Premier League

Fergie: No more silly slip-ups

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Sat, 15 Dec 2012 09:40:00

Nemanja Vidic is confident he can recapture his best form for Manchester United following his injury problems, but accepts it may take a few games.

The United captain initially suffered a serious knee injury against Basel 12 months ago before requiring further surgery in September after making five appearances in the early stages of the season.

He is expected to be involved against Sunderland on Saturday and the centre-half is ready to play his part in United's bid to regain the Premier League title.

"I have worked hard to be the same player again and I have the determination not to drop the quality of my game," Vidic told The Sun.

"There will be pressure. When you play for United you don't have time for people to wait for you.

"When I got the first injury I was out for six months and people were saying 'Is he going to be the same? 'Can he play for United?'

"This is the challenge you have to deal with. But when you have been out for the best part of a year - after having always played - I think I will need to go through a few games to get my form back but I'm confident that I can deal with that.

"Obviously, it's a challenge for me when I come back, firstly to be in the same form as I was but also to help the team.

"As someone who has had six years here and, at 31, with some good years still left to play, I feel a responsibility."

The 31-year-old is also hoping that he does not suffer a further setback following the most difficult 12 months of his United career.

He added: "It is not going to be nice if something happens again. Definitely you can have that in your mind but once you are on the pitch you just play and do not have time for that. I have worked hard with the physios, physically I have been strengthening the legs.

"It is obviously different playing from the start of the season. Now I am coming into December and the rest of my team-mates are on top of their games.

"I am having to come in. But I think I have worked hard and will manage that."

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On the day City confirmed annual losses of ?97.9million, and again privately repeated they had no intention of strengthening their squad next month even if they fall further behind Manchester United, Mancini outlined why they might have to.

The Blues chief confirmed he had virtually given up hope of persuading Yaya Toure to remain in England instead of heading to the African Nations Cup with the Ivory Coast.

Even Mancini's belief that Toure will remain until after City's FA Cup tie with Watford on January 5 seems a bit optimistic if past experiences are anything to go by.

Brother Kolo is also expected to be part of the Ivory Coast squad, whilst Mancini also anticipates young midfielder Abdul Razak will be called away by coach Sabri Lamouchi for the tournament in South Africa, which begins on January 19.

But the news gets even worse.

Mancini has also revealed Jack Rodwell has suffered a recurrence of the hamstring problems that have restricted him to just six appearances since his summer move from Everton and have already kept him out for over two months.

"I don't know," said Mancini, when asked whether he needed to strengthen his squad.

"We will have to see what happens when the players are all recovered.

"I am worried because for us because Yaya is really important and to lose him for all that time in January will be really difficult.

"But we do not just lose him. We lose his brother. Probably Abdul as well.

"Also, Jack has hurt his hamstring again. We need to work harder with him because he is a good player and a good man. He deserves to play without a problem."

Mancini confirmed he was considering whether to send Rodwell to a specialist to see if City can discover any underlying problem for a player the Italian was convinced could have a major impact this season.

If that was bad enough, there have also been reports of dressing room unrest, specifically rows with both Joe Hart and Mario Balotelli immediately after the United defeat.

In both instances, it is easy to see why Mancini might have a problem.

He called for a four-man wall at the fateful free-kick from which Robin van Persie scored the winner, only for Hart to overrule him to get Carlos Tevez to mark Wayne Rooney.

And if Mancini's public condemnation of Balotelli's inept display was repeated behind closed doors, the fiery Italian is unlikely to have been too impressed.

"It is usual for me to talk to the players," said Mancini.

"Also some times you can have a discussion.

"But I prefer to keep it in the dressing room, not like some other people who talk outside.

"For me it is not like this. We know where these stories comes from."

With skipper Vincent Kompany sidelined for Saturday's trip to Newcastle by a hamstring strain and Gareth Barry suspended, it merely adds to the sense of chaos after Sunday's defeat, which left them six points adrift in the title race.

Yet the defeat left Mancini more convinced than ever that City are actually the better of the two Manchester teams.

"We showed we are better," he said.

"For 20 minutes they did not touch the ball. They had two chances and we made mistakes for the first two goals.

"Afterwards, in the second-half, they played with all their players in their own half.

"I don't say they were lucky because United are a strong team. But it is not like it was three years ago when they were better.

"Now they are not better than us. But they know they had to defend well for all the second half."

Mancini is certainly not buying the argument that his team are inferior to the one which swept all before them in the first half of last season.

Not even a disastrous Champions League campaign, when his side picked up only three points from their six games, the worst return of any English club in the competition's history, can change that assessment.

"We have had a good season in the Premier League so far," he said.

