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Ferguson steps up treble quest

Ferguson steps up treble quest

first_img Press Association Twelve points clear in the Premier League, and back home from Madrid with an encouraging draw from their Champions League first-leg meeting with Real, United’s attentions switch to the FA Cup when they entertain Reading on Monday night. “The manager has stressed that he expects to go to the end in all three competitions,” said defender Chris Smalling. “The FA Cup is notoriously unpredictable. Luton reached the fifth round this year, which shows that anything can happen so there is no point looking too far ahead. “But our home form has been good and another victory can give us the impetus to kick on and get to another final.” United’s last final appearance was in 2007, the first to be played at the new Wembley, when they were beaten in extra time by Chelsea. It was one of a series of unpleasant recent experiences for the Red Devils in a competition they have won a record 11 times. Ferguson has never forgotten how his side dominated Arsenal in 2005 but still got beaten in a penalty shoot-out, whilst Wembley appearances for semi-finals against Everton in 2009 and Manchester City two years later both ended in disappointment. It means they have not won the competition since defeating Championship outfit Millwall in 2004, which came as a surprise to Smalling. “I was quite shocked at how long it has been since United won the FA Cup,” said Smalling. center_img Sir Alex Ferguson has urged his Manchester United players to step on the gas in their quest for the treble.last_img read more

Fergie ponders retirement – reports

Fergie ponders retirement – reports

first_imgSir Alex Ferguson is reportedly considering his position as manager of Manchester United. Press Association Only this past weekend, writing in his programme notes to preview Sunday’s Barclays Premier League defeat by Chelsea, Ferguson insisted he was intent on carrying on indefinitely. In the wake of securing his 13th league title – and 20th overall for the club – he said: “This team of champions is not going away – we are here for the long ride. We will get better and if we apply ourselves in our normal fashion I see our 20th league title as nothing but the start of another decade of success. “Whether I will be here to oversee another decade of success remains to be seen, but I certainly don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see.” There have nevertheless been signs in recent times to suggest Ferguson’s days at the United helm might be numbered. Last week, United privately confirmed Ferguson had been booked in for hip surgery in August, after the club’s pre-season tour, which involves trips to Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. The timing of the operation appeared strange, especially as it is believed he could have undergone the procedure immediately following the end of this season. Then on Monday, bookmakers slashed the odds on David Moyes replacing Ferguson amid reports the Everton manager would spend a season as his fellow Scot’s assistant. None of these stories have triggered any official comment from the club, who, as a partially floated company, are bound by US Stock Exchange rules and will surely be required to confirm the position in due course given Ferguson’s significance. If Ferguson does leave, he would do so as Britain’s most successful manager, having claimed his 49th piece of silverware with this season’s title win. center_img A number of Wednesday’s national newspapers claim the 71-year-old is ready to stand down, bringing an end to his hugely successful 26-and-a-half years at the helm. The club were not available for comment when contacted by Press Association Sport on Tuesday night. last_img read more

