Michael Owen of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup


Michael Owen of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup

Nani of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup


Nani of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup

Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup


Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup

Patrice Evra of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup


Patrice Evra of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup


Wayne Rooney of Manchester United in action during the pre-season Audi Cup

Antonio Valencia showed further flashes of his skills after an impressive debut against Boca


Antonio Valencia showed further flashes of his skills after an impressive debut against Boca

Darron Gibson shifted to the right side of midfield, before making way for Antonio Valencia


Darron Gibson shifted to the right side of midfield, before making way for Antonio Valencia

The ever-energetic Patrice Evra makes inroads down the left flank


The ever-energetic Patrice Evra makes inroads down the left flank

The impressive Nani takes on Bayern's Altintop Bayern Munich 0-0 Manchester United


The impressive Nani takes on Bayern's Altintop

Michael Owen winces after a strong challenge from Dimichelis Bayern Munich 0-0 Manchester United


Michael Owen winces after a strong challenge from Dimichelis, but the striker was soon back in action

Dimitar Berbatov in action against Bayern Munich Bayern Munich 0-0 Manchester United


Dimitar Berbatov in action against Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich 0-0 Manchester United


United were beaten in the inaugural Audi Cup final, as tournament hosts Bayern Munich took the trophy after an epic penalty shootout in the Allianz Arena.

Penalties were the only way to decide a winner after a cagey 90 minutes in which each side forced only a couple of decent chances. Reds defender Jonny Evans saw his penalty saved in sudden death, allowing Daniel van Buyten to hammer home the winning kick.

Football transfer rumours: Manchester United still after Franck Ribéry?


The Mill is aware that in the history of the emancipation of a people there are certain moments that stand out like rungs on the rope ladder to freedom. For example, it took football 40 years to abolish the solid leather boot and compulsory death by scurvy of the moustache at the age of 29. 1961 saw Jimmy Hill successfully campaign for the end of slavery and the enshrinement of the right of all men to own a house with a plasma-screened Jacuzzi in the bog. And the great Jean-Marc Bosman provided us with a world where surly central European defensive midfielders can just hang around for a year and a half picking up their wages and wearing headphones three rows back on the bench behind the sub goalie and then skulk off on a free to Panathinaikos.

We have much to be grateful for to these pioneers. And as of this morning, when the history of the modern footballer is written, the name of Darren Bent will join them, scrawled boldly in marker pen, or more likely burped out in Twitter speak as "Drnbent." Today The Sun devotes its back page to "Darren Bent's F-Word Rant." Writing on his Twitter page, he reportedly raged: "Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go Stoke NO. Do I wanna go Sunderland YES. So stop f*****g around, Levy."

Looking at this The Mill can't help thinking – why didn't he just leave the "City" out and shorten Sunderland, and then he could have said "to Stoke" and "to Sunderland", which sounds better? But mainly, The Mill is filled with a sense of pride. Darren Bent's F-Word Rant will live long in the memory, not just as a telling new media blow struck for footballers everywhere, but as the first time Darren Bent has hit the target with a stinging volley since he was banging them in for Charlton about three years ago. The Twitter account now appears to have been closed, though, with anyone logging on finding only the message: "This page does not exist."

Also in The Sun, Manchester United are going to wait for two weeks and then "launch" a £35m bid for Franck Ribéry. Something to do with a loyalty bonus he's due to get on 14 August, after which he will - seriously - request a transfer straight away. Yes, loyalty bonus. Xabi Alonso will complete his £28m move to you-know-who on Monday. Painful twin-headed gynaecological implement Lee Cattermole could yet be his replacement, but don't rule out Roma's Alberto Aquilani, or Athletic Bilbao's Javier Martínez, who sounds persuasively Hispanic.

Rafa Benítez has also made a "cheeky" £6m bid for Michael Turner, presumably one that involved goosing Phil Brown accompanied by parping trombone music. Brown says Turner is going nowhere "unless someone comes in screaming the rooftops down with big money," which sounds just like a horrible thing. Mark Viduka could be about to sign for Portsmouth if he can somehow manoeuvre his great, wobbling neck in through the door and find a reinforced triple corner sofa on which to rest half of one of his slab-like buttocks. And West Brom could be about to pay £1.5m for Seville's David Odonkor, who is fast and eager but often looks confused.

