Mancini said: “We are very sorry for Jack, because he is a good guy, a good player, but he is unlucky. It is his hamstring. “I think it is impossible to resolve his problem after six or seven months because he’s had this problem for five or six years and we need maybe more time. “How long will he be out? Maybe he will be back after the international break, three or four weeks. It is the same injury. “I am very sorry because he is a young player. He needs to improve but he has played very well against Chelsea and was playing very well.” A first-half goal from Carlos Tevez was sufficient to earn City a 1-0 win at Aston Villa and cut the gap on leaders Manchester United to 12 points. But midfielder Rodwell suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury midway through the opening period and will be sidelined for “three to four weeks”. Press Association Roberto Mancini’s relief at Manchester City keeping their slim hopes alive of retaining their Barclays Premier League title was tempered by another injury setback to Jack Rodwell.
Midfielder Marouane Fellaini had the visitors’ best chance, volleying wide from close range in the first half, while Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard saw Sylvain Distin clear off the line after the break. Distin had the ball in the just before the hour from a Leighton Baines’ corner only for referee Michael Oliver to disallow it after the usual pushing and holding in the penalty area as he booked Victor Anichebe for dissent. However, just three bookings in a game which has seen 20 red cards in the previous 41 meetings indicated a lack of bite. Liverpool and Everton shared the spoils in a forgettable 220th Merseyside derby bereft of incident which ended in a goalless draw at Anfield. Sixth-placed Everton, five points ahead of their near-neighbours, did not have enough in their locker to end their drought on enemy territory and Jamie Carragher, on his 30th and final Merseyside derby before retirement, had one of his quieter afternoons. Liverpool looked to utilise Daniel Sturridge’s pace early on with Jordan Henderson’s superb 60-yard crossfield ball into his path surpassed only by Gerrard’s from the opposite diagonal which resulted in Distin clearing the striker’s cross. Gerrard’s further participation became a concern when he crashed to the floor in tangling with Leon Osman and although he moved gingerly for the next few minutes there was little chance of the Huyton-born midfielder dropping out of this one early. But in truth the visitors took their superiority in the table onto the pitch as they had the better of the opening 25 minutes in which they should have taken the lead. Fellaini had the best chance of the half when he got on the end of Baines’ free-kick but somehow shot across goal and just wide of the far post from about four yards. Philippe Coutinho, the mastermind of last week’s 6-0 drubbing of Newcastle, had initially struggled in the frenetic derby atmosphere, but early in the second half he played a fine through ball but Sturridge could not get round Tim Howard in a one-on-one situation and eventually fired into the side-netting. Distin’s disallowed effort followed, with Anichebe lucky not to be punished further. Coutinho opted for delicacy as opposed to power and lifted a shot well over before Gerrard – after a swift passing exchange with Sturridge – was denied only by Distin’s goalline clearance after the midfielder had gone around Howard before the match petered out in a goalless draw. Press Association
He added: “What always stood out though was the reaction to missing out, personified in this season’s campaign. His ability to adapt as the game progressed, developing players from within Manchester United’s youth set-up and integrating them with some of the world’s finest talent created many formidable teams playing some wonderful football. “He is universally respected by his peers right across the world game and I am sure that even fans of rival clubs will appreciate how remarkable his many achievements have been. “It was always unrealistic to expect Sir Alex to keep going forever, but he has built something substantial and lasting at Manchester United and his values will continue to resonate throughout the club for many years to come. That will be his permanent legacy to English football. “Whatever the Premier League has become, Manchester United is its standard bearer and Sir Alex their talisman. Whatever the future holds, one thing is for certain, it will not be the same without him.” Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo reacted to the news by tweeting a picture of himself and Ferguson on the day he joined Manchester United, adding: “Thanks for everything, Boss”. The League Managers Association (LMA) added its congratulations, and chairman Howard Wilkinson said: “Today’s news draws to a close the career of a man and a manager, the likes of which we will never see again. “His public face was always that of the ultimate professional with a fierce pride and determination to do the very best for his club. His frighteningly competitive nature has never nor ever will be equalled. He is the epitome of the mantra ‘Survive, Win, Succeed’.” Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said retiring Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s “drive, ambition, skill, passion and vision” have forever altered the landscape of football. “The Premier League has had the privilege to witness many great players, managers and teams. No one has made as great a contribution to the Premier League than Sir Alex Ferguson,” said Scudamore. “His drive, ambition, skill, passion and vision have not only shaped Manchester United, but in many ways the game of football as we now know it. Sir Alex and his teams during the Premier League era have set the pace others have had to follow; 13 titles out of 21 seasons is a phenomenal achievement.” Press Association
