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Manchester United 1 Reading 0 – Match report

Manchester United 1 Reading 0: Rooney grabs winner against managerless Royals

PUBLISHED:

19:21 GMT, 16 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:37 GMT, 16 March 2013

Wayne Rooney's 16th goal of the season was enough to propel Manchester United 15 points clear with just nine games remaining in the Barclays Premier League title race.

Rooney's deflected first-half effort saw off a dogged Reading outfit, who worked hard but lacked the class to fashion an equaliser.

The Royals now look certainties for relegation, sliding seven points adrift of safety with one game fewer than United to save themselves, their decision to axe Brian McDermott akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Jumping for joy: Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring for Manchester United against Reading

Jumping for joy: Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring for Manchester United against Reading

MATCH FACTS

Man Utd: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Buttner, Welbeck, Giggs, Anderson (Kagawa 85), Young (Carrick 74), Rooney, van Persie.

Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Evans, Valencia, Hernandez, Powell.

Goals: Rooney 21.

Reading: Taylor, Kelly (Morrison 88), Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Robson-Kanu (Le Fondre 70), McCleary, Hunt (Blackman 70).

Subs Not Used: McCarthy, Gunter, Harte, Akpan.

Booked: Hunt, Kelly.

Att: 75,605

Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

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Thirteen points will do it for Sir Alex Ferguson's men to clinch a record 20th championship – and given one of their remaining games is against nearest challengers Manchester City, they might not even need that.

Yet taking maximum advantage of City's defeat at 10-man Everton earlier in the day was not the biggest talking point.

For that revolved around Rio Ferdinand, who rolled back the years to turn in another marvellous performance, which included claiming the assist for Rooney's winner.

The will he-won't he debate over Ferdinand's international return may not be answered for certain until Monday night, when Hodgson's squad are due to report at St George's Park.

However, there can be no doubt why Hodgson has been willing to go back on all those previous indications that he had 'moved on' from the 34-year-old.

Quite apart from the vast experience that would make Ferdinand such an unflappable presence in that vital World Cup qualifier in Montenegro on March 26, the former West Ham man also possesses an assurity in possession that few Premier League defenders of any nationality, let alone English, can match.

They all count: Rooney's shot took a deflection off Reading defender Alex Pearce before nestling in the net

They all count: Rooney's shot took a deflection off Reading defender Alex Pearce before nestling in the net

He created United's first chance for a
start with an elegant crossfield pass to Ashley Young, which the winger
controlled on the edge of the area before drilling a cross-shot just
beyond Robin van Persie, and more importantly, the far post.

Ferdinand's next incursion was the crucial one.

Nipping in to intercept Garath McCleary's poor pass, Ferdinand advanced into the open space and nipped round a static Mikele Leigertwood before feeding Rooney just to his left.

No joy: Robin van Persie tries his luck with a free kick but United failed to build on their slim advantage

No joy: Robin van Persie tries his luck with a free kick but United failed to build on their slim advantage

The striker took aim and once his
shot flicked off Alex Pearce, former Manchester City goalkeeper Stuart
Taylor had no chance of keeping it out.

Ferdinand's part was acknowledged by
the Stretford End though, along with a non-too-subtle hint that he
should reject the chance to extend his 81-cap international career.

Either side of Rooney's goal, Danny Welbeck went close on a couple of occasions and Robin van Persie tried his luck from 20 yards.

Battle: Rio Ferdinand vies for the ball with Noel Hunt as United edge to victory at Old Trafford

Battle: Rio Ferdinand vies for the ball with Noel Hunt as United edge to victory at Old Trafford

These are not the most productive of times for the Dutchman though, who has now scored once in his last 10 games.

After being thrust into the spotlight
following McDermott's controversial dismissal earlier in the week,
Eamonn Dolan became the 15th manager, including caretakers, to face the
Red Devils in their first Premier League game in charge.

Most have lost. And whilst Dolan was
not quite accepting of his fate, he seemed to have settled on a policy
of damage limitation despite Reading's position becoming even more
perilous due to earlier triumphs for Southampton and Aston Villa.

My ball: Nemanja Vidic and Noel Hunt battle during United's victory which takes them 15 points clear

My ball: Nemanja Vidic and Noel Hunt battle during United's victory which takes them 15 points clear

Only once did the visitors truly
threaten before the break, when Hal Robson-Kanu let fly with a shot
David de Gea would not have reached if it had been on target.

They should have had a chance to
equalise immediately after it though when Nemanja Vidic shoved Adrian
Mariappa over inside the box. Reading appealed for what TV replays
showed to be a clear foul but referee Lee Mason was unmoved.

United failed to profit from their good fortune, with Welbeck and Young going close either side of a wild effort from Van Persie that flew out from a throw-in.

