Premier League

Jones doubt for Madrid clash

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Thu, 21 Feb 2013 10:39:00

Scotland international Stephen McManus has told Middlesbrough they have nothing to fear as they attempt to drag themselves back into the npower Championship promotion race.

The Teessiders are in danger of slipping out of the top six after taking just four of the last 24 points on offer, and 30-year-old McManus, who returned to the side for the first time since October in Tuesday night's 0-0 draw at Burnley, is confident they have what it will take to turn their form around.

He told the club's official website: "Every game between now and the end of the season is a massive game.

"But look at the quality we have got all over the pitch - we have nothing to fear.

"I have always had a tremendous rapport with the fans, the staff and players here. I have loved my time here and hopefully I can play my part between now and the end of the season. If I can help in that in any way, that is what I want to do.

"You don't feel like a footballer when you are not playing. You want to be playing week in, week out to be an important squad member, and I'm certainly no different."

The Manchester United player faces a battle against the odds to be fit for the Champions League encounter with Real Madrid at Old Trafford on March 5 after injuring his ankle against Reading on Monday.

Former United captain Bryan Robson is the latest to question why Jones tried to block Jobi McAnuff with the outside of his foot, which left him in obvious pain.

It is not the first time Jones' technique has been questioned during a difficult 12 months when the youngster has suffered a succession of problems.

However, as Ferguson sees elements of Robson's own play in Jones' game, the United manager sees little point trying to change the approach.

"He tackled awkwardly," said Ferguson.

"But you can't measure a person by a tackle.

"He has the courage and willingness to tackle. Bryan Robson was exactly the same.

"Bryan couldn't see danger and neither can Phil.

"That is a lot to do with the courage they have. You are not going to take that out of them. I wouldn't even attempt that."

Nevertheless, Jones is now a major doubt for that return meeting with Madrid, having done so much to subdue Cristiano Ronaldo in particular during last week's first leg.

"He did an incredible job against Real Madrid," said Ferguson.

"The great thing Phil has got is that he doesn't care who he is playing against.

"There is no fear about playing against anyone.

"We will have to wait and see. It is two weeks away and a lot can happen in that time.

"He has an outside chance, but no more than that."

Jones will certainly miss Saturday's trip to QPR but Ferguson reported everyone else has come through Monday's encounter without a problem.

The Scot repeated his mantra that, with United 12 points clear of Manchester City with 12 games remaining, destiny is very much in their own hands.

"The only way we can approach it is by taking care of each game and eventually we run out of matches," said Ferguson.

"I can understand from Manchester City's point of view why they are talking about us dropping points.

"But the fact of the matter is they will drop them as well."

Shea, signed last month from FC Dallas, was eligible to make his Potters debut in the 2-1 win over Reading on February 9 and, after opting not to include the United States winger, who has been recovering from a foot operation, in his 18-man party on that occasion, Pulis has indicated he is now ready to get him involved on a matchday.

Republic of Ireland full-back Wilson has also been working his way back to fitness, having not made a senior appearance since breaking his leg in Stoke's 0-0 draw with Sunderland last October.

The pair were in action in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Scunthorpe on Monday.

Pulis said: "The two of them will be in the squad - whether or not I start with them, we will have to wait and see.

"I think Brek has been out for three or four months with an injury, so this is almost like a pre-season for him, but he is a fit lad I have to say.

"The work we have done with him has shown that he is very mobile and athletic, and very willing as well. So he is not far away.

"I think Willo is close. Willo is on the launchpad, ready to go - he is just waiting for the opportunity, and he will go."

Forward Cameron Jerome is expected to be fit for selection, despite picking up a knock to his knee in the Scunthorpe match.

But striker Michael Owen, who had come through the contest apparently unscathed, subsequently felt a problem with his thigh in training which makes him doubtful for the Craven Cottage clash.

Pulis said: "Michael actually trained really well on Tuesday after the game on Monday, but he felt his thigh and I'm not sure he is going to be fit for Saturday - we will wait and see."

Clarke confirmed Odemwingie is part of his plans to face Sunderland, returning to favour after his Twitter rants against the club and the bitter on-off transfer saga with QPR last month.

Head coach Clarke knows some supporters will be in no mood to forgive Odemwingie but he has asked them to put any negativity towards the Nigeria international to one side.

Clarke said: "I understand some of the supporters might not want to forgive Peter quickly but, when they go to the stadium, all I ask is they support the team.