Gareth McAuley scored West Brom’s first goal of the Barclays Premier League season in stoppage time to earn a 1-1 draw at Fulham. Fulham had looked like ending a five-match winless streak at Craven Cottage following Steve Sidwell’s first-half strike but now the run is six since the April 1 defeat of QPR. Twice Dimitar Berbatov netted when offside before McAuley met Chris Brunt’s corner with an emphatic header in the first of six minutes of stoppage time. Berbatov was clearly offside when he had a strike ruled out after 32 minutes before Brunt tried an audacious shot from 40 yards to revive Albion. With his team-mates lined up to receive his free-kick, the midfielder shot wide of David Stockdale’s goal. Billy Jones was unable to meet an Amalfitano cross with any force at the back post as West Brom finished the half on the attack. Berbatov was adjudged to be offside once more when tucking in a Kasami pass. Had the marginal call gone in the Bulgarian’s favour then Fulham would have been cruising but as it was the visitors were still in the contest. The Baggies should have been level when Anichebe latched onto Brunt’s pass and lost Brede Hangeland, but the former Everton forward’s shot lacked conviction as Stockdale blocked with his legs. Berbatov had a legitimate opportunity when making an arching run to meet Ruiz’s superb pass, but Myhill was alert to save. The same combination went close when Ruiz drifted in field and lofted a pass over which Berbatov met acrobatically, directing the ball just wide. The visitors needed a lift and it almost came when substitute James Morrison’s pass was brought down and held up by Anichebe. He then teed-up strike partner Anelka, whose shot was well saved by Stockdale. It was the first time the Baggies strike pair had linked up to any real effect and showed the partnership’s potential. Moments later Anelka stole in behind the home defence to latch on to an Anichebe through ball, but lacking the pace of yesteryear, the Frenchman could not get a shot away, much to the relief of Senderos, who had lost his man. Ruiz hit the bar six minutes from time and substitute Hugo Rodallega netted the rebound, only for the strike to be ruled out for offside. Fulham, who saw Ruiz depart on a stretcher after an awkward fall, were made to pay. The Baggies won a corner and Brunt’s delivery was met by McAuley, whose header flew into the net. The Baggies had been toiling up until that point, but returned to the West Midlands content, while Martin Jol’s hosts and their fans were left frustrated, a vocal minority even calling at the final whistle for the Dutchman to be relieved of his duties. The Baggies’ most recent Premier League goal had come against a Manchester United side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. But the prospects of ending the drought appeared promising – on paper at least – as Steve Clarke deployed a heavyweight strike pairing of Victor Anichebe and Nicolas Anelka. Anichebe and on-loan Marseille midfielder Morgan Amalfitano made their Baggies bows, but Stephane Sessegnon, another deadline day signing, missed out due to a delay in obtaining his work permit. Amalfitano was part of a visiting midfield which stifled Fulham’s efforts in the final third until Bryan Ruiz flashed an early effort wide after Pajtim Kasami’s cross was only half cleared. Philippe Senderos was marshalling Anichebe well and the Baggies made little forward progress other than a Brunt drive which was always curling away. As the battle for midfield supremacy continued, Fulham won the game’s first corner and took the lead. Alex Kacaniklic’s set-piece found Philippe Senderos, who held off McAuley to nod down for Sidwell to hit a shot on the turn between Youssouf Mulumbu, who was on the post, and goalkeeper Boaz Myhill. Press Association