Blow: Ashley Young's evening was cut short by injury but United held on to beat Reading at Old Trafford

Blow: Ashley Young's evening was cut short by injury but United held on to beat Reading at Old Trafford

Van Persie's loss of form seems to
have crept up unnoticed. His free-scoring ways earlier in the season are
a mere memory now, with Taylor repelling a well-struck free-kick to
keep the former Arsenal man out.

Whilst Rooney did fire over from long-range, the hosts gave Reading enough hope to believe an equaliser was possible.

It did not come though. And as certain as it appears United will end the season champions, Reading looked destined the finish it in the Championship.

In charge: Careataker manager Eamonn Dolan watched his Reading side suffer a narrow defeat

In charge: Careataker manager Eamonn Dolan watched his Reading side suffer a narrow defeat

Wayne Rooney will stay at Manchester United, says Sir Alex Ferguson

Rooney WILL stay! Ferguson insists star forward isn't leaving United after Real snub

Sir Alex Ferguson says Wayne Rooney will remain at Manchester United next season

Ferguson stands by decision to start Real Madrid clash with Rooney on the bench

United manager reveals he thought he'd get 'more stick' for leaving out Shinji Kagawa

Ferguson admits he had expressed concern to his staff about the appointment of referee Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir prior to Tuesday's defeat

PUBLISHED:

09:54 GMT, 8 March 2013

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UPDATED:

10:19 GMT, 8 March 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that Wayne Rooney will be at Manchester United next season.

The England international's future was thrown into doubt after Ferguson sensationally axed him for the visit of Real Madrid earlier this week.

But speaking ahead of United's FA Cup sixth-round showdown with Chelsea on Sunday, Ferguson says he has not plans to sell Rooney in the summer.

The right decision: Sir Alex Ferguson has stood by his call to leave Wayne Rooney on the bench for the visit of Madrid

The right decision: Sir Alex Ferguson has stood by his call to leave Wayne Rooney on the bench for the visit of Madrid

Benched: Wayne Rooney was unceremoniously axed for the visit of Real Madrid on Tuesday night

Benched: Wayne Rooney was unceremoniously axed for the visit of Real Madrid on Tuesday night

Wayne Rooney

'He'll be here next year,' Ferguson said. 'You can have my word on that.'

'The issue you're all going on about in the papers is absolute rubbish.

'There is absolutely no issue
between Wayne Rooney and I. To suggest we don't talk to each other on
the training ground is absolute nonsense.

'He understood the reasons for not
playing him and that was completely tactical. And I think I was right.
We don't always get it right but I think we did get it right.

All smiles: Wayne Rooney appeared in good spirits yesterday despite being omitted from United's startling line-up

All smiles: Wayne Rooney appeared in good spirits yesterday despite being omitted from United's startling line-up

'Danny Welbeck is the best player we
have in terms of operating in a double role. We had to choke Xabi
Alonso's ability to control the game, which Danny did, and that took
away Alonso's control of the game and his ability to go further forward
and be an attacking player.

'We don't always get it right but we definitely did on Tuesday.

'I left out Shinji Kagawa after he scored a hat-trick. I thought I would get more stick for that.'

Ferguson is still bitter about the
circumstances of Tuesday's defeat, in particular the dismissal of Nani,
on which the entire contest turned.

On the ball: Ferguson opted for Danny Welbeck ahead of Rooney for Tuesday night's tie

On the ball: Ferguson opted for Danny Welbeck ahead of Rooney for Tuesday night's tie

'It is hard to keep your faith when you have things like that,' added the Scot.

Ferguson refused to say whether Rooney would actually start on Sunday.

And he again repeated his belief that
the 27-year-old needed to play matches in order to retain full fitness,
an assessment that has raised so much debate over the past few days.

'Why should I help anyone by telling them my team We don't do that,' said Ferguson. 'But Wayne does need a lot of football. He has always been that type. That has always been the case.'

Ferguson was speaking for the first
time since United were dumped out of the Champions League with assistant
United boss claiming the Scot was 'too distressed' to engage with the
media.

'Mick was the right one to go out,' added Ferguson. 'He’s calm, he’s very good with the press and I’m going to use him more.

'That was a nice time to have a chat with Jose have a glass of wine and relax a bit.'

Ferguson said he had been concerned about the appointment of Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir prior to Tuesday's game.

Cakir has now sent off seven players from English teams, but never one against them.

'I was concerned. I said that to my staff,' he said. 'I had a big worry about it but it is gone now. There is nothing we can do about it.'

Nani

Sir Alex Ferguson

Dismissed: Sir Alex Ferguson was too 'distraught' to speak to the media after Nani was shown a red card

Manchester United 4 Fulham 1 – match report: Javier Hernandez scores twice

Man United 4 Fulham 1: Merciless Reds put on dazzling display to send Cottagers out

PUBLISHED:

19:22 GMT, 26 January 2013

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UPDATED:

19:31 GMT, 26 January 2013

Manchester United marched into the fifth round of the FA Cup after battering Fulham at Old Trafford.

