Saturday, 12 May 2007

Giggs: 'This can be the best United ever'

United's favourite old son is revelling in a new central role - and is convinced Ferguson's latest creation could surpass previous generations

Spring is in the air and in everyone's step around Old Trafford, most notably in that of the oldest of the old boys. Once Chelsea's new money took over from Arsenal's aristocrats, Sir Alex Ferguson and Ryan Giggs must privately have wondered whether their handsome medal collection was complete; but after today's home game with West Ham the Premiership trophy will be handed back to Manchester United, and on Saturday the chance exists to complete a fourth Double. Giggs, like Ferguson, appears to have been given a new lease of life by the emergence of this young United side and there is something touching about his obvious excitement at the prospect of walking out at Wembley again.

Winning the Cup would be Giggs's 17th major honour, eclipsing Liverpool's Phil Neal as the English game's most decorated player, and at 33 he is entitled to adopt an air of having seen it all before. Instead, a boyish enthusiasm shines through, undiminished by life as an elder statesman and father of two in his £5 million Victorian pile: "For me personally it was great to play in Cardiff, but as far as I'm concerned the FA Cup final should be played at Wembley. It looks very good on the television and we're just excited to be back. It gave us an extra incentive, because you want to be at the first Cup final at Wembley, you don't want to miss out and be sat at home watching on TV thinking, 'We could be there'. That's where it belongs, and you want to be part of it."

In Giggs's case it will be a seventh Cup final, the previous half-dozen having produced four wins and two defeats. And in the beginning, at Wembley 1994, there was Chelsea, albeit a very different outfit under Glenn Hoddle to the force United will face this week: "Winning the first one [4-0] was obviously a good memory, it was a Double-winning season, one of the few occasions it rained, which I was quite happy with because I didn't particularly like playing at Wembley.

"It was sticky and dry and for someone who likes to dribble it was always tough, the grass was so lush. Actually I think Chelsea beat us twice in the League that season. They hit the crossbar and they were the better team in the first half, but then we got the first goal and deserved to win in the end. I hope it's 4-0 again but I don't think it will be! In '95 we got beat by Everton, which was disappointing, but one of the most memorable FA Cups was probably Liverpool the next year, beating our biggest rivals, great memories of that game."

If neutrals were less enamoured by that desperately dour encounter, Giggs provided them with a genuinely iconic Cup moment en route to his next final in 1999. In a thrilling semi-final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park, he scored one of the great individual goals with that slalom through the defence, rounded off by a slashing shot and hairy-chested, shirt-waving celebration. Victory over Newcastle at Wembley completed another Double but Cardiff, while home from home, provided mixed memories, with a routine win over Millwall and an undeserved defeat on penalties after dominating Arsenal the following year.

For a while he could not be sure of a starting place, and on one occasion was even jeered by United supporters when substituted against Blackburn. Yet the kids who threatened his place have now helped his rejuvenation and reinvention as a central midfielder. "Certain players give you a new lease of life," he says. "You get a buzz from watching them play, and in the last couple of days I've got a real buzz out of seeing the faces of the lads who've won their first championship.

"I remember when I won my first championship, it's the best feeling in the world, and to get that buzz and see their faces, how they're so happy to have done it, that's definitely been a factor in enjoying my football a little bit more this season. Seeing the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo and the performances of Fletcher and Sheasy [O'Shea] gives you a lift, because there's real quality in the team and it's great to see."

With Ronaldo and often Rooney out wide, Giggs and Paul Scholes have brought their experience to bear in a more central role that he feels could help prolong his career further; perhaps even beyond the contract that expires at the end of next season. He needs 46 more appearances to overhaul Sir Bobby Charlton's club record of 759 and Ferguson believes he can play for at least two more years.

"I've enjoyed playing in a central role, you're involved a lot more than on the wing, where you're reliant on people giving you the ball. Even when I play on the wing I'm not playing like I did 10 years ago anyway. You use your experience and positional sense and just try to be clever. You aren't going to be as quick at 33 as you were at 17 but you are maybe a bit quicker in the brain and have that experience as well."

As to Saturday's task, and in particular the contrast in the two teams' styles: "I've got to be careful what I say! We're a bit more cavalier whereas Chelsea are a bit more patient, European in a way, how they pack the midfield, try to get possession of the ball. They've got that defensive base and platform but also players who can go out and win games. We probably play a little bit differently, with wide men and players who can score from anywhere, that's the way United have always played."

