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Barry Leeming



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www.red11.org DAILY NEWS
Date: Fri 19 Nov 1999 00:56 GMT
Mail: barry@www.red11.org

This Issue:
1. UNITED TO TRY KEANE ONCE MORE AS JUVE DENY INTEREST
2. UNITED READY TO CLEAN UP A FINE OLD MASS
3. United duo on comeback trail
4. GREENING GOAL SPARKS FIERY FINISH
5. THE 365 Q&A: CHAMPIONSHIP RACE SPECIAL
6. SCHOLES PUTS HERNIA OP ON HOLD
7. UNITED READY TO CLEAN UP A FINE OLD MASS
8. SCHOLES GOES ON OP ALERT

++++++=========+++++++========+++++++++========++++++++

MANCHESTER UNITED DAILY NEWS  Friday 19th Nov 1999:

Barry Comment:
The AGM is reported at http://www.red11.org/sound today.
Still hope on thge Keano front and Teddy & Nicky are on their
way back from injury. REDS back in business this Sat!

Red Issue Website   http://www.redissue.co.uk

Important info on Rio from Mike Dobbin:

Re the tournament in Brazil, United have not yet announced ticket
information, but have asked branches for estimates of numbers required.
Contact United immediately and ask to be given ticket information
when this is available, qouting your United membership number.
If you are not a member then this may be a problem if they are supplying
tickets to members only.

Ken Merrett has just visited Rio to check out the arrangements, and adivised
members at the branch conference on Saturday that they should think
carefully before going to the tournament, since Rio is an extremely
dangerous place, with a very high murder rate.



 * MANCHESTER UNITED CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE A TRIBUTE 
    
BIFFO'S tribute to that great night in Barcelona, cool links to 
Man United and other Champions League sites. 
Players gallery, post match chatroom. 
A TRIBUTE TO SCHMEICHEL
PLAYERS GALLERY
Taken from The Worldwide Manchester United Fans Webring - 400+ RED sites!
 http://www.webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?ring=manufan;list

* UK TV info:  BBC TO COVER UNITED'S BRAZIL MISSION
The BBC will broadcast live coverage of Manchester United's World Team
Championship challenge in Brazil.

Manchester United FC Champions League Squad List
 1 Mark John Bosnich      2 Gary Alexander Neville 3 Dennis Joseph Irwin
 4 David May              6 Jakob Stam             7 David Robert J Beckham
 8 Nicholas Butt          9 Andrew Alex. Cole      10 Edward Sheringham
11 Ryan Joseph Giggs     12 Philip Neville         14 Johan Jordi Cruyff
15 Lars Jesper Blomqvist 16 Roy Keane           17 Raimond RJH Van der Gouw
18 Paul Scholes          19 Dwight Yorke           20 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
21 Henning Berg          23 Michael Jamie Clegg    25 Josť Quinton Fortune
26 Massimo Taibi         31 Nicholas James Culkin  33 Mark Antony Wilson
34 Jonathan Greening

FINAL Group D          P W D L  F A  PTS
Manchester United FC   6 4 1 1  9  4  13 
Olympique de Marseille 6 3 1 2 10  8  10 
SK Sturm Graz          6 2 0 4  5 12   6 
NK Croatia Zagreb      6 1 2 3  7  7   5 

Second stage Euro Draw  GROUP B
Manchester United Valencia Bordeaux Fiorentina
Tues Nov 23 
Group B: Fiorentina v Manchester United 
Group B: Valencia v Girondins Bordeaux 
Wed Dec 8 
Group B: Girondins Bordeaux v Fiorentina 
Group B: Manchester United v Valencia 
Wed Mar 1 
Group B: Manchester United v Girondins Bordeaux 
Group B: Fiorentina v Valencia 
Tues Mar 7  
Group B: Girondins Bordeaux v Manchester United 
Group B: Valencia v Fiorentina 
Wed Mar 15 
Group B: Manchester United v Fiorentina 
Group B: Girondins Bordeaux v Valencia 
Tuesday, March 21 
Group B: Fiorentina v Girondins Bordeaux 
Group B: Valencia v Manchester United 
 *******************************