“OK, it might be a penalty. But I don’t think the boy made a challenge to wipe him out. “Unfortunately that is the rule.” United did not impose themselves in the manner Palace boss Ian Holloway feared and it took a late free-kick from Wayne Rooney to seal the points. Rooney was only a confirmed starter on Friday evening after he had tried out a strange looking cushioned head guard to protect the area where he had 10 stitches following a training ground collision with Phil Jones. “It was a difficult decision,” said Moyes. “We got the headband on Friday and we wanted to see how he felt with it. If I thought he could wear it I would try and get him out. “He tired a little bit in the second-half but I wanted to get the 90 minutes out of him because he lacks match practice. “It helped him towards the overall goal of getting him match sharp.” Moyes was also able to introduce £27.5million new-boy Marouane Fellaini for his debut, although the Belgian was overshadowed by fellow countryman Adnan Januzaj. The 18-year-old unsettled the Palace defence more than any other United player and won the free-kick from which Rooney scored his first goal since March. “I considered playing him from the start,” said Moyes. “His performance when he came on showed it would have been merited. “He didn’t looked fazed and did a lot of good things. “He moved the ball well. He is going to be a good player.” After being hit by a two-match touchline ban and £18,000 fine following his comments after a controversial defeat to Tottenham on the opening day of the season, Holloway opted to keep his temper in check this afternoon. His initial reaction to being asked about Young’s conduct was to turn his back and declare: “I think that is safer don’t you?” Holloway then turned round and offered a more rounded assessment. “My opinion doesn’t count,” he said. “I realise that now. “All I can talk about is what led to it, which is us playing the occasion rather than the game. “I will not get drawn into a situation where people have to make decisions and they affect me. Emotionally I am in the right place now. “I would like to keep my money in the bank and pay for my own daughter’s wedding this summer. “I don’t talk about other people’s players. If you want to meet me down the pub later on I will tell you exactly what I think.” Press Association Manchester United manager David Moyes intends to tell Ashley Young he does not want to see a repeat of the diving incident that led to the winger being booked against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. The first was far more clear cut though and left Moyes feeling less than comfortable. “I don’t want my players diving,” said Moyes. “I don’t want anybody doing it. “The boy (Dikgacoi) definitely throws his leg out but I think Ashley has put his leg into his leg. It is not what I want.” Young has previously been in trouble for diving, although it was difficult to argue either way for the second offence, which triggered a penalty that allowed Robin van Persie to open the scoring and led to Dikgacoi’s dismissal. “I don’t like the rule where every time it is the last man it means it is (a red card),” said Moyes. “I thought it was harsh. “If I was Ian Holloway I would be disappointed. Young went down following a tackle by Kagisho Dikgacoi during the first-half of the 2-0 win but TV replays showed the United wide-man had initiated the contact. Referee Jon Moss was not fooled and promptly cautioned Young, although he later awarded a penalty when the same pair tangled again, even though some observers felt the latter incident warranted another caution.
Cesar Azpilicueta is optimistic of a collective Chelsea improvement as the Blues bid for trophies. With nine games next month, December is a time when Chelsea can show their Barclays Premier League title credentials as they bid to win the championship for the first time since 2010. Jose Mourinho has described the period as “only for the braves” and is planning to make regular changes to his side to cope with the congestion. “Sometimes we don’t keep the level to win every game. For Chelsea that cannot be possible. “Sometimes you can lose for sure, but I think we can play better and have better games.” Mourinho was scathing after the 2-0 loss at Newcastle early in November, but refused to criticise his “tired” players following a second defeat to Basle in Champions League Group E. Despite the loss the Blues advanced to the last 16, although they must beat Steaua Bucharest on December 11 to go through as group winners. Azpilicueta was apologetic to the supporters who made the trip to Switzerland. He said: “We didn’t want to do this. We tried to do our best and it’s true they came from London and a lot of countries to be here and we didn’t have our best game. “The only thing I can say is that for the next game we will try to do better and score goals.” Azpilicueta believes the mental fatigue must be as carefully managed as the physical tiredness. “It’s normal when you play every three days that the players feel a little more tired,” he added. “The most important thing is the mental approach, to forget the tiredness of the body.” Azpilicueta has impressed since being drafted in at left-back, playing on his ‘wrong’ flank, in part due to Ashley Cole’s niggling rib problem. The Spaniard said: “The most important thing is to think about the team. The manager asked me to play there so I try to do my best. “Everyone in the squad wants to play and help the team.” Spain right-back Azpilicueta, who has been deployed at left-back in recent weeks, believes every member of the Chelsea squad can play their part. “We have nine games in December and that’s a lot,” Azpilicueta said. “We need the whole squad, there