The Daily Star is still going on about Spurs signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar despite the presence of Peter Crouch, the other one - possibly Jermain Defoe - and some more strikers The Mill can't recall offhand. "There's a lot of talk about who I may or may not be after," says 'Arry Redknapp, eagerly scanning the comments section of The Mill. "But Huntelaar is the one I like. He's the one I dream of. Looked into my eyes. Take me to the clouds above. Take me to the clouds above. Take me to the clouds above (clouds above, clouds above, clouds above) (clouds above, clouds above, clouds above) (clouds above, clouds above, clouds above)."

And 'Arry might not stop there. The Daily Mail has Spurs wanting to sign Liverpool left-back Andrea Dossena. Pleasingly old-fashioned and honourable 1960s bank robber lookalike Roy Hodgson has stopped concealing razor blades in his trilby hat and talking about doing a flit to the Costa long enough to persuade Danny Murphy to sign a new contract. And new West Ham singing Junior Stanislas, who isn't as good as Senior Stanislas, has taken the No9 shirt, which means perennially broken lumbering hitman Dean Ashton could be off to do rehab somewhere else.

In The Times Rafa Benítez is holding out for £30m for Alonso, something they describe as "playing hardball" - a traditional Spanish game in which a small man with a beard refuses to answer his phone for a bit, swears quietly to himself and broods in his office about Lee Cattermole.

According to L'Equipe, Ribéry has already had a move to Real Madrid for £60m turned down by Bayern Munich. And according to Goal.com Lazio have splashed out on Rasmus Bengtsson, who sounds like he could be a Trelleborg central defender, but is in fact a really expensive Scandinavian television made out of wood that comes with small and poncey-looking speakers mounted on poles.

• This article was amended on 31 July 2009 to make clear that the 1960s robber figure is a lookalike.

Manchester United To Move For Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery – Report

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson could be readying a bid for Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery.

The United boss has previously revealed that chief executive David Gill enquired into the possibility of signing Ribery in a past meeting with officials at Bayern, but the Red Devils' CEO was told the player was unavailable for transfer.

The German club has communicated to the press through chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and his deputy Uli Hoeness in no uncertain terms that the French winger will not be sold this summer.

Despite the odds being stacked against a move, UK newspaper The Sun is reporting Ferguson to be preparing a possible €41 million (£35m) bid for Ribery.

The tabloid is also suggesting the United boss will wait until August 14 to move for the player, at which time it is understood a loyalty bonus will become active in the France international's contract.

If the Red Devils do in fact move for Ribery, the initial offer is almost certain to be knocked back as Bayern would hold out for a substantially larger amount.

Meanwhile, Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer recently launched a scathing attack on Ribery, telling German paper Bild that the player "does not give a damn about Bayern Munich".

Rio Ferdinand: Manchester United Will Be Successful This Season


Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has tipped the club to continue going from strength-to-strength this season, despite losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez to Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively this summer.

Ferdinand is confident United are still in a strong position to retain the Premier League title after a gruelling tour of Asia.

"Asia was a long tour for us and I think physically we're tired after that," Ferdinand told Sky Sports News after a penalty shootout defeat to Bayern Munich.

"We're on the right road. Obviously we lost two very big players in Cristiano and Carlos but Manchester United moves on and hopefully we'll continue to be successful."

Ferdinand also reserved praise for new United signings Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia, who will attempt to fill the void left by Tevez and Ronaldo this season.

He added, "He [Owen] scored a lot of goals on the tour and he's fitting in very well. Antonio Valencia has done very well as well."

Ray Clemence Backs Manchester United's Michael Owen For England Return

Former England goalkeeper Ray Clemence believes Michael Owen's move to Manchester United could rekindle his role in the national setup.

Owen left Newcastle United to join the Red Devils on a free transfer this summer after his contract at St. James' Park expired.

The former Liverpool front-man has already found his goalscoring form during pre-season preparations, and Clemence is confident the striker can return to the fold in time for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"The one thing that Michael has proved is that he can score international goals against top opposition," Clemence told Sky Sports News.