Ryan Giggs scored from the spot after an Aaron Hughes handball early in the game before Wayne Rooney and two goals from Javier Hernandez put the tie beyond doubt.

Hughes clawed back a consolation for the Cottagers, but the result never looked in doubt.

Cruising: Javier Hernandez (right) is congratulated by Wayne Rooney (left) after scoring Manchester United's fourth

Cruising: Javier Hernandez (right) is congratulated by Wayne Rooney (left) after scoring Manchester United's fourth

Game over: Hernandez scored Manchester United's third to put the result beyond doubt

Game over: Hernandez scored Manchester United's third to put the result beyond doubt

Doubled: Rooney scored Manchester United's second of the evening after half-time

Doubled: Rooney scored Manchester United's second of the evening after half-time

On the spot: Ryan Giggs opened the scoring for United from the spot

On the spot: Ryan Giggs opened the scoring for United from the spot

MATCH FACTS

Man United: De Gea, Rafael, Evra, Jones, Smalling, Anderson (Kagawa 71), Giggs (Valencia 71), Carrick (Scholes 61), Nani, Rooney, Hernandez

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Welbeck, Van Persie

Goals: Giggs 3, Rooney 50, Hernandez 53, 66

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riise, Hangeland, Baird (Karagounis 46), Hughes, Riether, Sidwell, Duff (Rodallega 61), Kacaniklic, Berbatov, Ruiz (Dejagah 70)

Subs not used: Etheridge, Senderos, Briggs, Petric

Goal: Hughes 77

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

More to follow…

Incriminating: Aaron Hughes gave away the penalty after handling the ball in the box

Incriminating: Aaron Hughes gave away the penalty after handling the ball in the box

Battle: Alex Kacaniklic (right) and Rafael compete for possession

Battle: Alex Kacaniklic (right) and Rafael compete for possession

Close: Rooney looks to the skies after seeing the ball go wide

Close: Rooney looks to the skies after seeing the ball go wide

.

Welcome back: Dimitar Berbatov (left) and Chris Smalling (right) battle for possession

Welcome back: Dimitar Berbatov (left) and Chris Smalling (right) battle for possession

.

Powerless: Martin Jol watched his Fulham side succumb to a routine defeat

Powerless: Martin Jol watched his Fulham side succumb to a routine defeat

.

On the sidelines: Robin van Persie

On the sidelines:A fan shows her support for United

On the sidelines: Robin van Persie as a fan watches United with a green and gold scarf

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 1 match report

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 1: Dempsey dramatic injury-time equaliser cuts Red Devils' lead over City to five points

PUBLISHED:

17:54 GMT, 20 January 2013

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UPDATED:

18:07 GMT, 20 January 2013

Clint Dempsey scored a dramatic equaliser deep into injury-time to rescue a point for Tottenham at a snowy White Hart Lane.

Robin van Persie clinically headed home in the 25th minute and that looked like the winner all the way until the 92nd minute when American Dempsey converted Aaron Lennon's cross to snatch a point for Spurs.

More to follow

Saviour: Clint Dempsey struck deep into injury-time to rescue a point for Spurs

Saviour: Clint Dempsey struck deep into injury-time to rescue a point for Spurs

Saviour: Clint Dempsey struck deep into injury-time to rescue a point for Spurs

Match facts

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Naughton (Assou-Ekotto 64), Lennon, Parker (Huddlestone 80), Dembele, Bale, Dempsey, Defoe.

Subs Not Used: Friedel, Vertonghen, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Townsend.

Booked: Dawson.

Goals: Dempsey 90.

Man Utd: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Jones, Carrick, Cleverley (Valencia 74), Kagawa (Rooney 62), Welbeck, Van Persie.

Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Anderson, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez.

Booked: Carrick, Evra, Rafael, Rooney.

Goals: Van Persie 25.

Att: 35,956

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).

Clinical: Robin van Persie scored his 22nd goal of the season after 25 minutes

Clinical: Robin van Persie scored his 22nd goal of the season after 25 minutes

Clinical: Robin van Persie scored his 22nd goal of the season after 25 minutes

Leap: Gareth Bale jumps for the ball in the north London snow

Leap: Gareth Bale jumps for the ball in the north London snow

Over the edge: Bale falls into the crowd

Over the edge: Bale falls into the crowd

Challenge: Mousa Dembele and Michael Dawson tackle Van Persie

Challenge: Mousa Dembele and Michael Dawson tackle Van Persie

Spurned: Jermain Defoe missed a good opportunity in the second half

Spurned: Jermain Defoe missed a good opportunity in the second half

Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United looks on

Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United adjusts his hat

Wrap up warm: Alex Ferguson looked uncomfortably cold at White Hart Lane

Doubt: Snow forced match officials to call an inspection at 2.50pm

Doubt: Snow forced match officials to call an inspection at 2.50pm

Doubt: Snow forced match officials to call an inspection at 2.50pm

Hard work: Groundsmen clear snow from the playing surface at White Hart Lane

Hard work: Groundsmen clear snow from the playing surface at White Hart Lane

Cold Two fans shelter from the snow ahead of the match

Cold Two fans shelter from the snow ahead of the match

Danny Welbeck dilemma for Man United as Sir Alex Ferguson loathe to drop striker for Wayne Rooney