He is clearly proud to have been a part of that tradition ever since his 14th birthday, the day on which Ferguson arrived in person on his doorstep to secure a coveted signature. Now he goes as far as to say that the manager's latest creation could become his best: "Potentially this team can be the best definitely, because of the quality and age of the team. So many players are at the start of their career or are starting to hit their peak and we genuinely have world-class players. There's real quality in the squad, and depth. Obviously, you need things to go right for you injury-wise, but potentially this side can be consistently good over the next five or six years."

He does acknowledge, however, that to be universally acclaimed as the best United side of modern times would necessitate securing another European crown at least: "It's always something you want to achieve. You always want to win the Premiership, then after that it's the Champions' League. You can't really prioritise, but this season the target was to win the Premiership, then the next step is the Champions' League. We deserved the Premiership this year, we played great football but have been consistent and had that bit of steel as well. Now can we go on and win it again? I'm sure we can, because we've got the ability and the hunger."

Although Giggs is not big on personal milestones, a 10th championship would assuredly have a certain ring - as well as almost certainly never being beaten. In the meantime, he has regained a place in both the team and supporters' hearts that was briefly - and inexplicably - lost.

The Record-Breaker: The public life of Private Ryan

Long-Service Awards

In addition to his record haul of nine League titles, eclipsing the eight won by Alan Hansen and Phil Neal, Giggs holds the record for trophies won by a player; he has earned four FA Cup and two League Cup medals and a Champions' League medal to sit alongside those League souvenirs, plus has finished runner-up in the Premiership four times, the FA Cup twice and League Cup twice.

Brothers United In Triumph

Ryan isn't the only Giggs to play on the wing for United and win a title this season; his younger brother Rhodri turns out on the right (and sometimes as a striker) for FC United of Man-chester, the club set up by fans opposed to the Glazers' takeover at Old Trafford. This season they are First Division champions of the North West Counties League, having won the Second Division last year.

Major Disappointment

Giggs won his 62nd cap for Wales in the 3-0 win against San Marino in March, but has yet to play in a major championship. The enduring myth that he could have elected to play for England stems from his appearances for England Schoolboys, but that was open to anyone being educated in the country. Giggs was born in Wales to Welsh parents (though his father, the rugby league player Danny Wilson, was originally from Sierra Leone) and would not have qualified to play for England.

Fistful Of Firsts

Giggs was the first to win the PFA Young Player of the Year Award twice (1992-93), a feat since emulated by Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney. He is the scorer of United's fastest goal, after 15 seconds against Southampton in November 1995, is the first player in Champions' League history to score in 12 successive seasons, and is one of only two players (the other is Gary Speed) to score in every Premiership season.

Classic Remark From Homer

Giggs is the only Premiership player to be mentioned in The Simpsons, in November 2003 when Homer, visiting England, says to Marge: "Can you believe they gave Giggs a yellow card?"


Sunday, 6 May 2007

EPL 2006 - 2007: Fergie has one hand on the trophy

Does it really matter where, when and how the medals are secured? Does it matter that Manchester United's players could be enjoying a siesta on a welcome day off and Sir Alex Ferguson will be patrolling the golf course if weather permits?

All that matters is, the finish line is in sight. United secured the required win in the den of their neighbours and if Chelsea do not win at Arsenal this afternoon, they will be over the line.

Even if Chelsea can delay the passing of the baton back to the Old Trafford team after three seasons of London champions, United will need only a point from their two remaining league matches, at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and at home to West Ham on Sunday. Deliverance here came courtesy of two penalties that went in their favour - Cristiano Ronaldo scored and Edwin van der Sar blocked - and the United contingent celebrated with the conviction of a team who know that their work is all but done, the players hurling shirts and clenching fists in front of their supporters, with Ferguson on the pitch grinning wildly behind them. This was the perfect antidote to the deflation inflicted by Kaka and company in the Champions League last week. It has been an emotionally charged few days.

Ferguson summed up his team's efforts with the phrase 'pure courage'. It certainly took bravery for Ronaldo to withstand the full force of Michael Ball, especially on the back of a stinker at the San Siro last week.

In the frenetic opening moments, Ball took the opportunity to aim a sly and ugly stamp into Ronaldo's midriff while the double player of the year was grounded. The thought occurred that it was just as well Joey Barton was not in the vicinity. Ferguson railed on the touchline. The City fans wailed back. The temperature soared. What must Jose Mourinho have thought watching on television? A symbol of game on?