"He's been part of the England setup since the schoolboy level, you can see how much he enjoys scoring goals in the white shirt.

"In the back of his mind he's thinking, 'If I can do it for Manchester United during a World Cup year, I can get back into the England setup'."

Owen is one of England's all-time top goalscorers, having found the net for the Three Lions an impressive 40 times before injury forced him out of favour with the current manager, Fabio Capello.

The 29-year-old could make his competitive debut for United against Birmingham City on August 16.

Manchester United will move on from loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, says Rio Ferdinand


The pair both left United this summer, for Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively, but Ferdinand has seen plenty of big name players come and go in his eight years at Old Trafford and expects the club to move on quickly.

"I think that's inevitable," he said. "When you lose any players, your team plays differently no matter who you lose.

"We lost two very good players in Cristiano and Carlos, but Manchester United is a club that moves on and has remained a successful side.

"We have done that in recent years when we lost players of the ilk of David Beckham and Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Veron and players like that.

"People thought we would fall by the wayside but it didn't happen."

Antonio Valencia has arrived from Wigan, and he has been earmarked as the man to step into the large boots left by Ronaldo, and Ferdinand believes Sir Alex Ferguson has invested his money wisely in the Ecuadorian.

He said: "I think he will do very well this season. Antonio looks like he is going to be a good buy for us."

Ferdinand, meanwhile, believes the side's pre-season preparations are in good shape despite losing on a penalty shoot-out to Bayern Munich in the final of the Audi Cup last night.

United matched their hosts inside a packed Allianz Arena and were unfortunate not to come away with a win after Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney both squandered chances in the second half of a goalless 90 minutes.

But Ferdinand insists the result will not knock United off course as they aim to hit their peak for August 16 when they host Birmingham at Old Trafford.

"I think we showed glimpses of improvement," he said.

"I think the Asia tour has been a very good workout for us physically and today and yesterday were a step up in class in opposition.

"Physically, we are on the road to getting where we want to be for the beginning of the season.

"I think Asia was a long tour for us physically," he said. "We were very tired after that.

"We now get a couple of days off and then we get back to training and working hard, but we are on the right road."

Audi Cup Final: Tops And Flops; Bayern Munich - Manchester United

Bayern Munich

Edson Braafheid

The Dutch international has slotted seamlessly into the Bayern rear-guard during their pre-season campaign and continued his fine form ahead of the Bundesliga season tonight. The former Twente defender was sprightly in his support to front-runners and was efficient in his shackling of his opponents. A fine, accomplished display that will encourage his new employers.

Alexander Baumjohann

Another summer recruit, another rewarding performance. The attacker comes with quite the burden of responsibility on his shoulders but is carrying the task of featuring for Germany's biggest club effortlessly. The 22-year-old who was signed from Moenchengladbach linked midfield to attack with poise and ingenuity. Baumjohann was full of guile and invention throughout and presents an assured prospect for Louis van Gaal.

Manchester United

Dimitar Berbatov

The Bulgarian, in his debut season, was accused, at times, of swinging the lead. His work-rate seems to have increased manifold over this pre-season period though and the languid attacker was at the centre of much of United's good work. His overhead kick in the first half almost yielded a goal and he looks like being capable of providing good foil a natural striker like Michael Owen.

Patrice Evra

Even though he missed his penalty, which was a poor effort, the French full-back was full of energy over the course of the game. He was swift in his challenges and got over the half-way line to supplement the United attack. He did not seem to treat the encounter as a friendly and was nothing but full of endeavour.

Flops:

Bayern Munich

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Now one of the senior Bayern squad members and featuring in a new, more responsible position for his club, the German international will be expected to be a lynch pin next season. However, tonight, 'Schweini' failed to grasp his opportunity adequately and looked like he would rather be anywhere else than on the field. The German international wasted passes and never roused himself into full stride.