Welbeck dilemma for Man United as Sir Alex loathe to drop striker for fit-again Rooney

By
Joe Bernstein

PUBLISHED:

22:55 GMT, 19 January 2013

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UPDATED:

22:55 GMT, 19 January 2013

Manchester United manager Sir Alex
Ferguson has revealed a softer side ahead of his biggest selection
headache of the season against Tottenham.

Ferguson will explain privately to
players left out of the mouthwatering game at White Hart Lane why they
haven't been included. He says the days of simply pinning up the
teamsheet without any discussion are over.

All aboard: Alex Ferguson and his players wait for the train to London on Saturday

All aboard: Alex Ferguson and his players wait for the train to London on Saturday

Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa are all fit to start for United at White Hart Lane but Danny Welbeck's man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool last weekend means Ferguson is loathe to drop the England youngster.

United's injury worries in defence have also eased with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic available to compete with fitagain Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who were outstanding in the midweek FA Cup win against West Ham when United kept only their third clean sheet at Old Trafford since September.

Ferguson said: 'You want to be able to say to someone “I'm leaving you out not because you did not play well last week – you played great – but I'm going to pick a different team”.

Police escort: The Man United players board the train to London

Police escort: The Man United players board the train to London

'It's difficult to leave players out. You have to speak to them. The days of just putting a team up on the notice board are gone. The stats of players' running performance over the last 10 years have soared. It's amazing. As the game gets quicker and more energy gets spent you have to think more about picking your teams. Players do accept being left out now. I'm not saying they enjoy it but they handle it not too badly.'

Rooney and Van Persie could start together for the first time since Rooney was injured in mid-December. United will be keen to avenge a 3-2 home defeat by Spurs in September. Spurs have never completed the League double over United in the Premier League era.

Manchester United 2 West Brom 0 – match report

Manchester United 2 West Brom 0: RVP climbs off bench to add gloss to narrow win

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UPDATED:

17:27 GMT, 29 December 2012

Robin van Persie's 17th goal of the season ensured Manchester United claimed yet another scalp on their march towards what they hope will be a 20th league title at Old Trafford.

Yet the performance of skipper Nemanja Vidic was equally notable, as he guided United to only their fourth Premier League clean sheet of the season after Gareth McAuley's early own goal had put the hosts in front against West Brom.

Plagued by injury for the past 16 months, and restored to the United line-up for the only the second time since his most recent knee operation, Serbian Vidic used all of his experience to ensure the hosts were not made to pay for a lacklustre second-half display.

Game over: Robin van Persie celebrates scoring his team's second goal

Game over: Robin van Persie celebrates scoring his team's second goal

MATCH FACTS

Man Utd: De Gea, Smalling, Vidic,
Evans, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley (Scholes 82), Valencia, Kagawa (Van Persie 65), Young, Welbeck.

Subs not used:
Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Giggs, Hernandez, Buttner.

Goals: McAuley 9 (og), Van Persie 90

Booked: Valencia

West
Brom: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Tamas, Ridgewell, Thorne, Brunt (Morrison 75),
Rosenberg (Lukaku 67), Dorrans (Fortune 83), Odemwingie, Long.

Subs not used: Myhill, El
Ghanassy, Jara Reyes, Dawson

Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire)

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And when Van Persie curled home a brilliant effort in the final minute, the Red Devils` handsome seven-point lead at the top of the table was preserved.

After all the furore around Ferguson's confrontation with Mike Dean on Boxing Day, mascot Fred the Red probably approached the United boss with a degree of trepidation as the pair met on the touchline prior to kick off.

The exchange was cordial, though, as was the jocular encounter between Ferguson and fourth official Phil Dowd shortly afterwards.

And once the match started, referee Jon Moss did little to get the United manager vexed, beyond an inexplicable free-kick against Tom Cleverley when the midfielder had been looking at a dropping ball on the edge of his own box when Billy Jones crashed into him.

/12/29/article-2254524-16AF5D93000005DC-775_634x384.jpg” width=”634″ height=”384″ alt=”Bullet: Van Persie climbed off the bench to seal all three points for United against West Brom” class=”blkBorder” />

Bullet: Van Persie climbed off the bench to seal all three points for United against West Brom

Vidic was wide with a couple of headers and Gabriel Tamas turned away Michael Carrick's goalbound shot.

The nearest United went to doubling their lead was when Young strode onto a deflected Antonio Valencia cross.