"We are only six points behind United."

While many gave up on Torres ever coming good at Stamford Bridge, Mata never lost faith that his fellow Spaniard would eventually begin to justify his record-breaking ?50million price tag.

And the last 10 days have proven him right, with Torres netting in three successive matches for the first time in his Chelsea career, bagging five goals in all.

Winger Mata said: "This is what I saw from him in training all those weeks and months, so I knew it would happen.

"And when I said I could see it coming, that was true. Fernando was, is and will be always an important player.

"He is a very good striker for us. Now you can see he is fully fit and we have a lot of confidence in him."

Torres's revival has mirrored that of Chelsea as they have shaken off their worst slump for 15 years in the Barclays Premier League to win three straight games in all competitions.

One more against Corinthians on Sunday and they will win the Club World Cup.

"That's what we're trying to do," said Mata, who claimed the "intensity and confidence" was back at Chelsea under interim manager Rafael Benitez.

"We're trying to play in a good way. I think the best way to win is with the ball and that is what we are looking to do now."

Chelsea comfortably beat Monterrey in Thursday's semi-final and Mata added: "That was the sort of football the manager has told us he wants to see, wants us to play.

"But having come out here, so far, we are only halfway. We have to finish the job on Sunday.

"We know that Corinthians are one of the best teams in South America, so we will have to play at our best level."

Especially in possession.

"It will be the main point for the game for us - whether we can keep the ball or not," Mata said.

"We know they are a team who likes to play with the ball, a typical Brazilian team.

"But we have players as well who want to play that way.

"We want to have the ball, to make passes, create chances and assists."

The duo managed to keep the Hammers in the top flight but were still dismissed in May 2010 by new owners David Sullivan and David Gold, to be replaced by Avram Grant.

But Clarke is philosophical about being axed and insists the credit crunch was a big factor in why he and Zola lost their jobs.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash against the Hammers at The Hawthorns, Clarke said: "The new owners came in and assessed what they thought they had to do at the club. They made that decision and that's the owners' job.

"They have to decide what is the best way forward for their club, and that's what Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold did at the time.

"What happened the next season is ifs and buts. If you look at it, though, we didn't make any progress.

"The year before we'd finished in the top 10. The second season was a lot more difficult but there were a lot of extenuating circumstances at West Ham."

Clarke added: "When I first went into that job it was on the promise that we'd always have money to spend in the transfer windows and we were going to push on into the top six.

"But within a fortnight of being in the club, the credit crunch collapse happened. The then Icelandic owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson's bank went bust.

"The circumstances changed completely. There was a gradual erosion of the squad and it was an achievement just to keep West Ham in the Premier League that year."

Clarke still believes his time at Upton Park was a valuable learning curve in his career.

He said: "I've learned lessons from every job I've been at. The West Ham job was good because I'd come out of Chelsea where success was part and parcel of the season.

"Then I went to a club where it was more difficult, and you had to find different ways to motivate players.

"You had to find different ways to get results on a Saturday, which is what we were judged on."

There was a perception in some quarters that Clarke was not tough enough for the demands of the role and was "too nice".

But he claimed: "I've never actually been called too nice before. Obviously the owners didn't know me too well.

"I think people who know me realise there's an edge there if it needs to be there.

"It doesn't mean to say you have to go around being a nasty guy all the time to get that image.

"If I need to have an edge, I can have an edge."

Clarke admits that side of his character has seldom been seen during the current campaign given the Baggies' fine form.

He said: "If we'd lost 10 games this season, there might be more of an edge about me.

"I don't see why I should be angry or disappointed with the efforts of this group of players. Hopefully they never see it.

"I'm not going to sit here and say I haven't shouted at them and had cross words. It happens. In environments, you can lose your temper a bit."

Dunne initially suffered the setback when part of the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 campaign.

He underwent early season surgery and had to undergo a further operation after returning to training last month.

Now the former Manchester City player has again gone under the knife in the hope it will finally bring an end to his spell out of action.

Villa manager Paul Lambert said: "Dunny got hurt at the Euros and it's never really cleared up. I think that's where it's come from.

"He had another operation yesterday in America so hopefully once and for all that will be cleared up.

"I think America was the only place he could get that done. He'll come back in the next few days and hopefully then start his rehab and get going again.

"It's all stemmed from his hip area.

"We tried to sort out one thing and then it went to another, then it's gone to another thing. I've never seen anything like this. I don't think the medical people have seen anything like this."

Lambert insists Villa have not looked at trying to obtain compensation from the Football Association of Ireland over the matter.

He said: "I've not gone down that road. Injuries can happen to players, sometimes you get to the bottom of it, sometimes it takes longer than you think.