Manchester United

Paul Scholes

The years are beginning to show in the game of Manchester United's veteran midfield battle-ax. Scholes was guilty of misjudging his passes throughout; going long when his team-mates expected short and vice versa. Also, alongside fellow old-timer Ryan Giggs, Scholes was over-run in midfield by the Bayern pairing of Anatoliy Tymoschuck and Mark van Bommel.

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand insists the club are "on the right road'' ahead of their opening match of the season against Birmingham City


The England international was speaking after United lost to Bayern Munich on penalties in the final of the Audi Cup at the Allianz Arena, after the match itself had ended in a goalless draw.

United have had something of a gruelling pre-season so far with their tour of Asia followed by games against Boca Juniors and Bayern in quick succession in Germany.

Ferdinand believes Sir Alex Ferguson is now ironing out the cracks in his side before the Premier League kicks off again in two weeks' time. United also face Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley on August 9.

"I think we showed glimpses of improvement,'' he said. "I think the Asia tour has been a very good workout for us physically and today and yesterday were a step up in class in opposition.

"Physically, we are on the road to getting where we want to be for the beginning of the season.

"I think Asia was a long tour for us physically. We were very tired after that.

"We now get a couple of days off and then we get back to training and working hard, but we are on the right road.''

Ferdinand admitted their system will change following the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I think that's inevitable,'' he said. "When you lose any players, your team plays differently no matter who you lose.

"We lost two very good players in Cristiano and Carlos, but Manchester United is a club that moves on and has remained a successful side.

"We have done that in recent years when we lost players of the ilk of David Beckham and Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Veron and players like that.

"People thought we would fall by the wayside but it didn't happen.''

Milk Cup: Holders Manchester United keep a hold on title

Holders Manchester United will be back to defend their Premier Section title tonight at the Coleraine Showgrounds after edging past Fenerbahce.

Dubliner Robert Brady turned from villain to hero when he missed a first half penalty but then lashed in United’s winner from 25 yards for the Old Trafford starlets to set up a final clash with Sheffield United.

The Red Devils conceded their first goal of the tournament in last night’s semi, but came from behind to win the game after turning the screw when Fenerbahce were reduced to 10 men.

United’s Dave Bushell said: “We’re very glad to be in the final again, although we didn’t play particularly well, to be honest.

“To win these tournaments you need a bit of luck and we got that tonight.

“I’d like to see us with the energy we showed earlier in the week, but I know that it’s difficult when you play so many games in so few days like this and we maybe had some tired legs out there.”

It was Fenerbahce who started the brighter and it took Sam Johnstone to be on his toes more than once to keep the game scoreless.

Indeed United did fall behind when Semih Beyaz fired the Turkish side ahead in the 26th minute.

However the boys in red composed themselves and Josh King levelled.

Brady squandered the chance from the spot to forge ahead when defender Okan Alkan received his marching orders for handling inside the box.

However Brady redeemed himself with just seven minutes left, firing past Aykut Kiratli.

Final opponents Sheffield United reached today’s decider courtesy of a penalty shoot-out win in the match straight afterwards at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

As for the local boys Down missed out on the opportunity to become the best Irish side as they agonisingly lost out on penalties to South Coast Bayern.

Milk Cup semi-finals: Fenerbahce 1 Manchester United 2, FC Porto 1-1 Sheffield United (Sheffield United win 5-4 on pens)

Milk Cup play-offs: Cherry Orchard 2 Desportivo Brasil 1, South Coast Bayern 0-0 Co Down (Bayern win 4-3 on pens)

Today’s Slemish Premier semi-finals: Shamrock Rovers 0 Co Antrim 2, Co Armagh 0 Co Londonderry 1

Today’s Premier Trophy League: Cantolao 1 Burnley 7, Tyrone 4 Fermanagh 0

PREMIER FIXTURES:

Milk Cup final: 8.15pm: Manchester United v Sheffied United (Coleraine Showgrounds)

Slemish final: 1.30pm: Co Antrim v Co Londonderry (Showgrounds, Ballymena)

Dunluce Trophy League: 1.30pm: Cantolao v Co Fermanagh (The Warren, Portstewart), Burnley v Co Tyrone (University, Coleraine)

Slemish play-offs: 1.30pm: Cruz Azul v Trudovye Rezervy (Parker Ave, Portrush), Otago v Watford (Rugby Ave, Coleraine), Co Armagh v Shamrock Rovers (Riada 2, Ballymoney)

Milk Cup play-offs: 1.30pm: Co Down v Desportivo Brasil (Broughsane), Cherry Orchard v South Coast Bayern (Roe Mill, Limavady), Fenerbahce v FC Porto (Castlerock).

