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from Reuters Soccer Blog:

United get rude awakening

The plain sailing Manchester United would have expected in the group stage of their Champions League campaign has turned into a rough ride after Tuesday’s 3-3 home draw with Swiss side Basel, who were unlucky not to have come away from Old Trafford with the three points.

Two draws in their last two games, away to Stoke City in the Premier League and the late escape against Basel, will have rooted out any complacency that might have crept into Alex Ferguson’s men after their flying start to the season which included an 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal.

United’s last two performances also showed that despite their three big summer signings in David De Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young, the team still lack depth when key players are injured.

With Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, Javier Hernandez and the increasingly influential Chris Smalling all sidelined, United’s makeshift 11 with Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia filling in at right back looked bereft of ideas up front against Stoke and utterly unconvincing even when they were 2-0 up against Basel, when only a late Young header spared them from paying in full for a comedy of errors at the back.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Treble? Manchester United’s season could still collapse

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Strong belief in emulating the 1999 treble must surely be gripping Old Trafford after Manchester United’s somewhat fortuitous 1-0 win at Chelsea in their Champions League quarter-final first leg, but Alex Ferguson and his troops will also be aware they are still a long way from crossing the finish line first in any competition.

With Wayne Rooney losing his appeal to have a two-game ban reduced and the ever-present threat of injuries crippling a squad well short of the talent of the 1999 crop,  United will once again have to dig deep into their resources as the strength-sapping season reaches its climax.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Fergie’s smile spells trouble for Premier League title rivals

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/When Alex Ferguson declares he is happy with his squad for the season remainder, it is time for Manchester United’s Premier League title rivals to start worrying.

The busy Christmas and New Year period is often important in the Premier League, as fringe players are called upon to help negotiate a sea of fixtures which put managers under increasing pressure.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Will United fans forgive and forget?

SOCCER-ENGLAND/Football fans are very forgiving types – if my football club were a person I’d have stopped speaking to it a long time ago.

Pretend for a minute you are Manchester United and Wayne Rooney is your best mate. He swears undying loyalty to you – it’s a friendship that will last forever. Then suddenly he tells you you’re basically not good enough for him and that you should get lost.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Breaking news: Rooney to stay at Manchester United

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/Well, what an extraordinary twist this is: Wayne Rooney has agreed a new five-year deal with Manchester United and is staying at Old Trafford after all. Here's the club statement:

Wayne Rooney has agreed a new 5 year contract to stay at Manchester United until at least June 2015.

The agreement follows intensive discussions between the Club and the player’s representatives and means that by the end of his contract Wayne will have been a Manchester United player for 11 years.

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