"If Peter scores a hat-trick and they choose not to celebrate Peter's goals, they should celebrate the fact that the team have scored.

"All we can ask is that the supporters support the team and don't allow their feelings over one player to over-ride the fact that the support has been great this year, home and away."

Clarke admitted Albion's shortage of options means Odemwingie will play again this season.

He said: "We've had a couple of little chats but nothing in-depth and he knows the situation.

"He knows he needs to work hard and he has to be ready for his opportunity when it comes and, for sure, it will come, because we only carry a small squad.

"Will he be considered for Saturday? Absolutely. I've got 20 players available and he'll be involved with the 20 players."

United confirmed in a statement released on their official website on Wednesday morning that Gill is to leave his post on June 30, with his duties being taken on by executive vice chairman Ed Woodward.

Gill, who joined the Red Devils as their finance director in February 1997 and assumed the role of chief executive in September 2003, is to remain as a director at Old Trafford.

His tenure as chief executive - during which the Glazer family completed their controversial takeover of the club - has seen United win four Premier League titles, one FA Cup, three League Cups and the 2008 Champions League.

Ferguson said: "I have been at United for over 26 years and for 23 of those years my boss has been one of only two men: Martin Edwards, who brought me to the club, and David Gill. I have enjoyed working with both.

"David has been a magnificent chief executive.

"Of course, we have had a million arguments, but I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities: he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first.

"No disagreement is ever personal with him. He always wants the best for United, whether it's the players, the training ground or the staff.

"Him stepping down is a big loss to me but the fact that he is staying on the board encourages me that the reason for his departure is heartfelt, (and) that he believes it is time for the club to move on.

"If I could have found a way of persuading him to stay I would love to have done that. But he has made his decision and I respect him for it."

Speaking about that decision, Gill stressed his belief that "all businesses need to refresh themselves with new management and ideas".

The 55-year-old - who was appointed as the vice chairman of the Football Association last October and is their nominee for the UEFA Executive Committee elections in May - said: "It has been a very hard decision because I love this club and, as the fans' banner says, it is 'more than a religion'.

"However, I have always been conscious of the fact that, as a member of staff, I was always just a temporary custodian of this marvellous institution.

"I am also of the view that all businesses need to refresh themselves with new management and ideas and after 10 years in charge I believe it is appropriate for someone new to pick up the baton.

"I am looking forward to continuing my involvement on the club board. And I hope to be able to make a contribution to the game on a wider national and European level."

Though Gill will remain in the shadows, his decision creates an element of uncertainty at Old Trafford.

Woodward, who has overseen the massive progress made by the Red Devils' commercial department, will take over many of Gill's responsibilities.

It is, however, envisaged Woodward will remain based at the club's London offices, with current commercial director Richard Arnold becoming the most senior figure at Old Trafford.

The situation has been likened to that encountered at Arsenal following the exit of David Dein, whose departure was viewed by many as the start of that club's decline.

Yet Ferguson does not view the situation in the same way.

"There is a good stability here. That must help," he said.

"The foundations David has laid down from his side of it are easy to carry on from.

"There is a template there for us to follow.

"The job is to support the manager and the staff to maintain the success they have. I don't think that should change that much."

Woodward has been attending Premier League meetings on United's behalf in an attempt to get his head round the intricate world of football politics.

And Ferguson believes the manner of the 40-year-old's promotion is another sign that the Glazer family remain wedded to the in-house philosophy that has proved so successful down the years.

"United are great at promoting from within and we have done it again with Ed Woodward stepping up," Ferguson said.

"Remember, David came as the finance director and ended up as chief executive.

"From the football side, Mike Phelan came as reserve coach and ended up as my assistant. Rene Meulensteen came as a development coach and is now my first-team coach. Brian McClair came as a youth coach and is now director of the academy.

"We see quality and potential in a lot of our staff. That happens throughout the club. There shouldn't be a big problem."

The Dens Park side, sitting bottom of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, 15 points behind St Mirren, parted company with the 39-year-old, who spent 11 years as a player with the Taysiders before succeeding Gordon Chisholm in 2010 after the club entered administration.

Dundee finished second to Ross County in last season's Irn-Bru First Division and were only admitted to the top flight at the last moment at the expense of Rangers, who lost their place due to financial problems.

Lomas expressed sympathy for Smith, whom he claimed was treated like all players and managers, as a "commodity".

"I've been in the game for many a year," the former West Ham and Manchester City midfielder said.