Real Audio - Last weeks Daily News Sound Archive:
Click on INDEX at http://www.red11.org/sound

************************

99/2000 fixtures/match reports are at
 http://www.red11.org/mufc/992000.htm

Mark Bosnich's Personal Details 
http://www.red11.org/mufc/bosnich.htm

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

MANCHESTER UNITED STATS v ALL teams on the Web
http://www.red11.org/mufc/stats.htm

Previous News:
 BSKYB Takeover news/pics at http://www.red11.org/mufc/bskyb.htm
  Brian Kidd Press conference, pic, real audio
   http://www.iol.ie/~redcafe/kidd.htm
 Peter Schmeichel's last Season at United!
   http://www.red11.org/mufc/news/schmeichel.htm

*** FIXTURES ON 20/11/99 ***
             Arsenal  v  Middlesbrough
        Derby County  v  Manchester United
             Everton  v  Chelsea
        Leeds United  v  Bradford City
      Leicester City  v  Wimbledon
         Southampton  v  Tottenham Hotspur
          Sunderland  v  Liverpool
             Watford  v  Newcastle United

*** FIXTURES ON 21/11/99 ***
     West Ham United  v  Sheffield Wednesday

*** CONDENSED LEAGUE TABLE AS AT 07/11/99 ***

Pos Team                  P   W   D   L   F   A   GD  Pts
---------------------------------------------------------
 1  Manchester United    14   9   3   2  33  19   14   30
 2  Leeds United         14   9   2   3  26  18    8   29
 3  Sunderland           14   8   4   2  24  12   12   28
 4  Arsenal              14   8   2   4  21  14    7   26
 5  Liverpool            14   7   3   4  18  12    6   24
 6  Tottenham Hotspur    13   7   2   4  23  18    5   23
 7  Leicester City       14   7   2   5  23  19    4   23
 8  Middlesbrough        14   7   1   6  19  18    1   22
 9  Chelsea              12   6   2   4  18  10    8   20
10  Everton              14   5   4   5  23  21    2   19
11  West Ham United      13   5   3   5  12  11    1   18
12  Aston Villa          14   5   3   6  13  16   -3   18
13  Coventry City        14   4   5   5  21  16    5   17
14  Southampton          13   4   4   5  20  23   -3   16
15  Wimbledon            14   3   7   4  21  27   -6   16
16  Newcastle United     14   3   3   8  24  28   -4   12
17  Bradford City        13   3   3   7  11  21  -10   12
18  Derby County         14   3   3   8  13  24  -11   12
19  Watford              14   3   1  10  10  24  -14   10
20  Sheffield Wednesday  14   1   3  10  10  32  -22    6


*** TEAM STATISTICS - MANCHESTER UNITED - AS AT 06/11/99 ***
AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 55,168
HIGHEST HOME ATTENDANCE: 25/09/99 - Southampton (55,249)
LOWEST HOME ATTENDANCE:  11/08/99 - Sheffield Wednesday (54,941)
BEST WIN:                11/08/99 - Sheffield Wednesday (4-0)
                         30/08/99 - Newcastle United (5-1)
HEAVIEST DEFEAT:         03/10/99 - Chelsea (0-5)
BEST HOME WIN:           11/08/99 - Sheffield Wednesday (4-0)
                         30/08/99 - Newcastle United (5-1)
HEAVIEST HOME DEFEAT:     -
BEST AWAY WIN:           22/08/99 - Arsenal (2-1)
                         25/08/99 - Coventry City (2-1)
                         11/09/99 - Liverpool (3-2)
HEAVIEST AWAY DEFEAT:    03/10/99 - Chelsea (0-5)

 NEXT MATCHES
---------------------------------------------------------------
20-NOV-1999 [15:00] Manchester Utd. vs Derby C  (FA Premier League, AWAY)
23-NOV-1999 [19:45] Manchester Utd. vs Fiorentina  (UEFA Champions League, AWAY)
30-NOV-1999 [10:00] Manchester Utd. vs Palmeiras  (Inter Continental Cup, AWAY)
04-DEC-1999 [15:00] Manchester Utd. vs Everton  (FA Premier League, HOME)
08-DEC-1999 [19:45] Manchester Utd. vs Valencia  (UEFA Champions League, HOME)