Hardly. It was more of a clue as to what would decide this crucial instalment of the Premiership quest. Ball was on a mission to stop Ronaldo more by foul means than fair. Unfortunately for City, they had no other means of squaring up to United.

This particular duel aside, it was too cagey a spectacle to set the pulses racing. United were comfortable, if tired. City were toothless. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand struck the bar from set pieces in the opening 25 minutes. United's breakthrough arrived shortly after and it was no surprise to see the joint catalysts were Ronaldo and his gritty shadow. When Smith's crossfield pass found Ronaldo, the overture to his dribble consisted of two stepovers - evidently a red rag to Ball's bull. The City left-back crowned a malicious performance when he dived in and naively kicked at Ronaldo's foot. Rob Styles pointed for a penalty without hesitation and the boy himself relished the chance to put United in front.

Ronaldo, hardly one to keep things simple if there is some showmanship to be had, used the old Robbie Fowler routine. He stepped forward, stopped, then whacked his spot-kick low into the corner. It was his seventeenth Premiership goal of a campaign Ferguson described as 'a fantastic season for the boy'.

There was little evidence that City could respond to peg United back, considering the closest they came to troubling Van der Sar until their 80th-minute penalty was a volley from Emile Mpenza aimed nicely at the goalkeeper's chest. Stuart Pearce tried to inject a fraction more energy when he replaced the creaking Dietmar Hamann with Sun Jihai at the interval. But the second half served up more of the same as United stroked the ball around without exerting too much of what was left of their mental and physical power after arriving home deflated from Milan at 5am on Thursday.

Ten minutes from time, United's title advantage hung in the balance as Ball jinked into the area and crashed into Wes Brown. Styles awarded the second penalty of the match. Thousands of Chelsea fans willed Darius Vassell to do the honours, but the former England striker shot straight down the middle of the goal, enabling Van der Sar to pull off a theatrical save with his legs. And the Dutchman knew it, roaring to the heavens before the ball had even been cleared.

And so the chance for City to end their uneasy run without a goal at home was dashed. They have not scored at the City of Manchester Stadium since New Year's Day. On this evidence they may not until 2008. 'Putting the ball in the back of the net is our Achilles' heel,' lamented Pearce afterwards. 'It is what we have to address going into next season.'

Unsurprisingly, the stadium was half empty by the time the City players reemerged for a sheepish lap of honour. Their fans may feel like hibernating over the next few days. Apart from the handful who left the ground in the free City scarves that had been handed out singing 'We're all going to Wembley'.

Man of the Match - Nemanja Vidic

There is only one contender if the criteria are the game's most influential player and talking point - Michael Ball wins that hands down. But seeing how the City left-back undermined his case through the ugliness of his performance, the honours go to the cool and composed Vidic.


Sunday, 29 April 2007

EPL 2006 - 2007: Fergie happy to give Sam a smooch

'I'll be giving him a hug and a kiss. In fact, he can have a hug and two kisses.'

Manchester United showed patience as well as poise in coming back from two goals down to put one hand on the Premiership trophy. Sir Alex Ferguson was relaxed enough to keep Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench even when Everton scored their scintillating second in the 50th minute, because he felt he had enough quality on the pitch both to create and convert chances.

So it proved, and a combination of four goals in the last half-hour and the scoreline from Stamford Bridge had Ferguson dancing on the touchline at the end. With Chelsea failing to win again, the title could be decided next weekend, if United win the Manchester derby and Chelsea cannot beat Arsenal at The Emirates. 'Obviously, a five-point lead is significant with three games to play,' Ferguson said. 'The momentum is back with us now, though you can never count your chickens in football. Look at the way the game went today. I can't explain that, but it's football.'

Everton supporters had a few explanations for the way the game went, ranging from criminally poor defending to the £500,000 bonus the club will receive by virtue of Wayne Rooney's transfer negotiation, should United win the title. United are famous for comebacks, although when the team in front are as generous as Everton this one cannot rank with Turin or Barcelona, no matter how significant the result.

The game was full of ironies. The best goal of the afternoon was scored by a Portuguese winger who has no chance of being footballer of the year. United equalised through an own goal by the Everton captain, playing against his old club. A mistake by rookie goalkeeper Iain Turner, playing only because United held Everton to the strict terms of Tim Howard's original loan deal, cost the home side dear. But the greatest irony of all was Rooney scoring and creating the last two goals on the day Goodison mourned Alan Ball.

