cup final looming again this year - this time against Celtic - there are plenty of incentives for Hibs players in the remaining games.

Fenlon said: "There are places to be played for in the cup final. You don't know what happens between now and then with injuries and everything else.

"It's important that when players get an opportunity to play that they take it and they make it as difficult as possible for me not to play them in the cup final."

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