Milk Cup: Holders Manchester United keep a hold on title

Holders Manchester United will be back to defend their Premier Section title tonight at the Coleraine Showgrounds after edging past Fenerbahce.

Dubliner Robert Brady turned from villain to hero when he missed a first half penalty but then lashed in United’s winner from 25 yards for the Old Trafford starlets to set up a final clash with Sheffield United.

The Red Devils conceded their first goal of the tournament in last night’s semi, but came from behind to win the game after turning the screw when Fenerbahce were reduced to 10 men.

United’s Dave Bushell said: “We’re very glad to be in the final again, although we didn’t play particularly well, to be honest.

“To win these tournaments you need a bit of luck and we got that tonight.

“I’d like to see us with the energy we showed earlier in the week, but I know that it’s difficult when you play so many games in so few days like this and we maybe had some tired legs out there.”

It was Fenerbahce who started the brighter and it took Sam Johnstone to be on his toes more than once to keep the game scoreless.

Indeed United did fall behind when Semih Beyaz fired the Turkish side ahead in the 26th minute.

However the boys in red composed themselves and Josh King levelled.

Brady squandered the chance from the spot to forge ahead when defender Okan Alkan received his marching orders for handling inside the box.

However Brady redeemed himself with just seven minutes left, firing past Aykut Kiratli.

Final opponents Sheffield United reached today’s decider courtesy of a penalty shoot-out win in the match straight afterwards at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

As for the local boys Down missed out on the opportunity to become the best Irish side as they agonisingly lost out on penalties to South Coast Bayern.

Milk Cup semi-finals: Fenerbahce 1 Manchester United 2, FC Porto 1-1 Sheffield United (Sheffield United win 5-4 on pens)

Milk Cup play-offs: Cherry Orchard 2 Desportivo Brasil 1, South Coast Bayern 0-0 Co Down (Bayern win 4-3 on pens)

Today’s Slemish Premier semi-finals: Shamrock Rovers 0 Co Antrim 2, Co Armagh 0 Co Londonderry 1

Today’s Premier Trophy League: Cantolao 1 Burnley 7, Tyrone 4 Fermanagh 0

PREMIER FIXTURES:

Milk Cup final: 8.15pm: Manchester United v Sheffied United (Coleraine Showgrounds)

Slemish final: 1.30pm: Co Antrim v Co Londonderry (Showgrounds, Ballymena)

Dunluce Trophy League: 1.30pm: Cantolao v Co Fermanagh (The Warren, Portstewart), Burnley v Co Tyrone (University, Coleraine)

Slemish play-offs: 1.30pm: Cruz Azul v Trudovye Rezervy (Parker Ave, Portrush), Otago v Watford (Rugby Ave, Coleraine), Co Armagh v Shamrock Rovers (Riada 2, Ballymoney)

Milk Cup play-offs: 1.30pm: Co Down v Desportivo Brasil (Broughsane), Cherry Orchard v South Coast Bayern (Roe Mill, Limavady), Fenerbahce v FC Porto (Castlerock).

Bayern Munich beats Manchester United to win cup

MUNICH (AP) — Bayern Munich beat Manchester United 7-6 on penalties to win the preseason Audi Cup after a scoreless draw in regulation time on Thursday.

Bayern goalkeeper Michael Rensing, striving to become the starter in the upcoming season, made the decisive save by stopping Jonny Evans' shot. Daniel van Buyten then converted the winning penalty.

Both teams wasted one penalty each, with Rensing also stopping Patrice Evra, and Edwin van der Sar knocking away Danijel Pranjic's effort.

There was no extra time.

In a slow-paced game, Mario Gomez hit the crossbar of Van der Sar's goal in the first half and Dimitar Berbatov's overhead attempt also bounced off the post.

