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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

|

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

Danny Welbeck pleased with how far he has progressed at Manchester United

Madrid goal has given me the motivation to achieve more, says Welbeck

, given Welbeck has tended to reserve his most productive displays for times when he has been on England duty.

However, it would now be something of a surprise if Sir Alex Ferguson left the 22-year-old out of his starting line-up at Old Trafford next week.

Not bad for a youngster brought up in the same Longsight district of Manchester as Wes Brown, born of parents who both hail from Ghana.

'It was a great feeling to get a goal at the Bernabeu,' said Welbeck.

'The whole occasion was immense, with the number of fans who travelled over and with it being such a big game.

Heads up: Danny Welbeck puts United ahead against Real Madrid

Heads up: Danny Welbeck puts United ahead against Real Madrid

'There was a little part of me thinking I have come a long way in a short space of time.
'But it is something I strived for since I was a little kid.

'I really wanted to play for Manchester United and that was one of the biggest games, so part of me did feel proud.

'But it also gave me the motivation to carry on and try to strive for more.'

Welbeck's lack of goals is rather strange considering he was England's top scorer in 2012 and has never previously found it a problem, even if he is not amongst the most prolific members of Sir Alex Ferguson's squad.

The answer, in his view, is simple, and comes from the role he was asked to carry out in the first leg; out wide, trying to counter whilst not forgetting defensive duties against a side so dangerous on the counter-attack.

'I have not really played in my favourite position,' he said. 'I like to play as a striker but a lot of the time I have been out wide.

'I would like to get more goals, but it is obviously more difficult to get them when you are playing in wider areas.”

Wayne Rooney has been given the same duties on a regular basis during his United career.

Indeed, he was repeating the job Welbeck was doing on the left down United's right-hand flank in Madrid last month, underlining his own selfless contribution to the cause.

It is anticipated more will be demanded of Rooney in attack at Old Trafford, which may mean a switch inside in preference to Shinji Kagawa, who nearly made an impact at the Bernabeu without actually managing it.

That move would possibly trigger a recall for Antonio Valencia, although clearly Ferguson does have options, as he does in the form of Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs and Anderson in central midfield if Phil Jones fails to recover from an ankle injury.

'It is the part of the season everyone looks forward to,' said Jonny Evans.

'We are involved in everything and the competitions are all coming in one week.

'The league is the one everyone wants to win but if you asked any player in the Premier League, they would want to play in the Champions League.

Getting on: Welbeck replaces Van Persie to take his chance

Getting on: Welbeck replaces Van Persie to take his chance

'Being at Manchester United, you want that every single season and matches against teams like Real Madrid are ones you need to cherish.

'But we can't just think about what a fantastic occasion it is. We also need to perform.'

Wayne Rooney and Kaka video interview ahead of Manchester United v Real Madrid Champions League second leg

Rooney and Kaka share their thoughts ahead of Tuesday's crunch Champions League second leg at Old Trafford

By
Sunni Upal

PUBLISHED:

17:00 GMT, 3 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:11 GMT, 3 March 2013

Manchester United and Real Madrid will go head to head at Old Trafford on Tuesday night in the second leg of their mammoth Champions League last-16 tie.

Cristiano Ronaldo's header for the Spanish champions has left the tie delicately poised at 1-1, after Danny Welbeck gave United the lead in the Bernabeu last month.

In an exclusive interview for Sportsmail – courtesy of bwin – Wayne Rooney and Kaka share their thoughts in the build-up to Tuesday's mouth-watering match.

Scroll down for the exclusive video interview

Head to head: Wayne Rooney and Kaka talk to bwin ahead of Tuesday's Champions League tie

Head to head: Wayne Rooney and Kaka talk to bwin ahead of Tuesday's Champions League tie

Head to head: Wayne Rooney and Kaka talk to bwin ahead of Tuesday's Champions League tie

Both men are searching for their second Champions League crown this season and they reflect on their best moment in the competition as well as the best goal of their career.

The battle between Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho will be almost as big a talking point as the match itself and Rooney and Kaka each justify why they think their manager is the best in the world.

Rooney described the draw at the Bernabeu as 'a good result' for United and Kaka suggested there was a feeling of an opportunity missed for Real.