He hit it sweetly on the half volley, only for former Red Devils keeper Ben Foster to respond with a brilliant save, which earned his slice of good fortune when he shoved the ball onto the crossbar and over.

Provider: Ashley Young's cross was turned in by McAuley for the opening goal of the game

Provider: Ashley Young's cross was turned in by McAuley for the opening goal of the game

West Bromwich Albion's Gareth McAuley, second left, reacts after deflecting in a shot by Manchester United's Ashley Young, second right, for a own goal

Danny Welbeck – afforded a rare start in a central striking berth – and Shinji Kagawa – back for the first time since suffering a knee injury in October – both sparkled for the hosts, who were so obviously on top.

With a defence that has leaked so many goals this season, Ferguson would not have felt safe.

Yet the presence of Vidic offered some degree of comfort.

Steel: Nemanja Vidic helped shore up a previously leaky Unite defence

Steel: Nemanja Vidic helped shore up a previously leaky Unite defence

The Serbian has been absent so often over the past 15 months it has almost been forgotten what a calming influence he is.

His bravery is unquestioned too. And when Chris Brunt drilled a free-kick goalwards in the final throes of the opening period, it was no surprise Vidic should be the one to emerge from a crowd of bodies having headed it away.

However, with the clock ticking by and heavy rain continuing to pour down on a sodden surface that required a precautionary inspection a couple of hours before kick-off, United started to get stuck.

Doubt: The match at Old Trafford went ahead despite torrential rain prior to kick off

Doubt: The match at Old Trafford went ahead despite torrential rain prior to kick off

Young completely miskicked when Valencia's cross presented a golden opportunity on the hour, which offered a Baggies outfit already growing in self-belief more reason for optimism.

Had Brunt's piledriver been either side of David de Gea it surely would have brought the visitors level.

As it was, the shot went straight to the Spain keeper.

Friendly chat Sir Alex Ferguson with fourth official Phil Dowd and mascot Fred the Red

Friendly chat Sir Alex Ferguson with fourth official Phil Dowd and mascot Fred the Red

Little wonder Van Persie's arrival midway through the second period was greeted with such enthusiasm, underlining the Dutchman's influence since his summer move from Arsenal.

West Brom were in the mood, though.

And with United's passing becoming increasingly sloppy, they continued to push on with force.

Back in action: Shinji Kagawa made his return for United following an injury lay-off

Back in action: Shinji Kagawa made his return for United following an injury lay-off

Vidic needed to be in the right place to clear a Romelu Lukaku cross that threatened panic inside the United six-yard box and the sight of his fellow defenders throwing themselves at anything that moved, it had turned into an unedifying backs-to-the-wall effort so unlike the thrill-a-minute action this stadium has become used to.

Van Persie was denied by Foster with nine minutes remaining but the former England keeper could do nothing about the Dutchman's late shot, which curled expertly into the top corner from Paul Scholes' pass.

Robert Lewandowski arrival could leave Wayne Rooney in the shadows at Old Trafford

As Manchester United close in on 18m Lewandowski, where does it leave Rooney in Fergie's plans

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UPDATED:

09:31 GMT, 28 December 2012

The prospect of Manchester United signing Robert Lewandowski for 18m next summer is a mouthwatering one for Sir Alex Ferguson and the club’s fans.

Lewandowski up front alongside Robin van Persie, supported by his old Borussia Dortmund teammate Shinji Kagawa, with Antonio Valencia on one flank and Ashley Young on the other.

It does, however, pose one vexing question: Where’s Wayne Rooney

The end: Wayne Rooney's chances at Manchester United could be limited should Robert Lewandowski arrive from Borussia Dortmund

Mock-up: How Robert Lewandowski would look in a Man United shirt

The End The arrival of Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund for 18m (mocked up in a United shirt, right) could severely limit the chances of Wayne Rooney, left, as a first-choice striker

Even if you ignore Javier Hernandez and Daniel Welbeck for a moment – and that’ s not something Ferguson can easily do – Lewandowski’s arrival would, at the very least, put pressure on the automatic place that seems to have been Rooney’s by right since he moved to Old Trafford from Everton in the summer of 2004.

It would be sheer folly to discount England’s first-choice striker, and one of the greatest players of his generation, just yet. At 27, Rooney is in his prime.

But a wretched performance at Swansea on Sunday, when he was hooked by Ferguson 12 minutes from time, was hardly a one-off.

Until a sudden burst of five goals in three Premier League games at the start of the month, this had been the least prolific of Rooney’s nine seasons at United except for two years ago when he was distracted by a contract dispute that almost led to him quitting Old Trafford.

Back then, in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leaving United, the prospect of losing Rooney as well was almost unthinkable. Not anymore.

Van Persie has changed the dynamic and Lewandowski’s arrival would change it again.