*** TEAM RESULTS - MANCHESTER UNITED - 

UNITED Stats v All teams:
http://www.red11.org/mufc/stats/
ALL FIXTURES at: http://www.red11.org/mufc/fix992000.htm
 
First Team Fixtures 1999/2000
All dates/times subject to change
Dates of possible cup ties also shown

Date        Opposition                        Score   Pos.   Attend.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
15/07/99    Melbourne Australia   pre-season  W  2-0     -    60,000
18/07/99    Sydney    Australia   pre-season  W  1-0     -    78,000
21/07/99    Shanghai  Shenhua     pre-season  W  2-0     -    80,000
24/07/99    Hong Kong South China pre-season  W  2-0     -    40,000

 1/08/99    Arsenal   Wembley Charity Shield  L  1-2     -    70,185
 3/08/99    Omagh Town Omagh Bomb Fund        W  9-0     -     7,000
 4/08/99    Wigan Athletic friendly           W  2-0     -    15,000 
08/08/99    Everton                  Away PL  D  1-1    10    39,141
11/08/99    Sheffield Wednesday      Home PL  W  4-0     3    54,941
14/08/99    Leeds United             Home PL  W  2-0     1    55,187
22/08/99    Arsenal                  Away PL  W  2-1     1    38,147
25/08/99    Coventry City            Away PL  W  2-1     1    22,024 
27/08/99    Monaco - Lazio               ESC  L  0-1     -    15,223
30/08/99    Newcastle United         Home     W  5-1     1    55,190
11/09/99    Liverpool                Away     W  3-2     1    44,929
14/09/99    Croatia Zagreb           Home EC  D  0-0     -    53,250
18/09/99    Wimbledon                Home     D  1-1     1    55,189
22/09/99    Sturm Graz               Away EC  W  3-0     -    16,480
25/09/99    Southampton              Home     D  3-3     1    55,249
29/09/99    Marseille                Home EC  W  2-1     -    54,276
 3/10/99    Chelsea                  Away PL  L  0-5     2    34,909
11/10/99    Sir Alex Testimonial     Home F   L  2-4  LEGENDS 54,842      
13/10/99    Aston Villa              Away WC3 L  0-3     -    33,815
16/10/99    Watford                  Home PL  W  4-1     2    55,188
19/10/99    Marseille                Away EC  L  0-1     -    57,745 
23/10/99    Tottenham Hotspur        Away     L  1-3     3    36,072
27/10/99    Croatia Zagreb           Away EC  W  2-1     -    30,000
30/10/99    Aston Villa              Home PL  W  3-0     2    55,211
 2/11/99    Sturm Graz               Home EC  W  2-1     -    53,745 
 6/11/99    Leicester City           Home PL  W  2-0     1    55,191

20/11/99    Derby County             Away PL   15.00
23/11/99    AC Fiorentina            Away EC   19.45
pp 27/11/99 ? Sheffield Wednesday  Away PL *No new date yet
30/11/99    Tokyo  Palmeiras         WCC       20.00
 4/12/99    Everton                  Home PL   15.00
 8/12/99    Valencia CF              Home EC   19.45
18/12/99    West Ham United          Away PL   15.00
26/12/99    Bradford City            Home PL   15.00
28/12/99    Sunderland               Away PL   20.00  "live on sky"
 3/01/2000  Middlesborough           Home PL   20.00
****************************************************
 JAN 05-14  Brazil WTC [3-4 games]
----------------------------------------------------
06/01/2000  Necaxa (Mexico)          Neut WTC  16.00
08/01/2000  Vasco da Gama (Brazil)   Away WTC  16.00
11/01/2000  South Melbourne (Australia) N WTC  16.00
****************************************************
22/01/2000  Arsenal                  Home PL   15.00
 5/02/2000  Coventry City            Home PL   15.00
12/02/2000  Newcastle United         Away PL   15.00
26/02/2000  Wimbledon                Away PL   15.00
 1/03/2000  FC Girondins de Bordeaux Home EC   19.45 
 4/03/2000  Liverpool                Home PL   15.00
 7/03/2000  FC Girondins de Bordeaux Away EC   19.45 
11/03/2000  Derby County             Home PL   15.00
15/03/2000  AC Fiorentina            Home EC   19.45
18/03/2000  Leicester City           Away PL   15.00
21/03/2000  Valencia CF              Away EC   19.45 
25/03/2000  Bradford City            Away PL   15.00
 1/04/2000  West Ham United          Home PL   15.00
 5/04/2000  ?   EC qf i
 8/04/2000  Middlesborough           Away PL   15.00
15/04/2000  Sunderland               Home PL   15.00
19/04/2000  ?   EC qf ii
22/04/2000  Southampton              Away PL   15.00
24/04/2000  Chelsea                  Home PL   15.00
29/04/2000  West Ham United          Away PL   15.00
 3/05/2000  ?   EC sf i
 6/05/2000  Tottenham Hotspur        Home PL   15.00
10/05/2000  ?   EC sf ii
14/05/2000  Aston Villa              Away PL   15.00
24/05/2000  ?   EC Final