Norwich safe with West Brom thumping

Norwich safe with West Brom thumping

first_img Wes Hoolahan’s movement was a particular nuisance for the Baggies and the industry of Snodgrass was troublesome, too. Snodgrass created an opportunity for the Canaries as the ball broke for Anthony Pilkington, who fired a left-footed shot Foster could only parry away. A corner followed which the visitors failed to adequately clear before going behind. Holt crossed, Ryan Bennett won a header down towards Hoolahan, whose attempt to turn the ball in was saved by Foster. The ball ricocheted into the left side of the area and Snodgrass swept a left-footed effort into the roof of the net for his seventh of the season. Hoolahan tried to provide another spark for City and saw his dipping shot from 30 yards tipped over by Foster. Snodgrass’ set-piece resulted in a melee and the ball hit Jonas Olsson on the arm, but referee Howard Webb adjudged it was ball-to-hand contact and rejected penalty appeals. Manager Steve Clarke reacted to his side’s insipid first-half showing by introducing Billy Jones for Steven Reid and fit-again captain Chris Brunt for Markus Rosenberg, but it made little difference early on. Olsson survived another handball appeal when Pilkington failed to connect with Holt’s knockdown from a Russell Martin free-kick. Snodgrass then hesitated when through on goal and Olsson recovered to nick the ball. Foster spilled a Bradley Johnson cross and Holt could not quite get over a header from a Snodgrass cross as Norwich kept up the pressure. The hosts had the second their play deserved after 62 minutes – and it was a gift from Foster. The goalkeeper met Hoolahan’s prod forward with a mis-kick which allowed Holt to walk the ball in, igniting chants of “We are staying up”. Delight turned to jubilation when Norwich had their third as McAuley, under pressure from Bennett, turned a Snodgrass set-piece into his own net. There was still time for a fourth as Howson cut in from the right, received a return pass from Holt’s replacement Luciano Becchio, and found the top corner. Norwich confirmed their Barclays Premier League survival with an emphatic 4-0 victory over West Brom at Carrow Road. Press Associationcenter_img Robert Snodgrass gave the Canaries a half-time lead before a Ben Foster howler gifted Grant Holt the second and former Ipswich defender Gareth McAuley’s own goal prompted Delia Smith to dance with delight. The Baggies were woeful and Jonny Howson scored a spectacular late fourth as Chris Hughton’s men claimed a third win in 20 Premier League games to make certain of their top-flight status ahead of next week’s final day trip to Manchester City. last_img read more

Starstruck Hendrick lives the dream

Starstruck Hendrick lives the dream

first_imgJeff Hendrick is still coming to terms with rubbing shoulders with Ireland’s biggest stars. The 21-year-old Derby midfielder has established himself firmly in Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad just a few months after his elevation from the Under-21s, and could be handed a World Cup qualifier debut against the Faroe Islands on Friday night. However, he is yet to fully comprehend just how he has gone from watching Robbie Keane and his team-mates on television to playing in the same team. “For the 2002 World Cup, I was only nine or 10 and I had my face painted watching him [Keane] scoring goals, and now to be involved in the squad with him is great,” Hendrick said. “I was watching in the pub – I wasn’t drinking, though! “Last October, I was with the Under-21s and I was watching them all playing games, and then when I was brought into the squad, it was unreal. It’s great. As a kid, it’s what you dream of, just being involved.” Hendrick’s rise has been little short of meteoric with Trapattoni having spotted something in him as he trawled for a new generation of Ireland players. He made his third appearance as a substitute in Sunday’s 4-0 friendly victory over Georgia, and having set up Wes Hoolahan for a goal on his debut against Poland in February, he did the same for Keane at the weekend. He said: “I’m happy, really, if I just don’t mess up on the pitch. I’m glad to set the lads up for a goal. If I am not scoring, I like to set someone else up.” Hendrick has stepped on to the international stage as if to the manner born, and has certainly not looked out of place in a green shirt. However, he modestly plays down his contribution to date. When it was suggested to him that he looked like he belonged on the pitch against the Georgians, he said: “I don’t know about that. I am just happy to get on the pitch, as I said, and try to get as many minutes as possible and learn as many things as I can to improve my own game.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Sprint target for Ballycroy

Sprint target for Ballycroy

first_imgMichael Halford has confirmed Via Ballycroy an “intended” runner in Saturday’s 100,000 euro Paddy Power Sprint at the Curragh. The four-year-old was last seen displaying a smart turn of foot to win the Texacloth Handicap over course and distance in May, when coming home under Shane Foley half a length clear of Arbitrageur. Halford said: “She’s an intended runner and has come out of her last race in good form. I’m very happy with her as she has come forward nicely.” He added: “I’m hoping for a good draw and if she gets it, she should give a good account of herself. She goes well on fast ground and six furlongs is ideal.” Halford clearly thinks a bit of his filly as she has entries in next month’s Group Three Brownstown Stakes at Fairyhouse and the Group Three Invesco Pension Consultants Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh. He added: “We’ll take it a day at a time but if she runs well at the weekend, that will be the way she’s going.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Chic success for France