are a lot of games and if we are to win trophies, we need everyone. “The most important thing is the next game against Southampton, especially after beating West Ham we need to get three points at home.” Sunday’s Southampton contest carries additional significance as Mourinho will demand a response from the lacklustre loss at Basle, when Chelsea failed to muster a meaningful shot on goal just a few days after a dominant display at West Ham. “Sometimes it happens,” Azpilicueta added. “One day you play really well, three days later really bad. “We don’t want to have this kind of movement in our performance because it’s important to keep your balance, to play well every day. “Sometimes you cannot play very well but the most important thing is to win. Press Association
Cleverley knows changes are inevitable given the present situation but, speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final with Sunderland at Old Trafford, the England international has adopted a philosophical stance. “If results are poor and performances are below par you are going to take some stick for it,” Cleverley told Sky Sports News. “It is all part and parcel of being a Manchester United player. “It takes a bit of getting used to but I am growing a thick skin. “Since I have been at the club I have always had three or four top midfielders to battle it out for a place with. “I am sure we will be looking to strengthen the squad like we continuously need to do. That is no different. “I am just taking it as it comes.” Even such a club loyalist as Gary Neville has reached the conclusion Moyes must bring in some fresh blood this month. And reports have emerged in Brazil that talks are under way with Bayern Munich defender Dante, whose contract with the Champions League winners is not due to expire until 2016. Speaking to Fox Sports Radio in his homeland, Dante, who is expected to be part of his country’s World Cup squad this summer, was coy about a transfer. “We have to wait until January 31,” he said. However, it was also claimed Dante confirmed discussions with United representatives were ongoing. Given the player has also figured at left-back and midfield, two other problem positions, the attraction is obvious, even if Dante was a relative unknown when he arrived at Bayern in 2012 from Borussia Monchengladbach for a bargain £4million. Moyes is desperate to bring some improvement to a campaign on the brink of total meltdown following Sunday’s defeat at Chelsea. That setback, scarred by such poor defending, has left United six points adrift of the final Champions League slot, with next to no chance of retaining a title they won by 11 points last season. Failure to overturn Sunderland’s first-leg advantage at Old Trafford would be another hammer blow, robbing United of their most realistic chance of silverware. And there is no guarantee either Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie will be available to help Moyes out, even though both are on the comeback trail following groin and thigh problems respectively. With skipper Nemanja Vidic definitely out after his red card at Stamford Bridge, it would be no surprise if the atmosphere around the United camp was gloomy. But Cleverley said there can be no such navel-gazing and he is confident the season can be salvaged. “We can’t let it get our heads down,” he said. “You have to feel for the new manager, he has had no luck at all. But we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves. “We have to stand up and be counted. “We are still confident it will come back and we will come out of the other side of this tough period and be stronger for it. There is too much quality in the squad and we work too hard for it not to. “We have had to rethink our targets for the year but this club is about winning trophies. “We are still well in the Champions League and are in the semi-final of the cup. “We have to shoot ourselves up the league, then hopefully we can end the season positively.” Midfielder Tom Cleverley has admitted he is growing a thick skin to cope with the avalanche of criticism that has come his way this season – and expects Manchester United to strengthen their squad this month. With United falling well below their usual high standards, Cleverley has been singled out as one of those being responsible, according to some an inadequate presence in an underachieving midfield. Little wonder the Red Devils have been strongly linked with a move for Chelsea’s out-of-favour Spain star Juan Mata, with manager David Moyes also expected to watch Borussia Monchengladbach’s Patrick Herrmann on Friday. Press Association