http://www.red11.org/mufc/match.htm
++++++=========+++++++========+++++++++========++++++++


Click On pic - for latest interviews from OT
UNITED TO TRY KEANE ONCE MORE AS JUVE DENY INTEREST Manchester United will make one more attempt to persuade captain Roy Keane that his future lies at Old Trafford before he is free to talk to potential buyers on January 1. The news comes as Juventus denied on Thursday that they were planning to sign Keane. Club vice-president Roberto Bettega responded to a newspaper report that a deal had been agreed for the summer when the Republic of Ireland midfielder's contract at Old Trafford ends. Bettega said: "We have a great midfield and are very pleased with the players we have. We know the source of this and we know that they (the newspaper) often say things that aren't true." The news will buoy United fans. After her success at the MTV awards, chief executive Martin Edwards will take the pertinent advice of Miss Britney Spears and try 'one more time' to extend the Ireland midfielder's current contract that ends in the summer. Through the Bosman Ruling he can speak to interested parties after that New Year deadline. Obviously United wish to keep their shaven-headed star and, after being rebuffed by Keane following contract discussions at the start of the season, the next few weeks represent their final chance to exclusively deal with their player before he has a chance to open negotiations with the expanding queue of Europe's top teams reportedly willing to offer him a huge financial package, amongst them Juventus, AC Milan and Real Madrid. United chief executive Martin Edwards confirmed at the club's Annual General Meeting that manager Sir Alex Ferguson will talk to the player: "Alex will have a word with Roy and we want to put the matter to bed," said Edwards. "If there is any possibility of doing it before the January deadline we would be delighted. But the problem is that Roy said he doesn't want to do something until the end of the season." "We would need some feedback from him on that. But if there is any possibility of doing something before the January 1 deadline then obviously we would be delighted to so. Those talks with Roy will be held before Christmas." Last week Keane had said: "They could have bought some good players over the years but they wouldn't come because of the wage structure. I respect the club's position, but they have to respect my position as well. "I'm just waiting to see what happens. As much as I love the club I am not going to sell myself short." Earlier in the meeting, outgoing chairman Sir Roland Smith answered criticism from shareholders about the club's reluctance to give Keane the reported £40,000 per week deal he wants. Smith said: "We are going to do whatever is necessary to keep him but until he makes up his mind on what he wants to do we can't come together." However, if all Keane wants is a new challenge, then United will lose their inspirational leader. Edwards was also criticised at the meeting over suggestions that there is a rift between himself and Ferguson, and the future of the knighted manager. Edwards replied to the voiced criticisms: "Alex and I have a good working relationship. He has two-and-a-half years of his contract to run and all I have said is that in that time things might change, he may not want it. "I pointed out in an interview that in the wake of Sir Matt Busby retiring, the likes of Tommy Docherty, Wilf McGuinness and Dave Sexton all suffered because Sir Matt was still here. "But this will not be my decision, it will be the board's. Alex has said in his book that he didn't always get his own way in discussions with me. "But as chief executive at times I have to say no, like when Rivaldo was mentioned. Unfortunately, on a day-to-day basis, it is me who has to have these discussions. "When it came to Alex's own contract and wages, I said that I would back away from the situation and that he would have to talk to Maurice Watkins (the club's solicitor-director) and the chairman (Smith)."
Click On pic - for all latest pics from OT
UNITED READY TO CLEAN UP A FINE OLD MASS MANCHESTER UNITED are ready to sell blundering goalkeeper Massimo Taibi back to Italy. Agents have been circulating Taibi's name around Serie A, apparently with United's blessing, alerting them that he could be available when the Italian transfer market re-opens in January. But United face a huge loss on Taibi, the giant Sicilian who signed from Venezia in a surprise pounds 4.5million deal at the start of the season. Piacenza have shown an initial interest in Taibi, who had a good reputation in Italy before his Old Trafford calamities. But the lowly Serie A side would be prepared to pay only around pounds 1.5m, or could even ask to take Taibi on loan for the rest of the season. United will not put Taibi up for sale publicly, but privately there has been intense activity in the past few days as wheeler-dealers have swung into action. Taibi has been squeezed out of the United side since the 5-0 thrashing by Chelsea - and has not played since. Future The Italian had been forgiven an earlier expensive howler against Southampton when he allowed Matt Le Tissier's shot to go under his body before blaming the slip on his studs. As Taibi cannot play in the Champions League until next year his position has now been taken by Mark Bosnich, the goalkeeper he was signed to replace. Taibi could fill in for Bosnich against Derby on Saturday if the Australian fails to recover from a hamstring injury in time. But his long-term future looks likely to be back home in Italy if the right bidder comes along. United would accept around pounds 3m but may have to settle for less. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already lined up Norwegian prospect Espen Johnsen as a potential replacement, although Liverpool are thought to be interested too. Selling Taibi would create a vacancy at Old Trafford for the IK Start youngster. The goalkeeping position at United is still very much up for grabs because of the erratic performances this season of the three candidates - Bosnich, Taibi and veteran Raimond van der Gouw. Taibi's confidence was shattered by the Chelsea ordeal, and hit a new low a few days later when he had a nightmare in a closed-door game aimed at restoring his morale. The fact that Taibi speaks little English and is ineligible for Europe has done little to strengthen his prospects. Taibi's quick departure would be embarrassing for Ferguson but he has never been afraid to admit transfer mistakes. United have been extremely fortunate over the last decade with their keepers. Peter Schmeichel gave fantastic service while van der Gouw was for so long an able deputy. Losing a small fortune on Taibi would rank as an occupational hazard for United but the biggest question of all has yet to be answered. Just who will be United's number one at the end of the season? With United looking vulnerable at the back - no matter who is in goal - there is still the intriguing possibility that the chequebook will come out for another big name before too long.
Click On pic - for latest interviews from OT
United duo on comeback trail Teddy Sheringham and Nicky Butt have made successful comebacks to give Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson the kind of selection headache he likes. Sheringham, who had been out for five weeks with a calf injury, picked up the man-of-the-match award in the reserves' 1-1 draw with Blackburn at Bury's Gigg Lane on Tuesday night. Butt gave a typically committed display in midfield on his return following his hernia operation and both players could be in contention for the squad to face Derby at Pride Park on Saturday. South Africa international Quinton Fortune, who has been dogged by injuries since he joined United, also came through the FA Premier Reserve League match on his return from an ankle complaint. Gary Hamilton gave Rovers the lead before United equalised with a controversial goal five minutes from time when the assistant referee ruled that Jonathan Greening's chip had crossed the line despite goalkeeper Alan Fettis' attempts to keep it out. A furious Fettis was sent off for taking his protests too far along with Blackburn defender Keith Brown who was dismissed for dissent.
Click On pic - for latest pics from OT
GREENING GOAL SPARKS FIERY FINISH Wednesday, November 17, 1999 11:03 United Res. 1 Blackburn Rovers Res. 1 MUTV's viewing figures are surely set to soar if United Reserves continue to be involved in the kind of dramatic games which they have been broadcasting exclusively over the past week or so. Mike Phelan's lads have played three matches in that time and each one has included a major talking point as well as plenty of top drawer football. Two players, Richard Wellens and Jonathan Greening, received their marching orders at Newcastle last week to start the Reserves' week of high drama. Then came the terrific fightback against Everton on Saturday which saw them overhaul a two-goal with a four-goal blast in the last twenty-seven minutes. And, as if that wasn't enough for armchair devotees of the Reds' Reserve side they were treated to more high jinx as last night's fixture against Blackburn Rovers at Gigg Lane ended in a sensational manner. Rovers had led from the 52nd minute with a goal from Gary Hamilton and looked as though it was going to be enough for the Ewood Park side to snatch the points. Then, with three minutes remaining, United snatched the equaliser amid amazing scenes at the Manchester Road End of the ground. The goal came from a long shot from Jonathan Greening who was way out on the left wing. Rovers' Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Alan Fettis appeared to have done everything right as he collected the tricky delivery on his line. There was the odd shout of 'goal' from the thinly populated main stand, but most in the ground readily accepted that Fettis had stopped United from drawing level. That was until the linesman raised his flag to confirm that the ball had, to virtually everyone's surprise, crossed the line after all. His decision immediately prompted