Press Association The Portugal winger’s current deal at United is due to run out at the end of next season and he has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford. However, the 26-year-old is hoping to show Sir Alex Ferguson he deserves a new deal with his performances over the remainder of the campaign as United chase a Barclays Premier League and FA Cup double. He said in several national newspapers: “I want to show the manager that he can trust me and he can believe in me in every match.” Nani is determined to prove his worth to Manchester United in the coming months as he seeks a new and improved contract – and insists his best is yet to come. He added: “I want to show him my contribution can help win games. So I’ll keep working hard to make sure I’m ready to respond every time I get a chance.” Nani has been in and out of the United side this season and was absent for two months after suffering a hamstring injury against Braga in November. However, he has started three of United’s last four matches, including last week’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid in which he was controversially sent off, and is eager to keep his spot in the first XI. “Now my confidence is high and I think the best is still to come from me,” he added. “This is my time and I think I can be important for the team in these big games. “Because I was injured for two months, I’m fresh now when some other players are starting to get tired. “I feel I’m in good form and I’ve nearly arrived at my peak. I think over the next few games I can surprise a few people.”
Barton is currently enjoying his loan spell at Marseille, but was quick to criticise his former team-mates following the Hoop’s relegation on Sunday afternoon, describing some members of the squad as “maggots” shortly after the team’s 0-0 draw at Reading. The 30-year-old revealed it would be tough to leave the French club but Fernandes said on QPR Player: “Marseille have got to put an offer in. Joey is under contract and Joey would be a very useful player for Queens Park Rangers.” He added: “He helped Newcastle out (of the Championship). Some would say we lacked his fighting spirit in the midfield. “But if Joey and Marseille want (the transfer), then we will talk. However, he is a QPR player, and is contracted to QPR. “That has to be a financial deal which would have to be worked out if he wants to go to Marseille, but as far as I am concerned he is a QPR player and in the summer will come back.” Harry Redknapp is set to remain in charge next season, despite failing to guide the club to safety after taking over from Mark Hughes last November. The former Tottenham manager brought in the likes of striker Loic Remy and defender Christopher Samba on big-money transfers during the January window. While both players are probably unlikely to be part of the Hoops’ fight to regain their top-flight status, Fernandes remains optimistic the west London club will have a squad capable of mounting a sustained promotion challenge. “We have been through it. There are many players we want to keep, some players we think don’t want to stay and some players who are going to move on, but it is not insurmountable,” the Malaysian businessman said. “I am a positive person. People would say I am not realistic, but if you go through player by player, we will sort them out.” Press Association QPR chairman Tony Fernandes maintains wantaway midfielder Joey Barton is still very much their player.
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is relishing the prospect of locking horns with his compatriot Romelu Lukaku when the Blues host West Brom on Tuesday night. “We are very lucky with him, being a very young striker, and Christian Benteke (Aston Villa’s Belgium frontman, who was also nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award). “We have two unbelievable talents coming through. I am looking forward to playing against him. He will be a world beater in England very soon.” It remains to be seen whether or not Kompany does line up against Lukaku in the game given City boss Roberto Mancini may opt to shuffle his pack with one eye on the FA Cup final against Wigan which comes four days later. The defender is keeping an open mind on the matter, but with City keen to cement second place in the table he is sure Mancini will select a “strong” team to face West Brom. Asked if he expected to play against Albion, Kompany said: “I don’t know, but the manager has got loads of options and I am sure that whatever side he puts out will be a strong side. “It’s a game that we have to win. There is no other way to think about this game. Until we are safe for that Champions League spot we have to play the games like every other game. “It (Saturday) is a big, big day for the club – it’s massive and everyone realises that. But it would be nice to win the game against West Brom. That would set us up really nicely to focus on the final.” Striker Lukaku has been in fine form following his season-long loan move from Chelsea to Albion last summer, netting 14 goals for the Baggies and earning a place on the PFA Young Player of the Year award shortlist. Centre-back Kompany has described the 19-year-old as an “unbelievable talent” and feels fortunate to be able to play alongside him for Belgium – but is also looking forward to the challenge he could be set of trying to contain him in Tuesday’s Barclays Premier League contest. “Romelu is probably one of the biggest talents in Europe at the moment,” Kompany said. Press Association
