Testimonial hints at Rio future
Sun, 21 Apr 2013 23:00:00
Paris Saint-Germain beat Nice 3-0 on Sunday to move closer to the Ligue 1 title, while Nancy moved out of the drop zone.
PSG took another significant step towards their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years as they comfortably saw off the challenge of Nice at the Parc des Princes.
Jeremy Menez opened the scoring after 10 minutes, while a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty - awarded following a foul by David Ospina that saw the Nice goalkeeper sent off - and Clement Chantome's late effort completed a one-sided outcome.
PSG move onto 70 points, nine clear of nearest challengers Marseille with five games remaining.
Benjamin Moukandjo bagged a second half brace as Nancy moved out of the relegation zone for the first time since September with a 3-1 victory over Evian.
Paul Alo'o put Nancy ahead midway through the second half and although Saber Khelifa levelled just after the half hour, Moukandjo struck in the 65th and 79th minutes to extend Nancy's unbeaten run to five matches.
The win moves Nancy up to 17th - level on points with Evian - although they are just a solitary point above Sochaux.
A late Bordeaux equaliser denied Sochaux the chance to move out of the relegation zone but was surely not enough to revive their hopes of qualifying for Europe via the league.
Les Girondins moved into the semi-finals of the Coupe de France in midweek but could only draw 2-2 on Sunday, trailing twice to struggling Sochaux before Cheick Diabate's 78th-minute goal earned a point.
Sochaux even struck a post as time ran down, but a potentially crucial victory eluded them.
That was hard on Sochaux, who took a second lead of the afternoon through Cedric Bakambu in the 65th minute after Mariano earlier cancelled out Ryad Boudebouz's penalty.
Gregory Pujol scored the only goal as Valenciennes pulled seven points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 victory at Reims.
Hubert Fournier's men went close through Nicolas Fauvergue and Diego Rigonato in the first half but the visitors would steadily turn the screw and earn all three points when Pujol beat the impressive Kossi Agassa in the 57th minute.
Two late goals saw Lille fight back from behind to win 2-1 at Bastia and keep their hopes of Champions League qualification alive.
Lucas Digne's 85th-minute goal and Marko Basa's last-gasp winner cancelled out Wahbi Khazri's 47th-minute opener for Bastia.
Jeremie Aliadiere struck 13 minutes from time to hand Lorient all three points at Toulouse.
With both sides well clear of the battles for Europe and to avoid relegation, the match had a lethargic feel and rarely sparked prior to Aliadiere's late intervention.
Cottagers midfielder Steve Sidwell is set to miss the last four games of the Barclays Premier League season after being shown a straight red card by referee Andre Marriner when he cleaned out Arsenal's Mikel Arteta after 13 minutes on Saturday, in a match the hosts went on to lose 1-0.
Sidwell, 30, had only just been available again following suspension for a sliding lunge on QPR's Armand Traore.
Jol feels players can avoid unnecessary dismissals if they just take a second to think before diving in.
"You see other players in the Premier League who are not used to the game," Jol said.
"That is the only thing you have to change - to stay on your feet, don't sell yourself then there is no problem."
The Dutch coach continued: "It is a physical sport, but I can't defend Steve.
"I still feel it was not intentional and in the spirit of the game 30 or 40 years ago they would have said not intentional, that it was a booking, but now - what can he do?
"They would say (to the referee) at the FA 'you should have red-carded him' and you won't get a match next week."
Fulham have been safe for a few weeks now, but not able to push on into the top 10 despite some promising displays.
However, Jol reckons the Cottagers should be proud of their achievements in what is a season of transition.
"Believe me, we were so happy to be on 40 points because we have had so many changes in personnel, and to build again, we had a different team," he said.
"Structurally you could say we are a top-10 side, but if you look at other teams, they spent a lot more, like Stoke and Aston Villa.
"So I am a happy man that we are 40 points. The only thing is last year we had the same and we picked up so many points in the last month."
On-loan midfielder Eyong Enoh believes Fulham can take heart from their efforts against the Gunners as they look to finish the campaign strongly.
"We can pick things up again from the lessons of the Arsenal game and take that into our next fixtures coming up," the Cameroon international said.
"It is true we have already got the 40-mark, but there is a tempo in the team to still get some more points.
Enoh added: "Every game coming up now for us is tough. We want to try to get our next win as soon as possible, but going to Everton will be very difficult.
"But with the spirit we have shown, if we can go there and keep the same tempo then we can come out with positive result."
Manchester City's stunning late collapse at Tottenham on Sunday has set up a party to remember at Old Trafford.
For whilst United have plenty of opportunities to seal their latest championship success should they fail against Villa, the idea of confirming their status as England's top dogs in front of their own fans is particularly appealing.