a mini demonstration by the Rovers players with Fettis and defender Keith Brown the prime movers. The crowd, including a modest contingent from Blackburn, though few in number, were all on their feet and for a few fleeting moments everyone was unsure of the outcome. The referee, however, was soon on the scene with the upshot that Brown, who had already been booked for a challenge on David Healy, was given his second yellow card of the night, which, of course, was rapidly followed by the red. Fettis, it appeared at first, was going to survive with a caution, but in another dramatic development he was also shown the direction to the dressing rooms. It was an explosive conclusion to a match, which took some time to catch fire, but eventually provided some good entertainment and one of the most incredible endings to a Reserve game in many a long day. There was also plenty of good news for Reds' boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, with three of his senior squad all making their return to action following injury. Teddy Sheringham (calf), Nicky Butt (hernia) and Ronnie Wallwork (appendix) all came through the match successfully to give the squad a very welcome boost with the season picking up again on Saturday after the Euro 2000 break of the last fortnight. Quinton Fortune also had another run-out as he continues to move back to full fitness following a few weeks on the sidelines with an ankle injury. United: van der Gouw, Clegg, Higginbotham, Curtis, Wallwork, Cruyff, Wilson, Butt, Greening, Sheringham, Fortune (sub: Healy). Subs not used: Twiss, Culkin, Roche, Wellens.
Click On pic - for latest interviews from OT
THE 365 Q&A: CHAMPIONSHIP RACE SPECIAL What Kewell, Giggs, Bergkamp, Phillips And Zola Make Of The Season So Far And Their Teams' Title Chances WITH one third of the season already played, Football365 has put the same four questions about what's happened so far and what is still to come to Harry Kewell (Leeds), Ryan Giggs (Manchester United), Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal), Kevin Phillips (Sunderland), and Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea)... It's early days, but are you happy with your current league position? Kewell: "You can't go any higher than the top! Of course we're pleased with the progress we've made so far and it's been nice to silence a few critics along the way who thought we would struggle to maintain a challenge with such a young side. But it's early days. Nobody is getting carried away at this stage." Giggs: "We're tucked in just behind the leaders and, despite mixed fortunes and some poor results, we've maintained the challenge. We're fortunate that other teams haven't been able to capitalise on our early mistakes, but everyone appears to be having a hard time this season. We knew there would be pressure on us after last season and, although our form has sometimes been patchy, we're still in every competition (apart from the Worthington Cup and the FA Cup, like - Ed)." Bergkamp: "We can't afford to lose ground on the leaders at this stage and we're losing too many games to be over-confident, but it's a pretty open league this season and there are far more teams in with a chance of winning the title than there were last season. The important thing for us is to find the consistency that has driven our title challenge over the past few seasons." Phillips: "I certainly feel we've surprised more than a few people. Most teams coming up are looking to consolidate their position in the Premiership but we've played with growing confidence since we lost at Chelsea on the opening day. We don't want to get too carried away at this stage, but we've certainly given our fans something to cheer about." Zola: "I'm disappointed with our form because I said that, going into the new season, we had the best chance ever of winning the title. We have lost silly games, games we should be winning and have already lost a game more than in the whole of last season. We need to change things quickly. I don't know why this has happened, why we can play so well in Europe and struggle in the league, but the players are determined to put things right. Their hearts are all in it." Is the Premier League far more competitive this season? Kewell: "You see an improvement every season and, with the calibre of players in the league, it's not surprising. It makes it more interesting when other teams are involved in a title challenge. In the past few years it's all been Manchester United and Arsenal and our aim, like a few other teams', is to change that. It's a very open league at the moment, anything can happen." Giggs: "Yeah, I've always maintained that this league is strong, possibly the strongest and most competitive in Europe, if not the world. It doesn't surprise me that more teams are able to keep pace, every season you find one or two teams will surprise you and at the moment the likes of Sunderland and, perhaps not so much, Leeds, have been the surprise package." Bergkamp: "It was incredibly hard last season and the pressure was immense. In