Spurs will hope to close the gap further with a positive result at Newcastle on Wednesday, but defender Vertonghen already has half an eye on what could prove a decisive clash with the Reds at Anfield on March 30. “We probably need a win, so we will go for that,” the Belgium international said. “It was a bad day for us when we lost 5-0 at home to Liverpool in December but that game didn’t reflect our strengths compared with theirs. “We beat them at home last year and we went 2-1 up at Anfield last March, where we were the better side (Spurs eventually lost 3-2). That was one of our better performances last season. “But we can do much better than we did against Everton. We play at Newcastle on Wednesday but then we have the time to train before we play Norwich and that’s the most important thing. “We need to work on our shape and our movement and then the sharpness will be there. Tim now has a chance to work on our shape. Until now, he has done a very good job. The club and the players believe in him.” Those sentiments were echoed last week by frontman Adebayor, who praised Sherwood for reinstating him following Andre Villas-Boas’ departure. The 29-year-old was marginalised by the Portuguese during the first half of the campaign, but has impressed under the new head coach, scoring six goals in nine Premier League matches. “Adebayor is back and has been unbelievable,” Vertonghen said. “Just one player coming in can sometimes affect the team. “When we played Liverpool and lost 5-0 (in Villas-Boas’s last match at the helm), we had a lot of injuries and sometimes a manager can be unlucky. “Of course, he had the Adebayor thing and some difficult business to take care of. “We lost against the big teams and that is why we couldn’t compete for the top-three places.” The top-four race looks to be a three-way battle between Tottenham and the two Merseyside clubs. Everton will look to get back on track when Crystal Palace visit Goodison Park on Wednesday, with Martinez planning to use the disappointment of defeat in north London as catalyst for victory. “It is important we focus now on Crystal Palace and we will try to get rid of the frustration in that performance,” the Spaniard said. “There are many games left and there will be many twists and turns. What we can’t do is get too disappointed by the scoreline. “Obviously we want to win games but our performance merited a good scoreline. When you do that it is a matter of keeping playing good football and the points will come.” The fourth-placed Reds’ 5-1 mauling of Arsenal on Saturday put extra pressure on Spurs and fellow Champions League hopefuls Everton when they met little over 24 hours later at White Hart Lane. Emmanuel Adebayor’s strike proved the difference as Sherwood’s side picked up a somewhat fortuitous 1-0 victory, which saw them usurp Roberto Martinez’s side in fifth and move within three points of Liverpool. Press Association Jan Vertonghen is enjoying life under Tim Sherwood but fears Tottenham will miss out on a Champions League berth should they fail to win at Liverpool next month.
“It is very important for us, from the last 30 points that we won 25. It is an important amount of points. “We lost to Chelsea and drew against Norwich but I think that all the teams in relegation positions or bad positions of the table will add points in the second half, so, for me, it is normal. “In the Premier League, we have a very important three points (against Sunderland), but after that we have 36 points more (to play for). “I am absolutely sure the Premier League will be decided in the last two games. “The character of all the squad will be (tested) from now until the end of the season. The team with a strong mind is the team that will win.” City’s free-flowing attacking style has earned much praise this season and yielded 115 goals. The last two games have seen the output halted, but Pellegrini is hopeful the goals will soon start flowing again. He said: “I am not concerned. In these two games, (Alvaro) Negredo was not 100 per cent, (Edin) Dzeko was not 100 per cent and Aguero was not available. “I suppose in the future, we will continue to score goals. I hope we will continue doing it but it is not easy. “On Wednesday we have a match with a good team that are playing well in the last five or six games. “I am absolutely sure we will have to play a very good game if we want to win.” Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has warned Manchester City to expect the unexpected as the two clubs prepare to stage a dress rehearsal for next month’s Capital One Cup final. The Black Cats head for the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening having slipped back to the fringes of the fight for Barclays Premier League survival following Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat by Hull. Poyet had previously dragged the club into 14th place, as well as a Wembley final, after a vastly-improved run of results, but with their next three league fixtures scheduled to take them to City, Arsenal and Liverpool, their plight could deepen significantly over the next few weeks. However, they have won three and drawn one of their last four Premier League games away from the Stadium of Light and remarkably, have beaten City on Wearside in each of their last four meetings and for those reasons, the Uruguayan insists they cannot be written off. He said: “Every time we look at a home fixture, we think we are going to win and we haven’t beaten anyone. “I just try to take them as they come. The idea is to go there and try to get something from this game and something from the Arsenal game and then if we have to go to Liverpool, depending on the cup, the