"People talk about loyalty and this, that and the other, but you are a commodity and when you are (thought) done, you are down the road, same as when you are a player.

"The only people who are loyal in the game these days are the fans, really.

"But I have a great deal of sympathy for Barry.

"To not know what league you are going to be in until the week before, how can you plan?

"That wasn't Dundee's fault, that was just the scenario but he went through two administrations (at the club), so let's have it right, he has been through the mill at Dundee.

"I thought he probably deserved the chance to be managing them next season and be judged on that, but whatever Dundee's thinking was, I have a great deal of sympathy for Barry because I don't believe he was given a fair crack.

"But I'm sure he will bounce back."

Following the departure of Paolo Di Canio this move has been made to allow the prospective new owners of the Robins time to consider who they will appoint as the Italian's replacement.

And the duo, who have been regulars for the League One leaders this season, will take charge of the home game against Preston this weekend and have the full support of the first-team squad.

A goalkeeping coach and fitness coach will be brought in to assist the pair on a temporary basis.

A club statement said: This initiative has the full support of the prospective new owners, allowing them the opportunity to assess all of the applications that have been received in relation to the vacant managerial position and take a considered view for the long-term benefit of the club."

The Millers registered their third straight win on Tuesday night with a 2-1 success at in-form Bristol Rovers and ended the evening in the automatic promotion places for the first time since New Year's Day.

They are not in action this weekend as Bradford are competing in the Capital One Cup final, but Evans wants to make their good form count when they host struggling York on Tuesday.

"We had a dodgy spell where we battled with injuries and suspensions, but overall I have always believed if we work as hard as the opposition then we will have a great chance of winning," he said.

"We have just got to build on the three wins that we have had, I have always had the greatest confidence in the players.

"The boys will work hard through the weekend and we'll be ready for York. The spirit and the togetherness is there."

McFadden has made big-money moves to Everton and Birmingham as well as making a return to Goodison Park last season and having a spell at Sunderland this term.

But his signing for first club Motherwell has been hailed as the return of the prodigal son by many fans.

McFadden, who scored 32 goals for the club as a teenager, made his comeback in claret and amber in the 73rd minute of the 1-0 defeat by Dundee United on Tuesday.

And he is desperate for more game time in order to meet his and the Motherwell fans' expectations.

The 29-year-old, who has only made 12 first-team appearances since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in September 2010, said: "This is probably the move where I've had the most expectation on me so in that sense I've got everything to prove.

"I've had a bad injury and had a tough time since then and maybe people are starting to doubt that I can play to the level I was at before, so I think I've got more to prove in this move than any other move that I've made."

McFadden, capped 48 times by Scotland, is set to start on the bench again in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Ross County on Saturday following his first competitive Motherwell appearance since 2003.

"It was great," McFadden said. "I could have been doing with a wee bit more but it was nice.

"I got a great reception from the fans.

"Obviously it was disappointing we never won the game or got something from the game but Dundee United were good on the counter-attack, so you have to give them credit."

The 30-year-old defender signed a short-term deal with the Cumbrians in January but hopes he can convince manager Greg Abbott to keep him on.

"This is a really good club and I'd certainly like to explore the option of staying once we get to the end of the season," he told the club's official website.

"It's a club that can push for the play-offs in the future and it's the ambition of every player at this level to get into the Championship. I'd love to be involved with that.

"The fans have been really good to me since I got here and it'd be good if I could chip in with a few goals for them between now and the end of the season."

O'Hanlon had been without a club since August having been released by Scottish Premier League side Hibernian. He has made six appearances for the Blues since his arrival and feels he is improving with each game.

He added: "I'm really enjoying my football at the moment. Hopefully I'm showing people what I can do.

"I haven't played for a while so to get a week like this, with three games one after the other, has been really good for me."

Davis's side conceded two injury-time goals against the Sky Blues but held on to secure a second Wembley appearance in two years by booking a place in the final.

Alex led 3-0 going into this Northern Final second leg and Coventry looked to be heading out with a whimper until a Mark Ellis own goal and Leon Clarke strike - both in injury-time - set up a tense finish.

Davis said: "I'm full of mixed emotions. We gave them a lifeline out of nothing but it's about getting through to our first major final and that's what matters.

"We've taken this competition seriously from the start because we think it's a cup we can win. It's not been easy and this is our reward for taking this cup seriously.

"It's something to look forward to. We had a great time their last year and it will be a great experience for the players, fans and the town.