Winner: Rooney in Moscow in 2008

Winner: Rooney in Moscow in 2008

Champion: Kaka in Athens in 2007

Champion: Kaka in Athens in 2007

Breath-taking: Rooney's stunning overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011

Breath-taking: Rooney's stunning overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011

Brace: Kaka scored two goals at Old Trafford during Milan's Champions League winning season in 2007

Brace: Kaka scored two goals at Old Trafford during Milan's Champions League winning season in 2007

Brace: Kaka scored two goals at Old Trafford during Milan's Champions League winning season in 2007

Kaka also highlighted Rooney as a danger and someone he respects but, embarrassingly, when the English forward was asked the same question there was no mention of the Brazilian.

Real head into the clash after two Clasico wins within a week including an impressive 3-1 victory at the Nou Camp in the Copa del Rey semi-final.

The Spanish champions must score at Old Trafford but the match at the Nou Camp highlighted the counter-attacking threat that Mourinho's side pose.

VIDEO: Wayne Rooney and Kaka's exclusive interview with bwin

BOSS OFF Rooney and Kaka rate their managers

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For all the latest odds and special bets visit www.bwin.com

Barcelona"s New York transfer summit – Chelsea"s David Luiz top summer target

Revealed: Barcelona's New York transfer summit – Spanish giants want Chelsea's Luiz and Wembley flop Neymar (and that means Villa would be free to join Arsenal)

By
Paul Collins

PUBLISHED:

22:31 GMT, 13 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

14:09 GMT, 14 February 2013

Top Barcelona officials met in New York this week to thrash out the club's transfer strategy and one of their top targets is Chelsea defender David Luiz.

Barca coach Tito Vilanova, who is currently on sick leave, met with sporting director
Andoni Zubizarreta, technical secretary Albert Valentn and football co-ordinator Narcis Julia in the United States.

Rough and tumble: Brazil defender David Luiz (right) tussles with Wayne Rooney during England's 2-1 win at Wembley last week

Rough and tumble: Brazil defender David Luiz (right) tussles with Wayne Rooney during England's 2-1 win at Wembley last week

Tito Vilanova

Another target: Neymar is wanted by Barca

New York summit: Tito Vilanova (left) flew to America where plans were drawn up to sign Neymar (right)

Vilanova is
keen to strengthen his defence, despite club captain Carles Puyol only
recent signing a new deal at the Nou Camp and 25-year-old Luiz is seen as a long-term replacement, despite the Brazil centre half struggling for consistency at Stamford Bridge this season.

Luiz's fellow Brazilian Neymar, who was widely criticised for his insipid performance at Wembley against England, was also on his list, which would allow Arsenal target David Villa to leave.

If he does make the move in the summer
then Luiz could team up with a couple of former Premier League players
in Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas.

Arsenal hope: Barcelona's David Villa, could be on his way out of Barca, who hope Luiz (below) will come in

Arsenal hope: Barcelona's David Villa, could be on his way out of Barca, who hope Luiz (below) will come in

Blues brother: Barcelona are keen to sign David Luiz in the summer

According to Portuguese paper A Bola, Chelsea would be reluctant to sell one of their assets to their European rivals.

But they also suggest that if they were to let him go to Spain, then they would want to recoup a sizeable amount of the 21m transfer fee they forked out for him in 2011.

Chelsea are third in the Premier League and Luiz and his team-mates face a battle to secure Champions League football next season as they are only one point ahead of fellow London rivals Tottenham, with Arsenal an additional four points behind them.

England players take the train from Birmingham to London – PICTURES

Now this is what you call an England training session! Rooney and Co on track to tackle Brazil with first-class delivery to Wembley

final.

All aboard: Wayne Rooney chats to Everton duo Leon Osman and Leighton Baines

All aboard: Wayne Rooney chats to Everton duo Leon Osman and Leighton Baines

Jan Vertonghen: Tottenham not finishing in top four is failure

Qualify for Champions League or we're failures, says Vertonghen

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

17:04 GMT, 18 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:22 GMT, 18 January 2013

Jan Vertonghen says Tottenham will have underachieved if they do not qualify for next season's Champions League – and insists Spurs can win the title in the future if they keep their squad together.