"As a footballer you get frustrated because you can't put your finger on what's gone wrong with you. Hopefully this time this has worked."

Lambert is hoping a sickness bug at Bodymoor Heath this week is under control ahead of Saturday's clash at Liverpool.

He said: "There are one or two who have not felt too good. I hope it is not too bad.

"Stephen Ireland missed the Norwich game with it. He came in yesterday and did a little bit so we will see how he is feeling again before the Liverpool game."

Lambert refused to speculate on whether striker Darren Bent's hamstring injury will have any bearing on the future of the player ahead of January's transfer window.

Bent made his first start for six weeks in the Capital One Cup quarter-final at Carrow Road in midweek but limped off after half an hour.

He is now facing "a few weeks" out of action and has been ruled out of the festive programme.

Lambert said: "I thought he looked sharp considering he hadn't played for a number of weeks. He had a good chance to score.

"The thing with Darren is he gets into those positions where he can score. It's just unfortunate that he made a run and he has done something to his hamstring.

"Could it affect what happens to him in January? It is what it is. We just concentrate on the games coming up.

"I've not said that (what might happen) one way or another. It's just unfortunate we have a player who is injured."

Luiz is on the brink of landing the prize considered in his native Brazil to be the biggest in club football and he insisted it was all down to the people who sacrificed everything to ensure he made it as a footballer.

Luiz has brought his family over to London, from where they will watch Sunday's Club World Cup final against the Corinthians side he grew up supporting.

And he might have been on that side of the television screen himself had his parents not put themselves into debt to pay for him to fly to join Vitoria 11 years ago.

That was after he was released by his local club, having been told he was not big enough to be a footballer.

Luiz promised at the time to repay his family and has more than lived up to his end of the bargain, something he is desperate to continue on Sunday.

"My mum, my father, my nephew, my sister, her husband, all these people are in London," he said.

"So I'm so happy and excited and anxious to see my family when I go back to London. I want to go back with the title.

"All the games, I speak with my family and they support me. They have a great responsibility in David Luiz's life.

"My family is everything to me."

Luiz, who won the Champions League and FA Cup with Chelsea last season, added: "My great 'title' in my life is the great family I have.

"Football and titles and medals come second.

"But when you talk about the significance of the Champions League and now this, the World Cup of clubs, I think the Champions League is the past and the World Cup the present.

"So if I go back with the medal, my family will be happy and they can give me many, many hugs."

Luiz has previously admitted it was his dream just to play Corinthians in the Club World Cup final.

But he now says: "For my dream to come true, I need to win the final.

"Now I have an opportunity to play a grand final against a great team, a great team with the philosophy of Brazilian football.

"They have a lot of the best players in Brazil so I think Chelsea will need to work hard in these couple of days to be fit to win the final."

Luiz may need to work hard in two positions, having started in midfield for the first time in his Chelsea career in Thursday's semi-final against Monterrey.

The 25-year-old admitted he could not remember the last time he played the position from the beginning of the game but insisted he would have no problem doing so again.

"When (Chelsea boss) Rafa (Benitez) said, 'You play today in the starting XI', I'm happy!" he said.

"Because I love playing football and work hard every day to have an opportunity to be in the 11 starters.

"I work in other positions.

"I work in midfield and I work at centre-back.

"I know the position. Because of that, Rafa gave me the opportunity.

"If I play in midfield, if I play at centre-back, if I play another position, I enjoy when I put on the shirt and play for Chelsea because I love Chelsea and I love playing for this club."

It showed yesterday as he impressed in his new role, having seen his defending come under fire ever since moving to Stamford Bridge.

After their worst Barclays Premier League run for 15 years, Chelsea go into Sunday's game on the back of three straight wins.

"When you win, you take more confidence," Luiz said.

"When you do your job well, you take confidence in your work.

"When I do my job well and other members of the team do well, you take confidence into another game.

"This is natural in football. Football moves quickly.

"Sometimes, you take bad moments and sometimes you are in good moments. So now I think the team is on the way to good moments and we need to enjoy this moment."

European football's governing body is under fire for the punishment handed out to the Serbian FA for the conduct of their players and supporters in the European Under-21 Championship play-off against England that caused such widespread revulsion.

Even UEFA president Michel Platini is thinking of appealing against the ?65,000 for racism handed out by the independent control and disciplinary panel, a punishment less than the ?80,000 Nicklas Bendtner had to pay out for breaching advertising regulations at Euro 2012.

There are many, including United defender Rio Ferdinand, who have little faith in UEFA's ability to sort the problem. On Thursday, Ferdinand claimed that UEFA is "not serious at all on racism".