Chic success for France

first_img Alain de Royer-Dupre’s filly would have been an easy winner at Saint-Cloud in May but for hanging badly before colliding with a hedge and falling, and she was again awkward when second in the Prix de Diane on her last start. She gave Johnny Murtagh plenty to think about here, too, as she dramatically veered to her left in the closing stages. Her drift started at the furlong pole, but such was her turn of foot she was still able to prevail in a blanket finish from the late-charging Venus De Milo, who did have the winner crossing in front of her close home before going down by half a length. Just Pretending and Riposte had looked like battling out the finish before Chicquita (9-2) appeared on the scene, while Venus De Milo ran a cracking race on just her third racecourse appearance, closing all the way to the line. A stewards’ inquiry was called, but the placings remained unaltered. Royer-Dupre said: “It is quite different to my last winner of this race, Shawanda, because she was unbeaten and this one, she had never won before. She is a great filly and I wanted to try another Group One rather than to go into an easier race. “Her temperament is very interesting because she is very quiet in training, she never does anything wrong, and in the afternoon sometimes she goes to the left. She is quite tricky to ride in a race. Johnny Murtagh did well as she is not easy to ride. He got her relaxed and I told him when he asked her, to do it gently and not to surprise her. “The Curragh is a marvellous track, one of the best in Europe and if you have a good horse to come here, you are sure to show something. She’s the best filly I have in my yard. That’s why I decided after she fell back in Saint-Cloud to go straight away to the Prix de Diane, because I know she has talent. “I’ll never know why she flew into the hedge at Saint-Cloud that day, I think she wanted to come home too early. She will probably go now for the Prix Vermeille and then maybe the Arc. I think she is good on any ground.” Murtagh, who went on to a treble on the card, added: “It was pretty straightforward really. She has drifted out, but she is difficult. She’s done it before. When she drifted out, I let her go because I didn’t want to be carrying anything wide. Seamie (Heffernan, on Venus De Milo) was coming behind me but he never stopped riding. The best filly won on the day. “The stewards’ inquiry went on for a while, but it was never in doubt. I gave her one little flick and and when I did she went left. At the line she really went left, she nearly threw it away, but she won well. She’s a very, very high-class filly. She has lots going on in her mind but if Alain de Royer-Dupre can channel that energy, she’s a seriously good filly.” Chicquita shed her maiden tag in the best possible fashion with victory in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh.center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Royals take Sharp on loan

Royals take Sharp on loan

first_img The 27-year-old is reunited with Royals boss Nigel Adkins, who managed him at St Mary’s and also at Scunthorpe. Sharp has scored 140 career goals but has not made an appearance for Southampton since August 2012, his last action coming in a loan spell with Nottingham Forest last season. Press Association Reading have signed striker Billy Sharp on loan from Southampton.center_img Nevertheless he will go straight into the Reading squad for Saturday’s visit of Birmingham. last_img read more