Much to ponder: Sir Alex Ferguson would have a wealth of striking personnel to choose from if Lewandowski joins

Much to ponder: Sir Alex Ferguson would have a wealth of striking personnel to choose from if Lewandowski joins

Even without the Poland striker on board, United seem to be coping quite well in Rooney’s absence. On Boxing Day they put four past Newcastle, with Van Persie scoring his 16th of the season – twice Rooney’s total – and Hernandez snatching another late winner.

Rooney has now been ruled out for three weeks with a knee injury, and it will be interesting to see how United fare over the next four games.

With Lewandowski – scorer of 40 league goals in 83 games for Dortmund – believed to be on his way, can they finally do without him

The Glazer family would certainly not need their arms twisting too far to wave goodbye to a player who earns more than 200,000-a-week, particularly as they will have to finance a five-year contract for Lewandowski worth 20.5m.

The other scenario, of course, is that signing the Poland striker would simply hasten Rooney’s conversion into a permanent midfield role.

Vital link: Shinji Kagawa, who played with Lewandowski at Dortmund, is another challenger for Rooney's position

Vital link: Shinji Kagawa, who played with Lewandowski at Dortmund, is another challenger for Rooney's position

A big fan of the winger system that has epitomised the cavalier nature of his United teams for more than a quarter of a century, Ferguson has been persuaded to try the diamond formation favoured by first-team coach Rene Muelensteen.

Rooney is ideally suited to sit at the top of the diamond where he can combine his natural attacking instincts with a vision and passing range that is up there with some of the best midfielders in the world.

Only problem is, that’s the role Kagawa was brought in to fill and the Japanese international was just starting to show why Ferguson put such faith in him when he suffered a knee injury against Braga in October.

Star buy: Robin Van Persie has scored 16 goals in 23 matches for Man United since joining in the summer

Star buy: Robin Van Persie has scored 16 goals in 23 matches for Man United since joining in the summer

Kagawa’s understanding with Lewandowski helped Dortmund to successive Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012, and is one of the big advantages of reuniting him with his old teammate at Old Trafford.

Ferguson can also deploy Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Nick Powell in a similar position, and his interest in Wesley Sneijder, Luka Modric, Samir Nasri and Eden Hazard over the last couple of years is well documented.

Will there be room for Rooney in the new United or could the previously unthinkable happen and he is squeezed out

It’s far too early to tell but ‘The Big Man’, as Rooney famously referred to himself on arrival at England’s World Cup base in Baden Baden in 2006, had better be ready for a big challenge.

Gary Neville: Manchester United success showed importance of Christmas parties

Party now and you may be celebrating in May… just like United in our amazing treble year of 1999

|

UPDATED:

00:19 GMT, 23 December 2012

I had not missed being a footballer
since quitting almost two years ago until this week, when I saw the
video clips of Shinji Kagawa singing Gangnam Style at Manchester
United’s Christmas party.

And of Robin van Persie singing ‘Glory, Glory Man United’. Like many former professionals, it’s the camaraderie in the dressing room that I miss. And never was the team spirit more tangible in my time at United than at the Christmas parties.

It’s a real shame that we’ve seen a lot of teams cancel their parties out of respect for the fans — sides such as QPR and Reading — and other clubs banning them because of the potential trouble they can cause if they get out of hand or the way they might be reported in the media.

Enlarge

Party Line: The United Christmas do in the days when Neville joined Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs cemented team bonds

Party Line: The United Christmas do in the days when Neville joined Wayne
Rooney and Ryan Giggs cemented
team bonds

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17/11/12

Gary Neville: Why Manchester City are still searching for their own identity
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Gary Neville: Nine great reasons why RVP can become a Manchester United legend
03/11/12

Gary Neville: Why both Chelsea and Manchester United would accept a 1-0 win at the Bridge
27/10/12

Gary Neville: AVB deserves a second chance… good managers – and some great ones – have failed before
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I understand why clubs and managers feel they have to take that step. When every phone is a camera, it’s almost impossible to allow yourself a night out. Even something relatively innocuous can cause problems for the club or the players in the media. And it’s always possible, as at any Christmas party across the country, that a serious incident might occur.

But when people pinpoint the moment they thought Manchester United would win the Treble in 1999, most analysts will point to the amazing FA Cup semi-final win against Arsenal or the comeback in the Champions League against Juventus. But no one in that squad would underestimate the importance of December 21, 1998, the date of the Christmas party.

As a squad, we would work hard all season, living disciplined lives, but would always have an eye on two events: the pre-season tour night out and the Christmas do. For years we would start the Christmas party in central Manchester for lunch and then move on to The Old Grapes pub by around five o’clock. An acoustic guitarist would be on stage and for two or three hours we would sing non-stop together as a group before going on to a private party which would go past midnight for as long as you could keep going.