The defender has adapted well to English football and is a firm part of Andre Villas-Boas' regular starting line-up.

Vertonghen, who should play against Manchester United at White Hart Lane told the Evening Standard: 'We have one of the best squads in the League, we’re in the top four now and we can stay there.

Aiming high: Jan Vertonghen says not finishing in the top four is underachieving

Aiming high: Jan Vertonghen says not finishing in the top four is underachieving

'Of course, there are exceptional players elsewhere, Wayne Rooney, Van Persie, David Silva, Sergio Aguero, and at Chelsea as well. But we have 25 very good players, too.

'We can stay together, especially if we’re playing in the Champions League. I hope, one day, we can win the title. We’re capable of it but we need Champions League football to keep the good players here.

'Everyone wants to play in the competition and that’s what you saw with Luka Modric (who joined Real Madrid last summer), I guess. It’s important for the club, not a real disaster if it doesn’t happen, but important for the future.

'It would feel an underachievement if we didn’t do it (finish in the top four).

'We really want to play in the Champions League and I think we have the squad to get there.'

Their bid to re-join Europe's elite was hampered by the news that midfielder Sandro will be out for the remainder of the season.

The Brazilian had surgery on Tuesday after sustaining the injury in last weekend's 0-0 draw at QPR and is expected to miss the next six months.

And Sandro tweeted this picture of his leg following his operation accompanied with a defiant message.

In stitches: Sandro tweeted this picture of his leg on Friday

In stitches: Sandro tweeted this picture of his leg on Friday

'I've already overcome many obstacles… This is just one more,' he wrote.

Sandro has played an instrumental role
for Spurs so far this season, but Villas-Boas believes his squad boasts
enough quality to compensate for the midfielder’s absence.

He said: ‘The player is going to be out for the rest of the season. With any injury like that you’re looking at around six months out.

Ruled out: Andre Villas-Boas will miss the dynamic midfielder

Ruled out: Andre Villas-Boas will miss the dynamic midfielder

‘We were positive regarding his cruciate ligament, even during the initial assessment, because we felt there wasn’t a complete tear, but the ACL ligament and has torn completely; his lateral meniscus, too.

‘I think we will be fine. The only thing
we have done so far is to hold on to our midfielders. Jake’s
(Livermore) possible loan to another club (QPR) isn’t out of the
question, but we will hold on to that possibility. Scott Parker coming
back is a major boost.

Parker’s comeback from an achilles injury has come at a good time, while Spurs will wait until the end of the transfer window to decide whether to allow Livermore and Tom Huddlestone out on loan.

United striker Javier Hernandez still can"t understand Scouser Wayne Rooney

I haven't got a clue, Roo! United striker Hernandez still can't understand Scouser Wayne

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

10:47 GMT, 15 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:01 GMT, 15 January 2013

Wayne Rooney's foreign team-mates at Manchester United are struggling to understand him because of his strong Scouse accent.

Striker Javier Hernandez admits
he still has problems understanding Roo's lilt – despite playing
alongside him for three years at Old Trafford.

Stong accent: Scouser Wayne Rooney

Stong accent: Scouser Wayne Rooney

The Mexican, aged 24, says he can differentiate between forward Danny Welbeck's Mancunian accent and Rooney's Liverpool twang – but sometimes struggles to make out what the Scouser is saying.

He said: 'When I first came here, everyone that spoke English sounded exactly the same.

'But now I know the accents. Mind you, it's still difficult to understand Wazza sometimes, though!'

Team talk: United's Javier Hernandez (left)

Team talk: United's Javier Hernandez (left)

Recalling when he joined United in 2006, Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic, 31, said of Rooney: 'I thought he spoke German because his accent is different.'

Ex-England boss Fabio Capello once even suggested Rooney struggles to speak English. Wayne himself has admitted he can only just about understand Liverpool star Jamie Carragher's Scouse accent.