Earls injury hits Irish hopes

Earls injury hits Irish hopes

first_img Now he will sit out Ireland’s Six Nations challenge as new head coach Joe Schmidt takes control of his first championship. “Obviously we’re really disappointed about Keith,” said Schmidt. “I think Keith is a super player and it’s disappointing that we will be without him.” A new three-year IRFU contract for Jamie Heaslip was the antidote to Earls’ disappointment, the 30-year-old rejecting the latest to spurn Toulon’s advances. Heaslip’s signature ends worries any of Ireland’s top stars will join Johnny Sexton in France next season. Captain Paul O’Connell and Munster team-mate Earls, as well as Sean O’Brien and Ulster hooker Rory Best, have all now rejected moves to France. Former Leinster boss Schmidt has admitted relief that Racing Metro fly-half Sexton will become Ireland’s only frontline “exile”, with Robin Copeland trading Cardiff for Munster next season. Tommy Bowe will also miss a frantic opening where Ireland entertain Scotland and Wales in six days, the Ulster wing still recovering from groin trouble suffered in November. Dave Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald and Andrew Trimble will now compete to start on the wings, while Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy prove fitness in Ireland Wolfhounds action at Gloucester on Saturday. Knee problems kept Munster flyer Earls out of action for the entire autumn Test window. New boss Schmidt is clearly keen to usher him into an Ireland jersey, but will not now get the chance during the upcoming championship, with Ireland starting their campaign against Scotland on February 2. “I thought Dave Kearney did very well against the All Blacks,” said Schmidt. “Fergus McFadden made five clean line breaks when we had an ordinary performance against Australia. “Luke Fitzgerald has been showing good form, but having Andrew Trimble back – I thought he was really good against Leicester and really good in the air. “He brings a physical edge that maybe Tommy has got size wise, he’s the other big guy. “It’s a luxury to get Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo back. I still believe they may be a little bit short, not of quality, but of quality game time and so that’s probably just why initially we weren’t looking at those guys at the forefront. “But it gives you a little bit of comfort if we do get injuries.” Heaslip’s decision to commit his future to Leinster ends a period of speculation and uncertainty for the IRFU who had feared a number of stars joining Sexton in France. Sexton has played significantly more club rugby with Racing Metro than he would in Ireland’s provincial set-up, with Schmidt admitting Ireland had “lost control” of the player during the autumn Test series. Ireland’s careful player management has been central to their ability to retain this latest nucleus of talent then, especially given Wales’ continued talent drain to the unrivalled salaries on offer in France’s Top 14. Penning a deal to run until 2017 is a clear indication Heaslip will now complete his career at his home province. Relieved he can now concentrate on the upcoming RBS 6 Nations, “Leinster is where I wanted to continue playing and I am happy that the process is now at end,” said Heaslip. “I am looking forward to playing my role in driving success for both Leinster and Ireland.” British Lion Heaslip made his Leinster debut in 2005 and has since amassed 176 appearances, scoring 34 tries. The 60-cap loose-forward first featured for Ireland against the Pacific Islanders in November 2006, and has claimed a Grand Slam and three Heineken Cup titles in his career. Keith Earls will miss Ireland’s entire RBS 6 Nations campaign with knee ligament damage that could keep him sidelined for two months. The 26-year-old three-quarter’s luckless injury run continues, after he limped out of Munster’s 38-6 Heineken Cup victory over Edinburgh. Earls signed a new two-year IRFU contract this week, rejecting strong overtures from Aviva Premiership and French Top 14 clubs. Press Associationlast_img read more

Martinez: Seven wins to seal fourth

Martinez: Seven wins to seal fourth

first_imgEverton boss Roberto Martinez predicted the race for the fourth Champions League place would go down to the wire following Sunday’s 3-1 victory at Fulham. “Being in this position gives us an understanding of what a good season we’ve had,” Martinez said. “With the points we have, we have a realistic chance to fight for that aim (Champions League). “I’m not saying we’re going to get that because we admire Arsenal because they get in the Champions League consistently. “They have developed a real understanding (of) what to do in these games, so that makes Sunday a phenomenal challenge. “It will probably go down to the last game of the season. “Look at the quality and experience of Manchester United and Tottenham, they will fight until the end. Mathematically seven teams are fighting for four positions.” Strikes from substitutes Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith and an own goal by David Stockdale consolidated fifth place for Everton, who are four points adrift of Arsenal with one game in hand. But it was Fulham who dominated the first half and they even fired an equaliser through Ashkan Dejagh, only for substitutes Aiden McGeady, Mirallas and Naismith to seize the initiative for Everton. The Toffees know that if they win all of their remaining seven matches – starting with next Sunday’s clash against Arsenal at Goodison Park – they will finish in fourth. A triumphant sequence spanning five successive Barclays Premier League games has transformed them into genuine contenders for Europe, but Martinez insisted the competition is fierce. Martinez said: “Fulham started better than us. They were very energetic and stopped us doing what we wanted to on the ball. “The second half was a bit different. The fresh legs of Naismith, Mirallas and McGeady gave us a different spark. “We were the team who finished stronger than the home side, but even then it was a really open game. “We are a team that is prepared to fight and that will give everything to get a positive result.” Martinez confirmed that Ross Barkley was substituted at half-time with a calf injury, but is expected to be fit to face Arsenal. Fulham remain rooted to the foot of the table, five points adrift of safety and with just six games to secure a 14th successive season in the top flight. Boss Felix Magath took enough positives from the performance against Everton to justify his conviction they will escape relegation. “It was a very important game and it’s very disappointing that we lost,” Magath said. “But if you see how we played, it gives you another view. It was our best game. We created a lot of chances, but we didn’t score enough goals. “I’m not planning for the Championship now, we will try again next weekend. “I know that we can still make it because Everton are one of the best teams at the moment but we didn’t play like a relegated team against them.” Press Associationlast_img read more