Ball's memory was cheered for minutes on end, and Rooney was booed for just as long. Ball was Everton's last international icon, Rooney was supposed to be their latest, but the club's status has diminished in the intervening years. It would be harsh to say they now know how Blackpool must have felt in the 1960s - not when Everton are challenging for a Uefa Cup place - although tours of the two club's trophy rooms would show certain similarities.

There was nothing wrong with the way Everton started. Joleon Lescott headed against the bar after three minutes and Alan Stubbs put them ahead 10 minutes later, his somewhat ambitious drive from a free-kick 30 yards out being lifted over Edwin van der Sar by a crucial deflection off Michael Carrick. Rooney went close a couple of times before the interval, but otherwise Everton's policy of retreating into defence and leaving James Vaughan on his own up front looked capable of smothering United's disjointed attacking efforts.

If there was surprise when Ronaldo failed to appear after the interval, there was amazement when United's only response to going two down was to send on Kieran Richardson. Manuel Fernandes, on loan from Benfica but with his value rising with each impressive display, collected Mikel Arteta's pass and completely ignored Wes Brown's attempt to block him as he lashed a shot past Van der Sar from the edge of the area before saluting the Gwladys Street End in a manner reminiscent of Ball.

Everton fans need a little more than a two-goal lead to start to party, however, and a match-turning incident on the hour showed why. Turner claimed a Giggs corner then dropped it under no pressure, allowing John O'Shea to score. Almost without trying, United were back in the game. Now Ronaldo came on, in time to meet a Carrick corner after 68 minutes with a header that caused such consternation on the Everton line that Phil Neville beat his own goalkeeper.

There was only going to be one conclusion to the game now, and sure enough Rooney provided it. He had already missed a decent chance from a Giggs pass, taking the ball too far round the goalkeeper, but when Tony Hibbert passed straight to Ronaldo 11 minutes from the end Rooney was on the end of O'Shea's cross to score at the far post. Ronaldo surprisingly wasted a glorious chance of a fourth just before the end when with all the time and space in the world he too could not find a way round Turner, but in stoppage time substitute Chris Eagles applied the coup de grace by running on to Rooney's delicately timed pass to finish confidently for his first United goal.

It will be a surprise if what is left of the title race produces anything as dramatic, although David Moyes correctly pointed out United scored their goals far too easily. 'We gave United an opportunity to get back in the game,' Moyes said. 'Their first goal was a big turning point and it was all our fault. So were the other three. It was poor all round really. We made it easy for them. If they had opened us up in the way they can do, I'd be the first to congratulate them, but today we gave them the goals.'

And with them, surely, the title. The showdown at Stamford Bridge next month could be a lap of honour for United unless both Chelsea and Manchester City can win their derbies next weekend. Bolton are fairly popular at Old Trafford at the moment, too. Would Fergie be giving Big Sam a call? 'I'll be giving him a hug and a kiss,' the United manager said. 'In fact, he can have a hug and two kisses.'


Thursday, 26 April 2007

Champions League 2006-2007: "No other team scores as many late goals as us"

With Manchester United it is never over until the fat lady has collapsed in a wheezing heap. "No other team scores as many late goals as us," Sir Alex Ferguson likes to boast, and whatever happens in the remainder of this season's Champions League there can be no doubting their current status as the most exciting team in Europe. "Fantastique Manchester United" was one headline in France yesterday as the world's press salivated over another exhilarating demonstration of attacking, one-touch, stylishly penetrative football.

The accolades are richly deserved given the way Ferguson's players seem intent on obliterating the reputation of Italian defending but, amid the euphoria of Wayne Rooney's late and dramatic winner in Tuesday's 3-2 win over Milan, it should not be overlooked that the Rossoneri's players were also claiming a victory as they left Old Trafford. With two away goals, nothing can be taken for granted in the second leg.

"I believe we are favourites," Kaka, Milan's sweetly gifted Brazilian, said in the bowels of the stadium, and the six-times winners will glean hope when they analyse United's record in this competition over the past few seasons, with only two wins in their past 13 away games. A draw would suffice for the Premiership leaders but Ferguson's team have lost at FC Copenhagen, Celtic and Roma this season and Milan have not dropped a point in a home game in Serie A since a scoreless draw against Torino on December 10.

