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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Talented Ronaldo also enjoys at the time people hate him

The current World Player of the Year landed a host of individual honours to go along with the Premier League and Champions League success he enjoyed with United last season.

Lauded at Old Trafford, the 24-year-old is often targeted by opposition supporters but the Portuguese has learned how to turn the hostility to his own advantage and be inspired rather than intimidated by the crowd.

“I must say that it’s normal for me now,” said Ronaldo. “If it doesn’t happen I’m thinking, ‘Why aren’t they booing me?

“It’s part of football. perhaps they think if they boo, I’ll lose my concentration. But it doesn’t happen. I like it.”

It is not just in the stands that Ronaldo is singled out for special attention, on the pitch too his notoriety and value to his side means he often comes in for rough treatment.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson criticised the treatment that Ronaldo receives and the lack of protection from referees earlier this season – and praised Ronaldo’s strength for ignoring the worst of the attention.

Ronaldo, though, is sympathetic to the difficulty of the referee’s job after getting a taste for it himself during training with United.

“The referees have a tough job,” he said. “When I’ve been injured I’ve been given the opportunity to be a referee in training. The lads will say, ‘Come on, you are the ref in this game’. It’s very tough.

“I respect the referees, but sometimes I don’t agree with what happens. If you want to have a great league and quick football, you have to protect the skilful players.

“They are the ones that put on a show and that’s what the fans want. But there are some very great referees in the Premier League.”

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Van der Sar, one of the best players for Ferguson

Manchester United's veteran Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has been attracting a plethora of snowballing plaudits due to his role in keeping opposition attacks frustrated, stifled, and kept at bay every Saturday.

By keeping his sheet clean during the 5-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on January 27 - United's 11th successive shut-out (1032 minutes) - the 38-year old had ensured the club smashed Chelsea's previous Premier League record of ten straight clean sheets (1027 minutes).

The following 1-0 victory over Everton then broke a further record, eclipsing Reading's Steve Death's notable feat of going 1,104 minutes unbeaten.

One has to sift back through 12 league fixtures to find at the time Edwin van der Sar was last beaten and, just like London buses, two goals came at once as Frenchman Samir Nasri bagged a brace during the 2-1 victory in early November at Arsenal's north London Emirates Stadium.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hailed the Edwin effect in his Everton clash programme notes.

"The record has left Edwin revelling in a personal achievement that seems to be giving him as much pleasure as all the many honours he has won with Ajax and Juventus, as well as earning 123 caps with Holland," the passage read.

He continued, "It’s his great experience, allied to youthful enthusiasm, that marks him out as a very special goalkeeper."

Sir Alex though was quick to attribute the feat equally to the rearguard that sits in front and helps protect van der Sar's net, even though injuries have meant that Ferguson has had to field alternative defences with almost every match-day.

"The defensive record is remarkable because this is the part of the side that has been most affected in recent weeks by injury," Ferguson stated.

He finally said: "Everyone has rallied round."

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Darren Fletcher: I'm glad i chosed Manchester United

Darren Fletcher knows now he made the right decision to stick with Manchester United - but last summer the choice was not so easy.

As any former United star would acknowledge, after leaving Old Trafford the only way is down.

Arguably Beckham might be the exception that proves the rule but most Red Devils old boys who go on to achieve success do so at a lower level than they experienced before.

And even Beckham, for all the plaudits he received at Real Madrid and, now, with AC Milan, has not added another Champions League to the medal he won in 1999.

It was that thought that was fizzing through Fletcher's mind during a pivotal meeting with manager Sir Alex Ferguson, balancing out the knowledge the Scot had started on only 10 occasions in all competitions last term.

"People might say you are silly and that if United are offering you a contract why are you thinking about going," Fletcher told the Manchester Evening News.

"Fans were telling me I'd be stupid to go, but I am a soccer player and I want to play. So I had a decision (to make) that was right for me and my family.

"I didn't want to be going home to my girlfriend in a bad mood because I hadn't been playing. You have to sit down and think about your future sometimes.

"Although it's great to be at United and earning things you also want to feel as though you have done something and played a big part in achieving that success.

"I didn't want to tie myself into a long contract if I was only going to be playing for 10 encounters a season."

Not for the first time in his United career, Ferguson asked Fletcher to consider the bigger picture and ask himself whether he could imagine playing in what constituted a big game with a lesser club.

Even at boyhood heroes Celtic, the four guaranteed Old Firm encounters a year can take on a rose-tinted hue at the time put alongside a midweek trip to Inverness or Kilmarnock.

In the end, Fletcher decided to stay and has duly been rewarded with 26 appearances this season, the latest of which came in the victory over Everton on Saturday.

"The boss assured me I was needed and I was a vital asset and there were different qualities I could bring to the midfield," he said.

"Of course there wasn't a guarantee that I would definitely play more matches. He cannot guarantee you that but I just thought I'd give it another go. I believe I can do it and that is my attitude. It was a great decision."

John O'Shea is another who fits into the same category, although the Republic of Ireland star could well lose his place at West Ham on Sunday as Patrice Evra is likely to return from a foot injury.

Wayne Rooney is also due back after hamstring trouble, which in theory at least will put the striker in line to face Spain for England next Wednesday.

However, Ferguson will almost certainly speak with England boss Fabio Capello, if not to advise the Italian not to pick Rooney, then to ration his time on the pitch.

As has been the case recently, almost as much attention has been paid to events elsewhere and the United boss was no doubt relieved to see his side's FA Cup fifth-round opponents settled at the City Ground last night.

It means only a draw between United and Derby at Pride Park on February 15 can prevent the second of their outstanding Premier League encounters, against Fulham, taking place at Old Trafford three days later.

That will bring the Red Devils level with their rivals for the first time since August, although their game against Portsmouth, scheduled for February 28, has been postponed due to the Carling Cup final meeting with Tottenham at Wembley 24 hours later.

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