However, Ferguson believes Gill, who next May will stand for election to the 16-strong UEFA executive board, has the expertise required.

"David Gill is very well respected," said Ferguson.

"He is a fantastic chief executive. He is straight 100% black and white.

"There is no hidden agenda. Everyone in the game knows that. Hopefully he can make an impact."

Some kind of impact seems to be required, with Ferguson among those who believes UEFA have got it badly wrong over Serbia.

"That kind of behaviour warranted more than ?65,000," said Ferguson.

"I am wondering if that was redressing the balance because one or two English players maybe didn't behave correctly and they tried to get the middle ground.

"They are like that, UEFA, they want to try to be seen as fair and they were going to assess England's behaviour too."

Since the two racism cases erupted around John Terry and Luis Suarez in 2011, negative headlines have been almost a weekly occurrence.

The latest undesirable incident came at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday when a fan hurled a coin at Rio Ferdinand, drawing blood from a nasty cut close to the defender's eye.

"It is happening every week at the moment," said Ferguson.

"Didn't (Craig) Bellamy get struck by a coin against us with no real damage.

"But it is dangerous and supporters have to realise it. I say that to my own supporters.

"We don't need that reputation. We are going through a period where everything seems to be falling on top of football clubs.

"Hopefully it is just a period and it will clear itself away and we will get back to what English football has been for the last 20-odd years.

"Racism has been dealt with brilliantly by all the clubs.

"It is a little period we hope is just a blip and we get back to addressing our country in a proper way."

Saturday's visit of Sunderland to Old Trafford offers a reminder of that dramatic May Sunday, when United ended their final game at the Stadium of Light thinking they would be crowned champions, only for Sergio Aguero to score the injury-time goal that meant Manchester City won the title instead.

At the time, the gleeful reaction of the Sunderland fans rankled the United boss.

Ferguson's temper has eased since then, but what happened three weeks earlier, when United tossed away a two-goal lead in the final seven minutes to draw 4-4 on home soil against Everton, remains fresh in the mind.

So instead of reflecting on a handy six-point lead heading into the packed Christmas programme, Ferguson chose to remind his players where it went wrong 12 months ago.

"The issue for us now is to maintain our form and make sure we don't do anything silly," he said.

"The memory of losing the lead against Everton is the best one. Manchester United should never surrender two goals in seven minutes. That's what threw the league away for us.

"So, instead of looking at our situation it is about looking to win our next game. Our points total doesn't mean a thing to me.

"The best approach is not looking at the league table on a Sunday morning and saying it's great."

Nevertheless, a sense of satisfaction must be gained from United's 3-2 win over rivals Manchester City last week, if only because Ferguson knows it came against the team he regards as the major threat to his side's ambitions.

"It was a fantastic game, unbelievable," said Ferguson. "You definitely saw the two best teams in the league."

While Ferguson dismissed Roberto Mancini's belief that the match proved City were the better side in spite of the result, he knows United have reached the summit having tip-toed their way through most of the more hazardous away trips.

"We have been to Everton, Newcastle, the Etihad, Chelsea, Liverpool," said Ferguson.

"That is quite appetising for us - but then we lost to Norwich. It brings you down to earth and reminds you this is the kind of league where you can lose games."

Yet things do seem to be going for United just now.

A lengthy injury list has shortened dramatically, with Shinji Kagawa due to return to training on Monday after his knee operation and skipper Nemanja Vidic in the squad for Saturday's game after a three-month absence following knee surgery.

The injury was the latest in a catalogue of problems for the 31-year-old Serbian that began with a calf injury in August 2011 and continued with ruptured cruciate ligaments last December that.

"Getting an injury is an issue for players going into their late 20s and early 30s because they'll start to wonder how many years they've got left," said Ferguson.

"For instance, Gary Neville was 32 when he got his injury and he never really recovered from it. He had recurring injuries - it was his calf, then it was his groin, then it was his hamstring, his ankle, it was just a catalogue of injury after injury simply because at that age recovery is a bit more difficult."

Ferguson has yet to decide whether Vidic will start against Sunderland tomorrow.

However, with the Christmas campaign looming, there are lots of matches for the defender to get involved in, and Ferguson has no doubt the former Red Star Belgrade man can make a positive contribution.

"We hope we've given him the proper rehabilitation," said Ferguson.

"He's not had a lot of football, so it is an issue but we're hoping he sails through.

"There will be opportunities for him because he brings that great experience, that warrior-type of defending he's known for.

"I don't know whether I will start him tomorrow but at least we have him back and given the number of injuries we've had to defenders over the last two or three years, it's a bonus for us."

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