same. “I don’t think we need to analyse too much or give up before we play. We are going to play our game and we will see. You never know. “We are not a team that you can say you know what is going to happen. We are a quite unexpected team, so we will see.” Poyet knows only too well the weapons opposite number Pellegrini has at his disposal even without the injured Aguero, Fernandinho and Nasri. However, he has no intention of trying to defend for 90 minutes and hoping for the best against a side which has uncharacteristically failed to score in either of its last two games. Poyet said: “When I am a fan, I like to see the best players playing. When it’s against you, of course not. “It’s not the same – Aguero is one of the best in the world, Fernandinho has been great and Nasri when he starts getting between the lines is a difficult player to play against, so there are plenty of things that mean in this game, maybe we can be lucky. “That’s without talking about the rest of the players they have and what they can do, but it’s true that it could be a little bit different because they are not there. “But I am not just saying it for the sake of saying it – we are going to play to win the game. Then if the opposition is better than you and they batter you and you get a point, you take it and run and go home. “But the idea is to go and try to perform and see if we can play against them and be a difficult team to play against.” The sides will meet once again on March 2 with the season’s first domestic trophy at stake, but Poyet, who will be without suspended defender Wes Brown on Wednesday night following his dismissal at the weekend, does not believe either manager will be able to take too many pointers. He said: “I don’t think so because those players we talked about before are going to be there for the final, for sure. “But it’s true that mentally for the players, it would be good if can get a good result. “For some reason, it’s away from home that we have been doing well, so now it’s a big opportunity against one of the top teams.” City will first bid to get their Barclays Premier League title bid back on track after two games without a win as they host Sunderland in midweek. They then tackle rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday before the first leg of their glamorous Champions League last 16 tie against Barcelona next Tuesday. Those two games are also both at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini insists the coming week will not make or break his side’s season, but cannot escape its importance. Pellegrini said: “I don’t think the season will finish this week but I think it is a very important week for us. “We have to play in the three competitions and maybe we are not in our best moment for the amount of players that are injured. “We will see what happens this week, (if) the team returns to normal performance and I hope the future will look better when we have all the players back.” City are currently without the key trio of top scorer Sergio Aguero, midfielder Fernandinho and playmaker Samir Nasri due to injury. Their absences were noticeable as City were beaten last week by Chelsea in a crucial game in the title race and then as they played out a goalless draw at Norwich on Saturday. All remain on the sidelines for the visit of Sunderland, who will also be City’s opponents in next month’s Capital One Cup final and have already beaten them at the Stadium of Light this season. Pellegrini does not believe City’s title chances have been badly damaged because he has been predicting a close fight all season. He said: “I think it is normal, all teams will drop points. Press Association
Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana look set to stay at Southampton this summer after executive director Les Reed reaffirmed the club’s intention to keep their star players. A comfortable top-10 finish is all but assured at the end of an impressive second season back in the Barclays Premier League, which has seen Mauricio Pochettino’s side attract many plaudits. Such success has seen the Argentinian become bookmakers’ favourite for any possible Tottenham vacancy, while the likes of Shaw, Lallana and Calum Chambers have been strongly-linked with a move away. Press Association Shaw in particular has been said to have agreed a deal with Manchester United. That speculation was quashed on Friday morning by executive director Reed, who made the unusual move to speak before Pochettino’s press conference previewing Saturday’s match with Everton. “Both Mauricio and myself are very happy with the way we’re approaching things at the moment,” Reed said. “We would like to focus on the remaining fixtures of the season. We will pick up the contract talks over the summer. “We talk about the future every day. We’re both comfortable with the situation. “As we stand, there have been no enquiries or offers for any of our players. That is the truth. “No club has been given permission to talk to any of our players. Reports that some of our players are negotiating transfers are misinformed. “We want to improve the squad going forward and retain our current players.”