However, even after the champagne corks have been popped, Ferguson will keep his men driving on, eager to eclipse the Premier League points record of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, who amassed 95 points in 2005.
"There won't be any slacking off," Ferguson said.
"(The record) is not beyond us at all. Can Manchester United win five games in a row? How many times have we done that?"
To reclaim the trophy so easily should be the perfect riposte to those who have claimed this is some way short of a vintage United squad.
It does seem a bit harsh on a group of players who, since Cristiano Ronaldo's world record ?80million departure in 2009 have finished runners-up twice, by margins as thin as a single point and on goal difference, and, barring a disaster beyond comprehension, have now added a the most comfortable triumph since Chelsea's eight years ago to their 2011 success.
"We had a big job to do," said Ferguson.
"The way we lost it, and the fact it was City, gave us an incentive.
"You have to admire the focus we have shown this season. We are resilient and the consistency has been good.
"Like all the previous teams, they never give in. That is a fact.
"It is the history of the club more than anything.
"Once they have been here two or three years, the players buy into it. These are the qualities that have helped them to be where they are just now."
Not that Ferguson is particularly interested in making those comparisons everyone else appears so keen on.
"The awareness about the side this year is how many points they get," he said.
"That has to be considered in terms of judging us against other teams. But to be honest, whilst it is good for the fans to debate, it doesn't bother me."
The other point Ferguson did not make is that his own longevity allows him to plan ahead in a manner most of his counterparts cannot.
For instance, in January he secured the services of Wilfried Zaha, knowing he could afford to leave the England Under-21 winger on loan at Crystal Palace, furthering his education in the Eagles' Championship play-off push.
He has been able to continue moulding Danny Welbeck into the life of a United first-teamer, even if the striker's nomination as PFA Young Player of the Year has been condemned by many.
And now he is turning his attentions to massaging the ego of Javier Hernandez, perhaps the most vulnerable member of his strikeforce given how highly the Mexican is regarded across Europe and his relatively low number of key starts.
"We hope he feels as though he has made a contribution because we do," said Ferguson.
"It is not easy picking players when you have a squad of 26 and everyone is an international.
"But Javier has scored 16 goals and when he came at West Ham the other night his movement was terrific.
"He has got that in his locker all the time. His enthusiasm to play is always there.
"There is no reason to think this is not the place for him - and he is young enough to improve."
Ferguson could say similar things about so many in his squad.
In addition to Hernandez, David de Gea, Rafael, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alexander Buttner, Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa, Nick Powell and Welbeck have all still to reach their 25th birthday.
So, whilst there is bound to be more debate about the futures of Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Nani and Anderson over the summer, Ferguson can be reasonably confident the momentum generated by 23 years of sustained success will continue.
"There is enough improvement to come from this squad next season," said Ferguson.
"The younger players should improve.
"That is the object of every training session we do at this football club."
Ferdinand joined United for ?29.1million from Leeds in 2002, meaning he completed a decade of service last summer.
With his contract due to expire this year, there had been plenty of speculation about whether Ferdinand would stay, or if he might be tempted to accept one of the lucrative offers he has received to play in the Far East or Major League Soccer.
So far, there has been no confirmation either way.
However, in acknowledging Ferdinand is presently putting plans in place for a testimonial game, which currently has no date, or opponent but will take place at the start of next season, it seems the Londoner is ready to commit himself to United for another year.
"I have spoken to Rio," said Ferguson.
"I would imagine the best thing for him would be to stay but at this moment in time he is more concerned about getting an opponent for his testimonial game.
"But we want him to stay and I am sure his representatives will be talking about that with David (Gill)."
Of particular significance could be whether Ferdinand resumes his international career.
After being selected for the recent World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro, Ferdinand withdrew in controversial circumstances, citing an "intricate and pre-planned" training programme.
That move, and his subsequent decision to fly to Doha to commentate on the first of those World Cup qualifiers for Al Jazeera, led to Ferdinand being abused by England fans during the San Marino game, which is still the subject of a FIFA investigation.
Yet England boss Roy Hodgson must realise his central defensive options are no more extensive than they were prior to Ferdinand being called up in the first place.
Phil Jagielka missed Everton's defeat at Sunderland yesterday with an ankle injury, Joleon Lescott was pressed into service as an emergency striker as Manchester City slid to defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, when Steven Caulker remained on the bench throughout.
At Ferdinand's own club, neither Chris Smalling nor Phil Jones - who has impressed in a variety of positions recently - is challenging to displace their vastly experienced team-mate on a regular basis.
So, there would appear to be a ring of truth about speculation that Hodgson intends to speak with Ferdinand to establish whether his training regime would allow a call-up for the post-season friendlies against Republic of Ireland on May 29 and Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on June 2.