Joe Hart – The Footballers" Football Column: I"d have Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in my all-Premier League team

JOE HART: We go into every game thinking a draw is not a good enough result for us… And I'd have both RVP and Rooney up front in my all-Premier League team

PUBLISHED:

10:54 GMT, 14 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:06 GMT, 14 January 2013

Joe Hart

The latest columnist in MailOnline's exclusive Footballers' Football Column series is Joe Hart, arguably the finest goalkeeper in the Barclays Premier League, England's No 1 and a champion last season with Manchester City. Fresh from yesterday's 2-0 triumph at the Emirates – City's first league win at Arsenal for 37 years – Hart lifts the lid on life on the Carrington training ground, his goalkeeping rivals and Lionel Messi's dress sense.

Hart, an ambassador for head&shoulders, at 25 has made almost 250 senior appearances, 146 of them at City. Watch the video, then enjoy his column…

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With Roberto Mancini we all know where we stand and that's how we work. He sets the team and it's up to us. He's played me so I can't ask for anything more from a manager so I try to repay that faith by playing as well as possible and training hard.

He's got his methods and we do our best to adapt to them but it's up to us, basically, when we go on the field.

It's different for me in training because I disappear and for 80 per cent of the training I'm nowhere near him. But he's got his ways, we try to adapt to them and hopefully that works.

Thanks for coming: Joe Hart (centre) joins team-mates Matija Nastasic (left) and Joleon Lescott applauding City fans, who paid 62 each, for travelling down from Manchester

Thanks for coming: Joe Hart (centre) joins team-mates Matija Nastasic (left) and Joleon Lescott applauding City fans, who paid 62 each, for travelling to London yesterday

Training aid: Hart uses a crash mat to cushion his dives last week. As a goalkeeper he trains away from the rest of the squad for 80 per cent of the time

Training aid: Hart uses a crash mat to cushion his dives last week. As a goalkeeper he trains away from the rest of the squad for 80 per cent of the time

We know where we stand with Roberto: Man City boss Mancini gives James Milner and Co specific instructions during training last Friday

We know where we stand with Roberto: Man City boss Mancini gives James Milner and Co specific instructions during training last Friday

We go into every game thinking that a draw is not a good result for us. That's our mindset, that's how we feel and that's how we line up, player to player.

We don't go into any match fearing anyone. I can't see us losing to anyone but we will lose and we will draw, that's football but our attitude is not like that.

Roberto has brought in players with that mindset already instilled into them and I think every single player has got that attitude in our place – that it's win or die. It's the only way you're going to win things.

Manchester United have that refusal to accept to defeat and have been great about it over the years and it's certainly something everybody wants. But I feel we have that at our place, we feel strong and I do feel like we're not going to lose. Sometimes you do, of course, but we come back late sometimes and sometimes we wrap it up early.

The Champions League has been tough for us but we're playing against champions. We've just not been great. It sounds horrible to say it and some of the games we've done all right but our below par performances have unfortunately been in the Champions League.

Against some teams in the domestic league you might get away with it but in that competition you don't.

The first result is key for us. We had a bad one in Madrid and drew 1-1 the year before at home but it depends how your group goes. You could qualify with seven points or you might not and it's difficult.

Top of the stops: Real Madrid's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas in action against Celta Vigo last week

Top of the stops: Real Madrid's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas in action against Celta Vigo last week

Joe Hart

Joe Hart is an ambassador for head&shoulders

Well, the World XI It is what it is. I
think everyone's got their opinion and if the captains all voted for
those players then it's probably deserved. I didn't look at the team too
closely but most of the names on there speak for themselves. I never
thought I'd be involved in something like that but to come close to
getting in there is great for myself. But I think Iker
Casillas deserves it. He's been amazing for so many years so there are no
questions about that one.

But there are a lot of players I'd like
to see on there. Some that I'm friends with, some that I see a lot and
some that I play with, but it's only opinions so as long as you're
playing well for your team then you're happy.

For my Premier League XI, I purposely won't pick any City players
because it's not fair to pick them because their my team-mates. Keeper
wise, on this year alone, it would be either Petr Cech, Simon Mignolet
or Asmir Begovic.