And if you could give me back 15 days
of my life, then a good few of them would be in that pub singing those
songs with my team-mates. /12/1418450360_2039308730001_vs-50cde328e4b0d3ce95ea42cb-1206954750001.jpgpubId=1418450360″ class=”plcHlder” />

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And you got to
see people as you never normally would. We found out in 1998 that Dwight
Yorke could balance 25 cocktails on a tray on his head and walk round
the club serving every player. We heard Roy Keane deliver one of the
all-time funniest speeches that no one will ever forget.

Occasionally
comments would come out in anger and there would be arguments but even
that could break some of tension. When done properly that helped to
provide a level of accountability among the team that we needed.

And you would also have
conversations that broke down barriers. Peter Schmeichel gave me a
terrible time when I broke into the first team. And it was on a team day
out two years later that he sat me down and said: ‘Look, I’m sorry. I
thought you were a risk to our performance level and would make too many
mistakes.’ And then he shook my hand and said: ‘I was wrong.’ And he
would never have said that in the dressing room.

Robin Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Alexander Buttner celebrate at the Manchester United Christmas party

Robin van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Alexander
Buttner all celebrated their success in the Premier League at Saturday's
Christmas party

At
the 1997 Christmas do, Eric Cantona sat down with a group of us younger
players and told us that we would win the European Cup that year. He
was a year off in his prediction but he gave us that belief that we
could. And we couldn’t have had that kind of conversation with Eric at
that stage outside of the Christmas party.

Not
everyone in that group got on. Famously, Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel
never did, nor did Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham. But to create a team
dynamic, there has to at least be a level of tolerance. They have to
all be wanting the same goal so that when you have disappointments you
can rally round each other. And there has to be accountability among the
players.

And
I genuinely believe that the Christmas parties were pivotal in creating
that. In 1998 we had been disappointing up to Christmas. We had lost
against Arsenal, Sheffield Wednesday, Spurs and to Middlesbrough at
home. But after Christmas we were unbeaten until the end of the season

Don’t
get me wrong. The main reason you have success on a football pitch is
down to what you do on the training ground. It’s down to dedication and
determination and concentration during a match. But just as important is
the mentality of the squad. And that means being able to call out your
team-mates when they’re not delivering. The best teams police
themselves.

Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel didn't get on but played massive roles in Manchester United's modern day success

Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel didn't get on but played massive roles in Manchester United's modern day success

Sometimes those
exchanges among players after a match can be brutal. But hearing those
harsh truths becomes more acceptable when you understand each other
better as people and understand where they’re coming from. Once I
realised that Peter Schmeichel didn’t actually dislike me but merely
wanted what was best for the team, I appreciated why he had been hard on
me.

Times changed and we
had our watershed moment in 2008, when a party I had organised at a
hotel ended up with a player being arrested — though he was eventually
cleared. But it created a situation that made life difficult at the club
and parties were banned — though they have clearly made a comeback in a
more understated fashion

So
it’s much more difficult to create that kind of atmosphere now. And
it’s very lazy to suggest that you just need a few beers to bond.
Anyway, most elite footballers hardly drink now because if you do you’ll
quickly fall behind in the pecking order. The old school can’t work any
more.

Managers such as Sir
Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp have said recently that they have had
to mellow as they grew more experienced because footballers have changed
and don’t respond to blunt dressing downs. You need to find new ways to
motivate, to build a team and to make sure the players hold each other
to account.

Because, in an
era when all teams have taken advantage of the advances in sports
science, technology, statistics and training, where will you get that
added edge It has to be in the collective strength of the mentality of
the group.

Maybe sports
psychologists can help. The manager’s speeches and leadership will help
to build that. But ultimately it’s a difficult dynamic to impose. You
create it yourselves as a team and that means you have to make the
effort to go out together.

The
easy thing is to go out in your own groups but if you want to create a
team spirit then you have to make space for people to relax and get to
know each other as a team three or four times a season. I genuinely
believe that can give you the kind of edge you need when you’re 1-0 down
against Bayern Munich in a Champions League final with just three
minutes of injury time to play.

That unbelievable night: Gary and brother Phil celebrate European Cup glory at the Nou Camp in 1999

That unbelievable night: Gary and brother Phil celebrate European Cup glory at the Nou Camp in 1999

United and Real must focus on improving ahead of showdown

When I heard the Champions League draw on Thursday morning, my first thought was: ‘Ouch!’ That was quickly followed by: ‘What a game!’

Because it is the toughest draw United could have had, given that they finished top of their group. But it’s also a game in which you dream of playing, a fixture that evokes incredible memories and promises endless possibilities, with the added excitement of Cristiano Ronaldo coming back to Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho.

It’s less then eight weeks to go now until they meet and both clubs need to hit top form quickly. Usually you would talk about March, April and May being the crucial months of the season. Both Real Madrid and United can forget that now. Neither team will be competitive in February unless they’re absolutely at their peak.

United may be top of the Premier League but they haven’t been at their best yet, while Real have struggled in their league and will be focusing most of their energy on the Champions League now. And if they want to compete for the ultimate trophy, they will have to use the next two months to improve.