The news from Milan's training ground last night was good for Carlo Ancelotti and bad for Ferguson, namely that Paolo Maldini should be fit for the second leg, having lasted only 45 minutes on Tuesday, and that Gennaro Gattuso is fine despite his rather hammy departure on a stretcher. Rooney, it should be noted, did not peak until Maldini's withdrawal and even though Gattuso failed to exert his usual influence he is such an important player for Milan that the visitors suffered without him. Cristian Brocchi, his 52nd-minute replacement, was responsible for losing the ball to Ryan Giggs in the build-up to Rooney's second goal.

Ferguson was again invigorated by his team's performance and sufficiently emboldened to talk of his players being in a "fantastic position". They will begin at San Siro as favourites but the word "marginal" should be applied and if that sounds pessimistic then refer to what Ferguson himself said after United lost the first leg of their quarter-final against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. On that occasion he said the 2-1 deficit represented a "good result" because "the away goals are invaluable in these two-legged fixtures".

The trick will be to prevent Milan from scoring and Ferguson will be without the injured Gary Neville and Nemanja Vidic plus the suspended Patrice Evra, although he clings to hope that Rio Ferdinand will have recovered from a groin strain even though the defender was originally ruled out until the visit to Chelsea on May 9.

Gabriel Heinze is a feisty left-back but has not been the same player since rupturing knee ligaments 19 months ago and was partly culpable for both of Kaka's goals, outpaced for one and outmanoeuvred for the other. Those lapses may make it imperative for United's attacking players to take the game to Milan, searching for an away goal of their own, rather than being cagey. Despite United's reputation for going "goal crazy", as Kaka put it, Ferguson frequently tries a more defensive 4-5-1 formation on the club's European excursions.

"We wanted to keep a clean sheet because away goals are key in this competition," observed the seasoned Giggs. "We didn't want to give away one goal, let alone two, so that has knocked the stuffing out of us a little bit.

"We'll probably have to defend better in the away leg but we're capable of doing that. It's going to be difficult, as it always is in the San Siro, but we saw enough in the second half to show we can get a good result if we keep our character and nerve. At the moment we feel that we're going to create chances every time we go out."


Saturday, 14 April 2007

FA Cup 2006-2007: "Que sera sera... we're going to Wembley!"

Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo combined with devastating effect to sink Watford 4-1 and book Manchester United a place in the FA Cup final.

In a week when Ronaldo has been hailed by Sir Alex Ferguson as a possible equal to Pele and Maradona - and signed a new £31million contract - Rooney proved the Portugal winger is not the only brilliant youngster at Old Trafford.

The 21-year-old lashed United into an early lead against Watford, then teed up Ronaldo to put them back in front following Hameur Bouazza's leveller.

With a booking for a feisty challenge on Tommy Smith as well, it was vintage Rooney and his tap-in put United on easy street long before Kieran Richardson finished off the scoring with a neat effort.

Yet amid the celebrations of an eighth final appearance under Ferguson, and the prospect of a mouth-watering clash with Chelsea, the concerns in the United camp were obvious following the loss of Rio Ferdinand to a groin injury.

With John O'Shea missing, Nemanja Vidic and Mikael Silvestre sidelined with long-term problems and Gary Neville at least a week away from a return to action from his ankle problem, Ferguson's defensive options have been ravaged to the extent Darren Fletcher was forced into the right-back role, with rookie Youth Cup star Craig Cathcart the only alternative.

At such a crucial stage of their Treble bid, and with so many opponents to face of far superior quality than Championship-bound Watford, United are facing the biggest test of their season.

Sheffield United, fresh from their hammering of West Ham, meet United on Tuesday, although Ferguson will at least allow his players the luxury of some celebration before addressing the Blades' visit.

For, while never hitting the heights of their seven-goal rout of Roma, the Red Devils still managed a thrill or two, and in Rooney had a stand-out star who looks set to be a major influence on United's bid for honours over the coming weeks.

Having witnessed United's awesome strength first hand on Tuesday, the last thing Aidy Boothroyd would have wanted was for his side to concede as early as the seventh minute.

The spellbinding movement of Rooney, Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs had already caused Watford a few headaches before they were opened up in startlingly simple fashion.

Gabriel Heinze started the move with an inside pass to Michael Carrick. The former Tottenham man quickly fed Rooney, who stepped inside Adrian Mariappa and promptly smashed the ball into the roof of Richard Lee's net.

Fists raised in triumph, Ferguson emerged from his dug-out to celebrate, the Red Devils fans roared and Villa Park awaited a slaughter.

The intense pressure duly came but Watford gamely clung on and received an unexpected reward when Bouazza levelled.