"I can't praise the players enough for this season. We have consolidated our place in League One and made a cup final, but I'm not going to write off a play-off push.

"Finishing halfway up the league isn't good enough for me and it won't be good enough for the players, we want to finish higher than that."

The German side cruised to a 3-1 victory to move a step closer to a place in the quarter-finals with their home leg still to come.

And the result piled more pressure on Arsene Wenger who had feeling the heat even before the European defeat, and Ribery believes they may have lacked some self-belief.

The Frenchman says he still expected a tougher test, but he was delighted with Bayern's performance and is now focused on finishing the job at home next month.

"We didn't think it would be so easy," said Ribery.

"We know Arsenal are having some problems in the league, maybe they are lacking confidence.

"Each to their own problems. But we feel good, we feel confident and we're delighted to have got that result.

"We're all working hard together, with the will to play well, to win together, to defend together. It's important to carry on like this."

This, after seeing his side edge out Leyton Orient at Roots Hall on Wednesday.

A late goal from Ben Reeves secured the Shrimpers a 2-2 draw against the O's and a 3-2 aggregate win in the southern area final.

And Sturrock now wants a win at Wembley against the Railwaymen, who beat Southend in the semi-final of last season's League Two play-offs.

"It's a chance for us to get revenge against Crewe after what happened in the play-offs last season and it's going to be a great day," Sturrock said.

"Crewe are a good side but it's going to be an occasion to really enjoy.

"I'm delighted for the fans of this football club because they've been through more than most in the past six years or so.

"But now they will be heading to Wembley and I couldn't be happier."

The Italian has lit up the A-League since his arrival from Juventus last September, scoring 11 goals in 18 appearances for the Sky Blues.

However, it was his impact off the field which had Sydney representatives rushing to complete a deal for one of Australia's most influential sportsperson.

The deal was announced at a press conference on Thursday and also on Del Piero's blog.

"Sydney once again. Now it's official, I have renewed my contract with Sydney FC for one more year. That's what I wanted, and that's what the club wanted. My choice, our choice," the 38 year-old wrote.

"I still have a lot to do in Sydney and I don't want to stop.

"I'm happy to stay in Australia, and my choice apart from football career includes also my life and my family. I just love being here, we all feel at home and really welcomed by this extraordinary country."

A relieved Sydney chairman Scott Barlow is delighted to have finally got his man.

"We are delighted to have him on board," Barlow said.

"Alessandro has unquestionably delivered on all fronts. On the pitch, his class has been on show week in and week out."

Former captain Smith's time at Dens Park came to an end yesterday following a string of poor results, which left the Dark Blues rooted to the bottom of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

His assistant, Ray Farningham, will remain at the club and could take interim charge of team affairs for Sunday's visit to Celtic.

Gardiner told the Scottish Sun: "We have already had people in touch about the job. In three hours we have been swamped with potential candidates.

"I have now got the task of identifying someone to take charge of the team."

Dundee are 15 points adrift in the SPL but Gardiner revealed the new manager will be tasked with keeping the club in the top flight.

He added: "The board hope changing manager can bring about a change of fortunes.

"We want to stay in the SPL and stay in the Scottish Cup.

"Nobody at Dundee is giving up on staying up or even getting to the cup final. Both those things are important to us, we are not calling it a day."

The O's had overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Southend with goals from Shaun Batt and David Mooney, either side of Barry Corr's strike, leaving the teams tied at 2-2 and heading for penalties.

But a last-gasp Ben Reeves goal secured a 3-2 aggregate win for the League Two Shrimpers and booked a final meeting with Crewe in April.

"They are devastated in the dressing room, it's football and there is only one winner and you never want to be a loser," said Slade.

"It is very hard to take and it will take a while but we need to show some character and bounce back.

"We came up short in the end but I have to say I didn't see that happening.

"We normally defend a lot better than that but we were winning and I thought we were the side that looked like scoring another."

Jones suffered an ankle injury during Monday's FA Cup win over Reading and is having intense treatment in the hope of being available for the Old Trafford encounter.

"We are working very hard. He has an outside chance for Real Madrid - no more than that," Ferguson said.

Jones will certainly miss Saturday's trip to QPR, and Ferguson knows his absence from the Real Madrid game would cause him a headache given how well the former Blackburn man performed in the first leg last week.

"He is a young man who went into a tackle too brave and was a bit off-balanced," said Ferguson.

"He certainly won't be fit for the weekend."

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