The Scot’s 26-and-a-half years at Old Trafford are littered with key moments and turning points that have helped forge the 71-year-old’s legacy. Here, we look at just 10 of those seminal events. 1990: With Ferguson under pressure after a slow start at Old Trafford, Mark Robins fires United to victory over Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup tie to earn him a stay of execution. The goal is the trigger for a run to the final, where United beat Crystal Palace in a replay to secure the Scot’s first silverware. Sir Alex Ferguson will stand down as manager of Manchester United at the end of the season, bringing to an end the career of one of world football’s greatest figures. 1992: After missing out on the league title to Leeds in 1991/92, Ferguson responds by signing Eric Cantona for just over £1million from the Yorkshire club. Cantona goes on to help United to four league titles and two FA Cups. 1993: History records Cantona’s arrival as the final piece of the puzzle that saw United land the first of the 13 championships amassed during Ferguson’s reign at the end of the 1992/93 season. 1995: While Ryan Giggs broke into the first team in 1991, it was not until the 1995/96 campaign that Ferguson felt the full benefit of United’s academy programme, with David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt all playing key roles in another successful title campaign. 1997: David Gill arrives at Old Trafford as finance director, later rising to the position of deputy chief executive, group chief executive and finally chief executive of Manchester United PLC. Ferguson and Gill formed a strong working partnership and it came as no surprise to many that the two men elected to stand down within months of each other. 1999: The 1998/99 season marked the height of Ferguson’s reign, his team of homegrown stars and astute signings, among them the likes of Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Jaap Stam, sweeping all before them in the Premier League and FA Cup before mounting a dramatic late fightback to stun Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. 2001: Ferguson reveals ahead of the 2001/02 season that he plans to retire at the end of the campaign. The uncertainty caused by his announcement gives way a third-placed league finish and failure in the cups. Ferguson later backtracks on his retirement plans, and in later years brands the episode “an absolute disaster”. 2005: The Glazer family takeover at Old Trafford creates a rare atmosphere of disharmony, with many fans unhappy at the decision to secure much of the debt against the club’s assets. The episode gives Ferguson the opportunity to again display his worth. 2011: A seminal year for Ferguson as he becomes the longest serving manager in United’s history – eclipsing Sir Matt Busby – and guides United to a record 19th league title to finally knock Liverpool “off their perch”. 2012: A season without a trophy reaches its nadir as United lose the Premier League title to Manchester City on the final day of the season. Ferguson tells his players never to forget how they feel, and they duly respond a year later by reclaiming the crown with four games to spare. Press Association
Mourinho placed little importance on his side topping the embryonic table after Oscar’s second-half strike and John Obi Mikel’s first goal in almost seven years ended a four-match winless streak. The Portuguese merely took pleasure from the fact his side were in close proximity to the five sides he regards as title rivals. “The important thing is not to be top, the important thing is to be there,” Mourinho said. “Where is Man U? Where is Man City? Where is Tottenham? Where is Arsenal? Where is Liverpool? “If they are a long way (ahead) it’s a problem, if we are there, it’s important. “And some of them, they start the Premier League in a brilliant way, we start in a very bad way. “If we start in a very bad way and they start in a brilliant way, it’s good for us.” Asked to clarify his thoughts on Chelsea’s “very bad” start, Mourinho added: “That’s what I read. It was a disaster. I think it was not good, but every one of the two defeats (to Everton and Basle) are not defeats with a conclusion. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho taunted his critics after his side’s 2-0 defeat of Fulham saw them rise to the top of the Barclays Premier League. Since the defeat at Everton last Saturday Mourinho has been reminded of Chelsea’s worst start to a Premier League season since 2003/04, in the early months of Roman Abramovich’s ownership. Coupled with the midweek mishap in the Champions League, a 2-1 defeat by Swiss side Basle, it prompted talk of a crisis at Chelsea, something Mourinho mocked following the west London derby triumph. “You lose a match in the Premier League, you don’t lose the Premier League. “You lose a match in the Champions League (and) you are in a more difficult situation, but you have 15 points to play for.” Mourinho, who insisted he accepts criticism, believes Chelsea are judged differently to their rivals. He added: “All the six teams, we all lost. Every one of us lost a game and it looks like for the others, to lose is a normal thing and it looks like for us it’s the end of the world.” Pundits and fans have been bemused by Mourinho’s continued marginalisation of Juan Mata, the player of the year in each of the last two seasons. The World Cup winner was not in the squad to play Fulham, instead watching from behind the substitutes’ bench alongside David Luiz, who was also omitted. The pair trained on Saturday morning and will feature at Swindon in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night. Mourinho said: “I hope he tells me on the pitch ‘you are wrong, I’m the best and I have to play every game’. “I would love that. I’m waiting for a professional reaction. I want him to be fantastic. I hope he can. “I gave Juan the chance to play from the beginning against Aston Villa, from the beginning against Everton, 30, 35 minutes against Basle. “The past is the past, what matters is now. You have to be judged for what you do now. “I have my options, but the thing that I most love in football is when the players prove that I’m wrong.” Nigeria midfielder Mikel found the net for the first time since January 2007 to make certain of victory. Mourinho, who praised Mikel’s all-round display, said: “It’s good for him, good for us, good for his confidence. “I think people enjoyed seeing John score a goal. The finish was good.” Fulham troubled Chelsea and Darren Bent should have given the visitors a first-half lead, only to fluff his shot. Fulham boss Martin Jol said: “The first 50 minutes they were really worried. They couldn’t find the space, they couldn’t find a solution and that is probably the moment you have to punish them and we couldn’t do that. “The second half they stepped up a gear, they were more aggressive than us and that is what showed.” Jol was not satisfied with the number of chances his side created. “For me it’s not enough,” he said. “If you play the way we played, you have to create more. We will in the future. We needed a little bit more.” The Dutchman also recognised the Cottagers must win again soon. He added: “We need a win to get back to the top 10. I think all the teams in the bottom half, especially now. We’re 17th or 18th, we have to get out of there.” Press Association
Manchester United great Bryan Robson believes Antonio Valencia was right to give up the number seven shirt. It seems to have paid off, with the Ecuadorean holding down the right wing spot under new manager David Moyes ahead of Wilfried Zaha. In the Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen last month he scored his first goal of the season, equalling his tally from the whole of 2012-13. Robson is another former wearer of the number seven shirt, and he told manutd.com: “I just think Antonio has been very honest. Maybe he did feel a little bit of pressure when wearing the number seven. “He won player of the year when he wore number 25 and, after an indifferent season for him, when he didn’t always show the quality we know he’s got, maybe there’s a little bit of superstition to go back to the shirt he was wearing. “So it’s a good decision and a strong decision by him. I think he’s started the season pretty well so that is good for the club and good for Antonio.” It has been a landmark week away from Old Trafford for Valencia, who helped Ecuador book their place at the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer. A victory over Uruguay and narrow defeat by Chile were enough for Ecuador to pip the former on goal difference. Valencia will now hope to end the week by helping United beat Southampton in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday. The winger’s decision means the number seven shirt is currently vacant, and Robson is hoping it will be taken by a marquee signing. He said: “For me, if we can sign a player who is capable of wearing that number seven, like a David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo, then great. Hopefully, it could be Ronaldo again.” The winger was given the iconic shirt, whose previous wearers include Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, at the start of last season. But, having been named player of the year in his first season at the club, Valencia found the going much harder and decided to switch back to his old number, 25, for this campaign. Press Association