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United

Robin van Persie of Manchester United

Prize picks: Hart, who excluded all City players from his thinking, would have United duo Wayne Rooney (in training last week, left) and Robin van Persie in his Premier League All-stars team

Simon Mignolet

Asmir Begovic

No 1s: Sunderland's Simon Mignolet (left) and Stoke's Asmir Begovic (right) are both highly rated by Hart

HART'S PREMIER LEAGUE XI

(4-4-2)* Cech, Mignolet or Begovic; Johnson, Jagielka, Shawcross, Cole; Lennon, Cazorla, Mata, Bale; Rooney, Van Persie.

* Hart excluded his Man City team-mates from his considerations due to fairness

In defence I'd have Phil Jagielka and
Ryan Shawcross in the middle and Ashley Cole at left back with Leighton
Baines a very close second. And at right back I'd have Glen Johnson.

In the middle I'd have Santi Cazorla
and, I know he doesn't really play there, but I'd have Juan Mata. On the
wings I think Aaron Lennon has done really well this year and then
obviously Gareth Bale would be on the other side.

Up front it'd have to be Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

Save of the century: Sportsmail's simulation shows Hart keeping out a penalty from Lionel Messi

Save of the century: Sportsmail's simulation shows Hart keeping out a penalty from Lionel Messi

I said your Football Manager simulation would throw up a 5-0 win for the Premier League XI,
so it's sad to see us lose 2-0. But if I saved a penalty against Messi
then it must be real! But if I did have to face him for a penalty, I'd
definitely dive the way the ball went.

I missed the Ballon d'Or awards but because it doesn't have much to do with the Premier League it's hard to take an interest.
I just waited to see the news. I did hear about Messi's jacket but he
can do whatever he wants and nobody could say anything to him. He could
turn up naked if he wanted.

I've had a few fashion faux pas though. We
had a fancy dress do for our Christmas party and I was quite dotty. I
think I had an orange outfit with blue dots all over it, it was a good
look.

Silver fox: City boss Mancini (in the hat) says goodbye after enjoying lunch with his friend Robbie Savage (right) in Alderley Edge, Cheshire earlier this month

Silver fox: City boss Mancini (in the hat) says goodbye after enjoying lunch with his friend Robbie Savage (right) in Alderley Edge, Cheshire earlier this month. The pair became close when playing at Leicester City together

 Lionel Messi

MANCHESTER CITY FOOTBALLER JOE HART IN FANCY DRESS

Spot of bother: Hart reckons that if anyone can pull off the polka-dot look, it's the world's finest footballer Lionel Messi (left), but Joe's own dotty effort left a little more to be desired

In our changing room Pablo Zabaleta
is a pretty bad dresser, mainly because everything he has is free. He
will turn up in anything that anyone will give him. Anything with two
arms and two legs will do him.

Mancini's got quite a bit of style about him too for the older guy I suppose. He likes to think he's a bit of a silver fox.

With Casillas at Real Madrid, I don't know what's going on and I wouldn't even want to get involved. It seems like it's got a few twists and turns that I wouldn't have a clue about. But he's an amazing keeper and I've played against him a few times now and of course I look up to him. There's a few keepers I look up to and he's definitely one of them.

In the Premier League, too, we've got a lot of brilliant goalkeepers. There's not a team in the league where I think they've got a weak point in goalkeeping.

There's so many good young goalkeepers and I think some of them get overlooked because of the ones that stand out, your Buffons, your Casillases, your Neuers. They deserve the praise they get and I think they're awesome goalkeepers. I've played against each of them and they seem like really good people as well, which is even more interesting for me personally because you always want to meet your heroes.

There's the likes of Mignolet coming through and Asmir Begovic is the same age as me so I hope he's still classed as a young talent. There's Tim Krul, there's the Chelsea keeper Thibaud Courtois on loan at Atletico Madrid, there's Fraser Forster, there's Jack Butland, John Ruddy, I could go on and on.

Hart stopper: the Manchester City and England No 1 at a dark Etihad Stadium

Hart stopper: the Manchester City and England No 1 at a dark Etihad Stadium

More from The Footballers' Column…

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Going out on loan really helped me develop as a player but I wouldn't like to tell people what to do because you look at people like Steven Gerrard who have spent their life at one club.

It works for some people and it's what i needed to do because i wasn't going to play where I was so I had to go on loan otherwise I would have just been sat around so it was good for me.

