Nolan sings Carroll's praises

BY foxsports • April 21, 2013

Hertha Berlin have secured a return to the Bundesliga after beating Sandhausen 1-0 in the second division at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga scored the only goal in the 85th minute, moving Hertha 14 points clear of third-placed Kaiserslautern with four games remaining.

Two clubs are promoted automatically, with the third-placed club moving into the play-offs.

Hertha were relegated from the Bundesliga last season, the second time they had made the drop in the last three years.

Berlin had been the only major European capital without a top-flight club this season.

United are closing in on a record 20th league title which they can secure on Monday following Manchester City's 3-1 defeat at Tottenham.

Victory against Aston Villa at Old Trafford will also set them up for a four match run-in where maximum points would allow them to overhaul Chelsea's record Premier League total of 95 points.

Yet it seems destined to be a championship collected with caveats.

For few think this is one of Sir Alex Ferguson's best teams, let alone the finest since the league was changed in 1992.

It is not something particularly understood within the Red Devils camp - but then Evra is not that bothered about it.

"People want to see Manchester United fall down," said the France full-back.

"In the seven years I have been here, it has always been the same.

"When you lose one game it is like the end of the world.

"If you don't accept this pressure, you can't play for Manchester United."

What irritates Evra more is that United's critics prefer to ignore the positive aspects of their play.

For instance, at the start of the season, when they were continually hauling themselves back from losing positions, few looked at the battling qualities shown, preferring instead to concentrate on their leaky defence.

More recently, questions have been asked why the Red Devils have been so lacklustre, rather than focus on the 22 points collected from 27 since Gary Neville singled out David de Gea for criticism at Tottenham.

Even after their Champions League exit to Real Madrid, the hangover from which still appears to be lingering, United have collected 10 points from five games.

"It is right," said Evra.

"In the beginning of the season, Manchester United was not doing well, we always had to come back.

"But we did keep winning. People forget we are a marathon team.

"The league is not a sprint. People just want to see us playing well in a big game against City, or Liverpool.

"This is not the way to win a league. Of course you want to win against the big teams. But it is about how many games you win.

"I thought 'why are people talking. We are 12 or 15 points clear but they keep saying Manchester United this or that.

"If that is what they want to do, OK. But in the end, if we get to lift the trophy we will see who is right."

It appears Evra had it right 12 months ago.

For in the countdown to the momentous final day of last season, when he thought United's chance had gone, Evra reflected on a campaign in which his team had not been at their best but were able to fail by the narrowest of margins.

"Everyone said City were better than us, that they had played the best football," said Evra.

"I admit we didn't play well. But in the end we finished on the same points.

"In my last interview I said if Manchester United got the consistency back, maybe we can win the league by 10 points.

"For the moment I am wrong. It is 13 points.

"I didn't say it to make the fans, or the staff or my team-mates happy. I said it because it is the truth."

Ferguson is unique amongst modern day managers in being able to keep regenerating his squad to remain in contention for the major honours.

Planning for next season has already begun with the signing of England Under-21 star Wilfried Zaha, who will join United in the summer.

Last season, in the slipstream of Robin van Persie, came the relatively unheralded capture of Dutch full-back Alexander Buttner, who has provided the competition that allowed Evra to rediscover the form of his early days at Old Trafford.

"Alex is doing well," he said.

"He needs to keep going. He needs to challenge me next year.

"I like the challenge. Maybe it is because he signed that I scored four goals and had six assists.

"It is good to have a challenge."

The midfielder struck with a little over 10 minutes to go at Upton Park on Saturday to add to Matt Jarvis' first-half score and kill off any lingering chances of Wigan leaving east London with a positive result.

The defeat leaves the Latics in the Premier League relegation zone but moves West Ham back into the top half of the table.

Nolan, 30, had two chances in the first half to score the landmark goal but had to wait until late on after being set-up by close friend and former lodger Carroll.

"I'm absolutely delighted. To get to 42 points and to reach 100 goals too was nice," Nolan said.

"We have combined for quite a few goals - he keeps reminding me and saying that it's never the other way around. The big man's been fantastic since he's come back into the team.

"He's looking really sharp and fit - he had another couple of good chances on Saturday. We seem to get on really well on and off the pitch, we just click and that's helped us with our games."

Carroll has been in impressive form of late and West Ham manager Sam Allardyce remains hopeful he may be able to tie up a permanent deal for the Liverpool loanee in the summer.

Nolan also wants Carroll to stay and has urged his team-mates to finish the season strongly after all-but securing their top-flight status.

"I'm delighted that he's here and I'm hoping he will be for as long as I'm here," Nolan said.

"You only have to look at how many games we've played and how many goals we've scored to see that. We feel we can score against anyone and cause anyone problems.

"We can enjoy it (the rest of the season) but you have to remember we still have games in the Premier League to play. We're five unbeaten and we want to carry that on until the end of the season."

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was unhappy with the goals he saw his side concede at Upton Park and bemoaned their inability to find the back of the net of late.

"The two goals are very soft from our point-of-view," he told the club's official website.

"If you're going to go away from home and concede in that manner then you've got an impossible mission to get a result.

"At the other end you look at the opportunities we created, but unfortunately converting chances hasn't been our strong point lately."

The FA Cup finalists remain three points adrift of safety but the cup run means Wigan have a game in hand on a number of teams in and around them in the table.

Martinez praised his players' work ethic in losing at West Ham and is hopeful another famous Wigan escape act can still be completed.

"Both of today's teams were tired but we were the ones showing good energy towards the end, we just had to take those chances we created," he said.

"We've still got an extra game on the team's around us and still have the opportunity to reach the figure we need to achieve our aims."

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