Press Association It is therefore clear that the fault does not just lie with the manager and Downing is confident the players he will lead against Hull on Saturday know they have some making up to do. “They are a very honest bunch of players,” he said. “I have to say, I have been here for five years and every player is very senior and professional in what he does. “They feel accountable and there’s a responsibility for everyone when someone loses their job. “It’s important we galvanise ourselves and whatever decision comes from the top we need to make sure we control what we can.” Downing admitted there had been a real sense of shock in the wake of Clarke’s axing, but added that things had settled down during the course of the week. “It’s been a difficult time, especially the first couple of days,” he said. “Things have started to settle but it’s a big shock when anyone loses their job. But we have a game to focus on now.” It is an important game too, with Hull one of the sides West Brom are jostling for position with. City have been hard to beat upon their return to the top flight and Albion could have wished for easier opponents. That said, Downing is confident the team will be in the right frame of mind come kick-off. “I’ve seen it this week (their response), the professionalism of what they’re doing and their attitude,” he said. “We have to challenge each other and demand from each other, they have to raise their standards by five to 10 per cent. “We have to focus on what we are doing. What I am trying to do is cover all bases, organise them and pick the team. “There is a steely determination to put it right, but that has always been there. I’ve never seen anyone down tools. We have got to get out of this bad run.” The return to fitness of England goalkeeper Ben Foster will give Downing an extra selection problem, although he admitted to being happy at having a full squad to choose from. Like with any club, he knows some players will now be out to prove a point with the old manager having perished. “The slate is clean and we have 23/24 players who feel they want to be in the starting line-up,” he said. “I’m sure it will galvanise some of them and the new man will decide… (their futures). A fresh pair of eyes will stir the squad up. “Our form is relegation form but we need to make sure we turn it around and get back to the middle of the table.” Last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Cardiff was the final straw for the West Brom board, who sacked Clarke before the day was out. The loss took Albion’s winless run to six games and left them just two points away from trouble in the Barclays Premier League, with another startling stat being that the club have won just three league games all season. West Brom’s players have taken their share of responsibility for Steve Clarke’s sacking and are ready to put things right, according to caretaker Keith Downing.
The Whites twice let leads slip away from them before Steven Gerrard struck what was a sickening winner for midfielder Holtby, one of the hosts’ standout players. “It is really hard to imagine we lost this game,” the Germany international said. “We had a really good game. “The second and third goals are sloppy goals, we should have done better. We could have had three points last night. “Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve – we lost the game and have to pick ourselves up and be mentally ready for the next game. “It could have been three points against a Liverpool side who did not have their best game. It is really disappointing. “Credit to all the guys, we had a fantastic game, but we have nothing and that is not what you need when you are fighting against relegation.” Holtby is right: Fulham need points and they need them quickly. Manager Rene Meulensteen believes the Cottagers need seven wins from their remaining 12 matches if they are to avoid seeing the drop. Fulham are rooted to the foot of the table with just 12 matches remaining, but Lewis Holtby believes they possess the attitude and aptitude required to stave off relegation. Things look bleak for the west Londoners right now, marooned four points adrift of safety with a goal difference of minus 32 – the worst in the Premier League. However, Fulham’s recent displays belie those statistics, with Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United followed by an unfortunate, last-gasp 3-2 loss to Liverpool on Wednesday. The bookmakers certainly think survival is out of reach, making Fulham firm favourites for the drop. Holtby, though, has seen enough since joining on loan in January to remain confident of confounding the doubters. “The belief is always there,” he said. “We have to be mentally strong and that is the key to getting out of the drop zone. “There is enough. We have got the quality to stay up but we need to get some points. “We need to be solid at the back because we are conceding too many goals and that is a problem. “We conceded two in the last game, three last night, and that is too many.” Press Association