I think there's still plenty of life left in the cups. The League Cup has really kicked on another level and I think it's really good. It's a good way to get some silverware for your club and teams have started to play stronger sides more and more – it's really good to watch.

I missed Luis Suarez's handball last week. We've had a couple of days off and I've been away from everything so I haven't seen it but i heard about it, though it didn't sound too great. But the refs are there to do a job. It's their job to see things like that so you play to the whistle, you're always told that.

You go to any Sunday league side and at the age of eight they're told to play to the whistle and I don't think that changes in the Premier League.

Crazy stuff happens in football. You look at when Paolo Di Canio caught the ball but I don't think anyone would have gone mad if he'd smashed it in the goal because at the end of the day it's a business and you need to win.

I'm not into any of the social network sites. I've got a phone and that's it. It's a big part of the world at the minute and it's interesting to read about but some of the stuff is pathetic and ridiculous.

I think everyone appreciates that. It makes the news and everyone reads it but nobody actually really cares. There's obviously some more serious issues but if it's officially you on one of those sites then you've got to be responsible for your actions.

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Leeds United v Bolton – match report

Leeds United 1 Bolton 0: Happy return for Becchio as he fires Leeds to victory

By
Wayne Gardiner, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

18:21 GMT, 1 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:38 GMT, 2 January 2013

Luciano Becchio returned to the Leeds
side and immediately got back in the scoring groove as the Whites
prevailed in a dire contest with Bolton.

The Argentinian striker was rested for
Saturday's 2-0 loss at Hull in which Leeds failed to register a shot on
target, but he showed his team-mates how it was done today as he scored
his 18th goal of the season from the spot after 65 minutes.

Bolton could stake a claim for an
undeserved defeat – they had the best of a torrid first half during
which they hit the post – but in the end Leeds just about edged it owing
to their second-half improvements.

Enlarge

Luciano Becchio

Match winner: Becchio tucked away his second half penalty to give Leeds all three points

Becchio's goal after Tyrone Mears'
clumsy foul not only earned Neil Warnock's men a fifth straight home win
for the first time since 2009, it also booked him a spot in Leeds'
all-time top-10 leading goalscorers on 76.

MATCH FACTS

Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Pearce, Tate, Peltier, Norris, Austin, Green, Diouf (Gray 90), Becchio, McCormack.

Subs: Ashdown, Drury, Lees, Brown, Somma, Hall.

Booked: Byram.

Goals: Becchio 66 pen.

Bolton: Bogdan, Mears, Knight, Ream, Alonso, Andrews, Spearing (Butterfield 79),Lee (Afobe 68), Pratley (Ngog 68), Eagles, Kevin Davies.

Subs: Lonergan, Petrov, Ricketts, Sordell.

Booked: Afobe,Andrews.

Att: 22,386

Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands).

Click here for all the latest Championship table, fixtures and results

It means United remain in touching
distance of the play-offs, but Warnock will surely still need new owners
GFH Capital to give him the backing he has asked for if they are to
mount a genuine push, as winning without playing well can only last for
so long.

With Rodolph Austin's deflected
12th-minute free-kick skipping wide Leeds had already improved on their
dismal display at Hull on Saturday where they did not register a shot,
and even though the Jamaica midfielder was also off target with the next
effort, they were at least showing some attacking intent.

In spite of their chances, Leeds were
well off the pace in the middle of the park and should have been behind
in the 20th minute.

Darren Pratley robbed Alan Tate of
possession in the centre circle and he and Kevin Davies worked the ball
to a clean-through Chris Eagles, but his shot clipped the post and went
behind.

 Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman

Defeated: Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman was left looking dejected after today's loss

The long strides of Pratley were
giving Bolton the edge and after more good work from him Eagles should
have done better from the edge of the box, before the tricky winger
brought about the best moment of an awful half when he forced Paddy
Kenny to tip his 35-yard shot around the post.

The quality of play scarcely improved
after the break, Eagles dribbling one wide and Marcus Alonso thumping
over from distance, and even when a goal did arrive it was an ugly one.