some ways it's a relief that there are more teams involved this year, some surprise teams at that. For the neutral it's great but, as a player, you expect teams to become stronger, you expect to come under pressure from other clubs so it's not so much of a surprise that the challengers are increasing. Last season you were unable to put a foot wrong, now it's balancing out more." Phillips: "It's all pretty new to me, but we expected the league to be far harder than the first division. We discovered pretty early on what we were up against when we played Chelsea - you don't get any time on the ball, mistakes are clinically punished and, as a striker, you find the chances are limited and you have to take them when they come. The quality in this league is exceptional, but it's the only place to be playing your football." Zola: "There is more pressure on the top sides like Manchester United, Arsenal and ourselves. The amount of games we have to play is phenomenal and the football is so intense that there is no time to find your feet before the next game. Of course the league is better. It's more competitive, you expect that, but finding consistency and maintaining it with so many games is always a problem you have to overcome to find success." What are the main qualities you will need in abundance to win the title? Kewell: "Consistency and belief. Along the way you're looking for your fair share of luck but I've always felt that, if you believe in your ability and you believe you can achieve something, you will. We have a fairly young side but we also have experienced people at the club who are more than capable of helping us achieve success. Aside from that, we have a strong manager who has instilled so much confidence into this side." Giggs: "There is a great deal of familiarity at United and we're used to playing together. We have experience in abundance and that experience has given us the knowledge to know what it takes to put together a successful campaign. The majority of us have experienced every kind of emotion on the way to success. Consistency comes into it too, maintaining your form and seeing off other challengers." Bergkamp: "A level of consistency is always the key to success. No season is ever the same throughout, so you have to deal with every situation as it comes. We have players here who have won every major honour in the game and we have the quality and experience to win the title, but the opposition is very strong. Manchester United and Chelsea also have an added advantage. I think it will go right to the end, nothing will be decided early on." Phillips: "There are certain rules that applied to last season when we won the first division that we would incorporate. Winning and winning consistently will always figure high and you find, like we have this season, that the more games you win, the more confident you become. But any success will be governed by your form over the season, not after 13 games or so." Zola: "Winning and picking up the three points. Nothing else matters. If you believe in yourself strongly enough and you have the confidence in the players around you then everything is possible. But, right now, we are not showing the form of champions. We are giving away games, giving away silly points and making too many mistakes. All the players must take the blame and it's down to those players to prove they can win the title, prove they have the heart to win it." Can you go on from here to win the Premier League? Kewell: "You don't want to get too carried away with your early success, you don't want to come out and say anything that might back-fire on you later on. We believe as a team that we can achieve a lot, but we are not naive. We don't underestimate the opposing teams. We're looking to follow the likes of Manchester United. Of course we want success, but we are also aware that our opponents are equally fired up." Giggs: "We're the reigning champions, we go into each season and every game believing we can win. At the same time, we're there to knocked off, so the intensity of other teams' challenges is always going to be greater than the season before. It doesn't pay to go around talking about success at this stage, but we have been there so many times before and we have a stable and experienced side. That helps." Bergkamp: "It's even more important now that we go on to have a successful Premier League campaign after missing out on the Champions League, but you're in a far better position to talk about winning when you're in a position to challenge for the title in the final couple of months. We have the quality to succeed but sometimes other things come into it. There are so many good sides right now and they'll all be thinking they have a chance." Phillips: "Realistically, to win a place in Europe or to finish in a top three position and qualify for the Champions League would be seen as a tremendous season for us. But when you're playing well and believing that you can continue on a good run, you have to think you have a chance. We lack the experience of say Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea but nobody can fault us for endeavour." Zola: "I felt going into the season - and my heart said - that this would be the season the title came to Chelsea. We have been so close in the past and with every season our position has been strengthened. Last season was heartbreaking but we have not helped ourselves this time. Still, there is plenty of time to go and, as long as the leaders are in sight, we have to believe we are in with a chance to win."