The likes of Lallana, Calum Chambers and Shaw have also been strongly linked with a move away this summer, with a report this week claiming the latter is on the verge of a move to Manchester United. That speculation appeared to be the final straw for Reed, who took the unusual step of making a statement before Pochettino’s standard press conference previewing Saturday’s match with Everton. The executive director did not take any questions, preferring instead to give a five-minute statement in order to give an “accurate picture of where we stand at the moment” due to the unrelenting speculation. “No club has been given permission to talk to any of our players,” Reed said. “That will remain so. “As far as the policy is concerned, we’ve had a great season. We want to build on that season. We want to improve the squad going forward. “We want to retain the players we’ve got. They are all contracted. They all have existing contracts and we intend for them to honour those contracts. “Any enquiries we get will probably be met with a ‘no, not for sale’. Our intention is to keep this very good team together and build on it by bringing new players to improve on that. “Every transfer window, particularly in the summer, is difficult because everybody is out there trying to attract players. We have our targets. We want to improve the squad. These are things we’re discussing on a daily basis. Saints are all but certain to secure a comfortable top-10 finish at the end of a season in which their style and focus on home-grown talent has attracted many plaudits. That, though, has brought with it admiring glances from afar and manager Pochettino’s burgeoning reputation has seen him installed as the bookmakers’ favourite to become Tottenham’s next manager. Executive director Les Reed has fired a shot across the bows of those hoping to lure away Southampton’s top talent, warning potential suitors that the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and manager Mauricio Pochettino are staying put. “We will tend to develop a squad that’s capable of not just maintaining the position we’re in but improving next season. “Therefore, it’s a positive message we want to get out there. I think our fans deserve to understand that there is not going to be a fire sale here. We have repeatedly said that. “We’ve had no offers for players. Deals are not about to be concluded for any of our players and we want to keep all of our best players here at this club and build on that for the future.” Morgan Schneiderlin has joined Southampton’s injury list heading into Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Everton. The French midfielder received a heavy knock to his quadriceps and joins Jay Rodriguez (knee) and Gaston Ramirez (ankle) on the sidelines. Maya Yoshida (knee) remains absent for Saints for the Toffees’ visit, as does back-up goalkeeper Kelvin Davis (back). Defender Sylvain Distin misses Everton’s trip with a hamstring injury. With fellow centre-back Phil Jagielka still a week away from returning from a similar problem it means John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz will be central defensive partners. Forward Kevin Mirallas (groin) has been ruled out for the remainder of the season and with Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone, Bryan Oviedo, Steven Pienaar and Lacina Traore all still sidelined, manager Roberto Martinez will look to his under-21s to bolster his squad. Martinez has urged some of the club’s young players to seize the opportunity presented by their current injury problems. It leaves Martinez short of options ahead of the trip to Southampton but he has already put faith in younger players this season with great success and has no qualms about asking members of the under-21s to contribute to their bid for Champions League football. “We have young players who are capable of coming in and showing what they can do and that excites me,” Martinez said. “This weekend maybe we will have to bring in someone from the under-21s and give him an opportunity. “That is what we are as a club. We will not blame players that are missing we just celebrate the opportunity given to young players.” Press Association
Press Association “The highs have been so high, but unfortunately the lows have also been so low. “When (manager) Gus (Poyet) arrived at the club, it was at a low ebb, but he and his staff galvanised the squad and what they and the players have achieved will be written in football history. “It is something special, something against the odds – a quite remarkable renaissance. Not only have we survived, but we have done so with a game to spare. “I wouldn’t call this ‘The Great Escape’ I would describe it as ‘The Greatest Escape’.” Short’s comments came amid speculation that Poyet could leave the club this summer after being linked with possible vacancies at Southampton and West Ham. The Black Cats secured their Barclays Premier League status with a 2-0 victory over West Brom just weeks after looking destined to slip back into the Football League. Writing in his programme notes ahead of Sunday afternoon’s final-day clash with Swansea, he said: “This has been by far the best season I have ever had during my involvement with the club. Sunderland chairman Ellis Short has dubbed the club’s successful rescue mission ‘The Greatest Escape’.