Leeds built an attack with Austin
going down the right and, after his cross was not cleared, David Norris'
mishit pass rolled into McCormack who was ungainly bundled over by
Mears, allowing Becchio to send Adam Bogdan the wrong way for the second
time this season.

All of a sudden there was some energy
inside Elland Road and El-Hadji Diouf sent McCormack clear but he rushed
his shot and found the stand, before Becchio headed a Diouf corner
over.

Bolton had to raise their own game and
David N'gog shouted in vain for a penalty when he was tackled by Tate,
but they had no way of getting a clear sight of Kenny's goal and were
left to rue Eagles' first-half near miss.

Brighton 1 Watford 3 – match report

Brighton 1 Watford 3: Vydra brace sinks Seagulls on south coast

|

UPDATED:

21:57 GMT, 29 December 2012

Matej Vydra scored twice as Watford cemented their place in the npower Championship play-off places with an impressive win at Brighton.

The Czech striker took his tally for the season to 12 goals with two in the space of two second-half minutes to shoot down the Seagulls.

Brighton boss Gus Poyet was going head-to-head with his old Chelsea team-mate, Watford chief Gianfranco Zola, but a dour first half in the pouring rain left both sets of fans feeling the Blues.

Star: Vydra's brace earned three points for Watford on the south coast

Star: Vydra's brace earned three points for Watford on the south coast

Match facts

Brighton: Kuszczak, Saltor, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge, Crofts (Hoskins 75), Orlandi (Barnes 59), Bridcutt, Mackail-Smith, David Lopez (Dobbie 75), LuaLua.

Subs Not Used: Brezovan, Hammond, Dunk, Dicker.

Booked: El-Abd.

Goals: David Lopez 65 pen.

Watford: Almunia, Hall (Neuton 42), Pudil, Hoban, Ekstrand, Chalobah, Hogg, Anya (Mujangi Bia 73), Abdi (Battocchio 80), Vydra, Deeney.

Subs Not Used: Bond, Yeates, Geijo, Forestieri.

Booked: Abdi, Mujangi Bia.

Goals: Deeney 54, Vydra 68, 69.

Att: 26,727

Ref: Oliver Langford (W Midlands).

Click here for the latest Championship table, fixtures and results

However, the game came to life after
the break when Troy Deeney grabbed his 50th career goal and David Lopez
equalised for Brighton with a penalty before Vydra had the final word.

Watford could have gone ahead at the beginning and the end of that scrappy opening period.

Daniel Pudil gave Wayne Bridge the slip from Almen Abdi's early corner but put a free header over the crossbar.

And in stoppage time Albi's deep cross was met by Deeney but, once again, the striker could not get his header on target.

In between time, Vydra was denied by
Brighton goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak while, for Brighton, Kazenga LuaLua
stung Manuel Almunia's palms with a fierce, angled drive and Andrew
Crofts blazed over.

Mercifully, the second half was a far more entertaining affair with Watford breaking the deadlock after nine minutes.

Pudil's diagonal ball played in
Deeney, who had peeled off his marker Adam El-Abd, and his low shot was
powerful enough to fizz through Kuszczak's legs via his heel and into
the back of the net.

At it again: Vydra also scored twice when Watford beat Nottingham Forest before Christmas

At it again: Vydra also scored twice when Watford beat Nottingham Forest before Christmas

But out of almost nothing Brighton managed to hit back 10 minutes later.

LuaLua had been forced away from goal
and towards the corner of the penalty area by Almunia, but Tommie Hoban
saw fit to barge the winger over and referee Oliver Langford pointed to
the spot.

Spaniard Lopez stepped up to score his second penalty in as many matches.

Reunion: Former Chelsea teammates Poyet and Zola were in opposite dugouts

Reunion: Former Chelsea teammates Poyet and Zola were in opposite dugouts

But Brighton were level for barely two minutes before Watford got a big slice of fortune.

Vydra was allowed to run unchecked
towards the Brighton area but his shot took a huge deflection of El-Abd
to loop over Kuszczak and into the net.

However, there was nothing lucky
about Watford's third goal a minute later as Deeney, inside his own
half, lifted the ball into the path of Vydra who outstripped the
Brighton defence before coolly beating Kuszczak.