Nothing is ours yet – Gerrard

Nothing is ours yet – Gerrard

first_img Jordan Henderson’s lunge on Pablo Zabaleta in added time resulted in a red card and a three-match ban which may yet damage their prospects, however, as may a hamstring injury to striker Daniel Sturridge. “That’s the longest 90 minutes I’ve probably ever played in. It felt like the clock was going backwards in some parts of that game,” Gerrard, who delivered a rousing speech to the players in a huddle at the final whistle, told Sky Sports 1. “That win means so much. That is such a big result for us. “We’ve got four cup finals left. Nothing is ours yet. The important thing now is not to get carried away with that result. “We need to stay calm and prepare for Norwich (next weekend).” Manager Brendan Rodgers felt it was a game his team may well have lost in the early part of his tenure, but the Reds are made of much more resilient stuff these days. Their 10th successive league win opened up a seven-point gap to third-placed City, who have two matches in hand but have had their destiny taken out of their own control. “The group is very tight. We foster a real closeness here in our spirit and you need that if you are going to win anything. There has to be a cause to fight for,” the Northern Irishman said. “Getting pegged back to 2-2, we may have gone on to lose that game when I first came in here, but we dusted ourselves off and went again and the level of some of our football was so good we ended up getting a terrific goal. “The performance level of the players was sensational – to dominate as we did in the first half with that energy and intelligence was remarkable. “We showed our resilience to see it through. Ten wins in succession is an incredible achievement and against all the odds we are where we are and are still fighting.” Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini accepted his side failed to deal with the early onslaught launched by Liverpool, but was pleased with their comeback and does not consider the title race done and dusted just yet. “The team played very well. We had chances to score and win the game and we didn’t. Finally Liverpool won the game with a mistake,” he said. “It is not the end of the Premier League. The most important thing today is now it is not dependent what we do in the future. “If Liverpool win their four games maybe they deserve to win the title, but we will continue fighting until the end. We have to play one of our games in hand on Wednesday.” Pellegrini felt they should have had a penalty in the first half with the score at 2-0 when Mamadou Sakho clattered into Edin Dzeko, but he refused to criticise referee Mark Clattenburg. “It was a very clear penalty but I don’t want to talk about the referee – it is not fair to think that we lost the game because of the referee,” he added. City lost influential midfielder Yaya Toure to injury midway through the first half, which may cast doubt on his participation in the rest of the season. “Yaya has an injury in his hamstring and will be assessed (on Monday),” the Chilean said. The 33-year-old midfielder has experienced the full range of feelings during his lengthy career at Anfield but, having seen his side’s 2-0 lead pegged back in the second half, there was still time for a nervy finish. Goals from Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel had put the hosts ahead inside 26 minutes, only for a rejuvenated David Silva to score one and force a Glen Johnson own goal to level things up before Philippe Coutinho drove home the winner with just 12 minutes remaining to keep Liverpool’s title dream on track. Emotional Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admitted Sunday’s 3-2 victory over title rivals Manchester City was the longest 90 minutes of his career. Press Associationlast_img read more