Old rivals: Jose Mourinho will once more come up against Sir Alex Ferguson

Old rivals: Jose Mourinho will once more come up against Sir Alex Ferguson

Robin van Persie sings Glory Glory Man United at Christmas party – with Shinji Kagawa Gangnam performance

Van Persie shows his true colours with rendition of Glory Glory Man United at Christmas party… but Kagawa steals show with Gangnam performance

|

UPDATED:

16:30 GMT, 16 December 2012

He may have only joined Manchester United in the summer, but Robin van Persie seems to have settled in pretty well.

And he's not missing Arsenal much either.

Because he displayed his loyalty to the Red Devils with a festive rendition of 'Glory Glory Man United' during their Christmas party at Rio Ferdinand's Rosso restaurant in Manchester.

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Robin Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Alexander Buttner celebrate at the Manchester United Christmas party

Robin Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand and Alexander Buttner all celebrated their success in the Premier League at Saturday's Christmas party

Alex Ferguson paid 24million for the striker and is unlikely to be regretting the move.

Since
his transfer from Arsenal, the 29-year-old has scored 15 goals in 21
games for his new club, taking them six points clear at the top of the
Premier League.

His former club, meanwhile, are currently floundering in eighth place, and recently suffered an embarrassing defeat to a League Two Bradford side.

Shinji Kagawa wasn't going to let Van Persie be the only one to show off his vocal skills, however.

He leapt up to entertain his team-mates with his own version of PSY's 'Gangnam Style.'

Shinji Kagawa attends the Manchester United Christmas party

Robin Van Persie attends the Manchester United Christmas Party

Party time: Shinji Kagawa (left) and Robin van Persie head to Ferdinand's restaurant on Saturday

Rio Ferdinand seemed to enjoy the night, tweeting: 'Kagawa is one funny guy! Made my night last night with the song he sang for the lads! Classic!'

Kagawa also joined United in the summer, moving from Borussia Dortmund. The Japan midfielder has been absent in recent matches after having sustained a knee injury in October.

However, Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that the 23-year-old is set to resume full-time training next week.

It's no wonder that the team were in high spirits at yesterday's Christmas bash.

Captain Nemanja Vidic rejoined the squad in their Saturday clash with Sunderland, in which Ferguson's side eased to a 3-1 victory. They face Swansea on December 23.

Robin Van Persie sings Glory Glory Man United

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Shinji Kagawa sings Gangham Style

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Glory Glory Man United Lyrics

Glory glory Man united,
Glory glory Man united,
Glory glory Man united,
As the reds go marching on on on!

Just like the busby babes in days gone by,
We'll keep the red flags flying high,
Your gonna see us all from far and wide,
Your gonna hear the masses sing with pride.

United, Man united,
We're the boys in red and we're on our way to Wembley!

Wembley, Wembley,
We're the famous Man united and we're going to Wembley,
Wembley, Wembley,
We're the famous Man united and we're going to Wembley

In Seventy-Seven it was Docherty
Atkinson will make it Eighty-Three
And everyone will no just who we are,
They'll be singing que sera sera

United, Man united,
We're the boys in red and we're on our way to Wembley!

Wembley, Wembley,
We're the famous Man united and we're going to Wembley,
Wembley, Wembley,
We're the famous Man united and we're going to Wembley

Glory glory Man united,
Glory glory Man united,
Glory glory Man united,
As the reds go marching on on on!

Robert Lewandowski to Manchester United or Manchester City rumours played down

Dortmund chief plays down Lewandowski to Manchester rumours

|

UPDATED:

16:36 GMT, 15 December 2012

Robert Lewandowski won't be joining either Manchester City or Manchester United at the end of the season, according to his club Borussia Dortmund.

The German champions have dismissed reports that the striker will move to City in exchange for Edin Dzeko next summer and rumours that he might leave for United in a 12m deal.

The 24-year-old marksman has nine goals in 15 Bundesliga matches this season, though Borussia are a long way behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich in the standings.

Manchester move Robert Lewandowski, seen here playing for Borussia Dortmund against Manchester City in the Champions League, could be on his way to either City or United

Manchester move Robert Lewandowski, seen here playing for Borussia Dortmund against Manchester City in the Champions League, could be on his way to either City or United

'There has been no contact from Manchester City, either about Robert Lewandowski or any other player,' said Dortmund chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke.

'There has also been no contact (about him) with any other club.'

Star buy: Lewandowski has scored nine goals in 15 Bundesliga matches already this season

Star buy: Lewandowski has scored nine goals in 15 Bundesliga matches already this season

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson personally scouted the Pole when Borussia played Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in November, while Inter Milan and Arsenal have also been linked with him.

Dortmund have tried to get him to sign a new deal but it is believed the player would prefer to follow in the footsteps of Shinji Kagawa to Old Trafford.