United's defence appeared to lose concentration during a lengthy stoppage while Edwin van der Sar had treatment for a bang on his nose.

Jay DeMerit helped back a long Gavin Mahon throw back into the box and Bouazza got a firm strike on a volley which bounced in off the crossbar after flicking off Heinze.

Had Watford remained on terms for any length of time, particularly given Ferdinand's early departure, they would have scented a shock.

Instead, their equaliser merely ignited their opponents - and Rooney in particular - to greater effort.

The England striker has had his critics this season but his determination to shove United in front again was immense.

Charging to the touchline, Rooney first won possession with a robust aerial challenge on Jordan Stewart. He then totally outpaced the Watford full-back as he strode onto Smith's return pass before delaying his cross long enough for Ronaldo to steal between two defenders and tap home one of the easier goals of the 21 he has scored this term.

Yet again, United were dominant, some of their play mesmerising.

But their enthusiasm was cut short by Ferdinand's glum trudge to the touchline, accepting the futility of carrying on in such pain.

His exit triggered a defensive reshuffle which saw Fletcher fill in at right-back, with Heinze alongside Wes Brown in the centre.

The uncertainty within United's defence was obvious immediately after the re-start as Bouazza volleyed a good chance wide after another Mahon through created mayhem.

Van der Sar was then required to palm a Bouazza cross-shot away from his own bar and the sight of Ferguson exchanging angry words with Giggs was a sure sign of tension in the United camp.

Thankfully for Ferguson, his attack remains in tact and after providing Rooney with a tap-in, Smith fed Richardson, who completed a win which looked much more comfortable than it was.


Ronaldo decides to stay at United

'It emphasises the point that Cristiano is happy here and that he is at the right club'

A spectacularly good week for Manchester United fans got even better today when Cristiano Ronaldo signed a new five-year deal that should keep him at Old Trafford until 2012.

Over the past few months, Ronaldo has been repeatedly linked with a £54m move to Real Madrid, but today he insisted he never entertained serious thoughts of leaving United. "I am delighted," he said. "I spoke with Sir Alex and [chief executive] David Gill about my future and everyone knew that I wanted to stay. I am very happy at the club and I want to win trophies and hopefully we will do that this season."

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was equally ebullient after the deal was announced. "It is fantastic news, it emphasises the point that Cristiano is happy here and that he is at the right club," he said. "He has a great relationship with the team, staff and the fans and he will go on to be one of Manchester United's great players."

Fellow United winger Ryan Giggs believes the Old Trafford club have secured the services of the best player in the world. "I don't believe there is anyone who could rival him as being the best player in the world," Giggs said. "For someone in his position, and of his age, to be as consistent as he has been, is remarkable. To secure his future for the next five years is great news for everyone."

Ronaldo has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 20 goals in 50 games, and was also instrumental in United's 7-1 destruction of Roma on Tuesday. La Repubblica described him after the game as "the best in the world. Or at least the most entertaining." Right now, few people would disagree.

Fans Reaction

"Great news to see Ronaldo has signed. The notion of him leaving for Madrid seemed ludicrous anyway. United are look good for trophies this season and has a solid and youthful foundation for continued sucess. Real are in a period of contracted transition from the gallactico era. They will come good again but are not the best place for the world young talent to ply their trade. They risk becoming embroilled in a period of relative decline. At this moment in time, therefore, I can see little purely sporting reason to elave United. 54 million is a lot of money but when you have a player playing this well at 22 you make damn sure you keep him for at least the foreseeable future. Money might run football these days but clubs still neceitate sucess on the field. There is no better economic stragergy than young brilliant players to provide a long period of quality football. Selling is never an option in this case for clubs with big ambitions." - tasd2, Manchester United fan.

"Awesome news on Cristiano Ronaldo signing a new five year deal that puts any speculation regarding his future to bed, so it goes to show that Real madrid dont always get there way or was a lot of the original speculation the press assuming that they would be going for him in the summer?" - 16_itachi, Manchester United fan.

"haha ronaldo signs new deal to keep him at ot till 2012 that shoul shut real and barca up and also their idiotic papers.great day for us today hope he celebrates new deal with a hattrick against watford wembly here we come" - RED_DEVIL23, Manchester United fan.

"Great news that Ronaldo is staying, this shows a clear intention to the prem and to europe that United are going to be a serious force for the foreseeable future. 2 or 3 additions in the summer and we could well be on the dawn of another golden era." - mikeyt43, Manchester United fan.