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SCHOLES PUTS HERNIA OP ON HOLD Paul Scholes will probably have his hernia operation next month after Manchester United's second Champions League game against Valencia. The England hero has been playing with the injury for several weeks and United have admitted he will probably need surgery. Boss Sir Alex Ferguson has pencilled in Scholes' operation for after the Valencia game on December 8 when United will begin a three-month break from European action.
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UNITED READY TO CLEAN UP A FINE OLD MASS (Mirror online) MANCHESTER UNITED are ready to sell blundering goalkeeper Massimo Taibi back to Italy. Agents have been circulating Taibi's name around Serie A, apparently with United's blessing, alerting them that he could be available when the Italian transfer market re-opens in January. But United face a huge loss on Taibi, the giant Sicilian who signed from Venezia in a surprise pounds 4.5million deal at the start of the season. Piacenza have shown an initial interest in Taibi, who had a good reputation in Italy before his Old Trafford calamities. But the lowly Serie A side would be prepared to pay only around pounds 1.5m, or could even ask to take Taibi on loan for the rest of the season. United will not put Taibi up for sale publicly, but privately there has been intense activity in the past few days as wheeler-dealers have swung into action. Taibi has been squeezed out of the United side since the 5-0 thrashing by Chelsea - and has not played since. Future The Italian had been forgiven an earlier expensive howler against Southampton when he allowed Matt Le Tissier's shot to go under his body before blaming the slip on his studs. As Taibi cannot play in the Champions League until next year his position has now been taken by Mark Bosnich, the goalkeeper he was signed to replace. Taibi could fill in for Bosnich against Derby on Saturday if the Australian fails to recover from a hamstring injury in time. But his long-term future looks likely to be back home in Italy if the right bidder comes along. United would accept around pounds 3m but may have to settle for less. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already lined up Norwegian prospect Espen Johnsen as a potential replacement, although Liverpool are thought to be interested too. Selling Taibi would create a vacancy at Old Trafford for the IK Start youngster. The goalkeeping position at United is still very much up for grabs because of the erratic performances this season of the three candidates - Bosnich, Taibi and veteran Raimond van der Gouw. Taibi's confidence was shattered by the Chelsea ordeal, and hit a new low a few days later when he had a nightmare in a closed-door game aimed at restoring his morale. The fact that Taibi speaks little English and is ineligible for Europe has done little to strengthen his prospects. Taibi's quick departure would be embarrassing for Ferguson but he has never been afraid to admit transfer mistakes. United have been extremely fortunate over the last decade with their keepers. Peter Schmeichel gave fantastic service while van der Gouw was for so long an able deputy. Losing a small fortune on Taibi would rank as an occupational hazard for United but the biggest question of all has yet to be answered. Just who will be United's number one at the end of the season? With United looking vulnerable at the back - no matter who is in goal - there is still the intriguing possibility that the chequebook will come out for another big name before too long.
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SCHOLES GOES ON OP ALERT ENGLAND goal hero Paul Scholes is set to go under the surgeon's knife once Manchester United welcome back three other stars from injury. Scholes, 25 yesterday, has been playing with hernia trouble and Sir Alex Ferguson wants an operation to take place before the New Year. The return of Nicky Butt after a similar problem will free Scholes to have his op, but Ferguson may wait until the next round of Champions' League fixtures are over. Butt was due to be joined in United's reserves against Blackburn Rovers last night by Teddy Sheringham and Quinton Fortune. And youngster Ronnie Wallwork is also fit again after being sidelined by appendicitis. Ferguson said: "With these players coming back, we're getting a far healthier look about us." But goalkeeper Mark Bosnich remains doubtful for Saturday's trip to Derby with a pulled hamstring.
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