Rensing did well to deny Wayne Rooney late in the game.

The match for third-place was also decided on penalties, with Roberto Abbondanzieri making two saves to help Boca Juniors beat AC Milan 4-3 in the shootout.

The goalkeeper stopped shots from Andrea Pirlo and Alexandre Pato, who had also wasted several opportunities in regulation as the game ended 1-1.

Thiago Silva scored for Milan in the 27th but Lucas Viatri tied in the 87th.

Federico Insua also had his penalty saved in the shootout but Viatri then converted for Boca for the decisive score before Pato's blunder.

Antonio Valencia of Manchester United in action


Antonio Valencia of Manchester United in action

Anderson of Manchester United celebrates scoring their first goal during the pre-season Audi Cup


Anderson of Manchester United celebrates scoring their first goal during the pre-season Audi Cup

Antonio Valencia of Manchester United scores their first goal


Antonio Valencia of Manchester United scores their first goal

Antonio Valencia of Manchester Unitedin action during the pre-season Audi Cup match


Antonio Valencia of Manchester Unitedin action during the pre-season Audi Cup match

The Manchester United line up ahead of the pre-season Audi Cup match


The Manchester United line up ahead of the pre-season Audi Cup match

Boca Juniors 1-2 Manchester United : Young Irishman Craig Cathcart was a surprise starter


Young Irishman Craig Cathcart was a surprise starter

Boca Juniors 1-2 Manchester United :Valencia battles for the ball with Riquelme


Valencia battles for the ball with Riquelme

Boca Juniors 1-2 Manchester United : Antonio Valencia impressed on his first outing


Antonio Valencia impressed on his first outing

Boca Juniors 1-2 Manchester United : Anderson strikes his stunning free-kick against Boca Juniors


Anderson strikes his stunning free-kick against Boca Juniors

Boca Juniors 1-2 Manchester United : Anderson and Antonio Valencia

Anderson and Antonio Valencia

Boca Juniors 1-2 Manchester United


The Reds reached the Audi Cup final with a 2-1 victory over Boca Juniors at the Allianz Arena, but Sir Alex's men had to work hard for the win.

PICTURE SPECIAL: Manchester United unveil new kit they hope will leave supporters black and blue

Manchester United will face a fight to defend their Barclays Premier League title - and their supporters will be left black and blue.

After unveiling their new home kit - complete with a unique black V under the neckline - they have now released the away number.

Rooney

'V' for Victory: Wayne Rooney has stepped into Ronaldo's shoes, on the pitch but also in the brochures

Bayern Munich demolished AC Milan with a fine display of confident, attacking football on their first appearance at the Allianz Arena since Louis van

Nineteen-year-old striker Thomas Muller grabbed a brace as the record German champions taught the Italians a lesson with a comfortable 4-1 win.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Saer Sene were also on target for Bayern with a free-kick from Andrea Pirlo Milan's only consolation.

Bayern will now meet Manchester United in the final of the Audi Cup tomorrow night with Milan contending third place with Boca Juniors.

Bayern took the game to their Italian opponents from the very beginning with Muller, the young revelation of their pre-season, terrorising Milan's experienced defender Alessandro Nesta, a man 14 years his senior.

He broke the deadlock after 12 minutes with a predatory finish that his legendary namesake Gerd Muller would have been proud of to conclude a fluid team move.

Hamit Altintop slotted the ball through for Jose Ernesto Sosa, who dragged the ball back from the goalline for Muller to sidefoot in from point-blank range.

Mario Gomez had a string of opportunities to add to the early lead, but he was unable to put the finishing touch to another impressive team move which involved Philipp Lahm and Muller on the half-hour mark.

Gomez then nicked a Daniel Pranjic cross just wide of the far post from close range with Nesta in close attention as Bayern tore Milan to shreds, albeit without converting their dominance into goals.

At the other end, Giuseppe Favalli did find the back of the net a minute before the break but the goal was ruled out for offside.

The hosts continued to take the game to their guests, who were clearly suffering after a tiring tour of the USA came to an end only early yesterday morning.

Half-time substitute Schweinsteiger inspired Gomez to another chance which he dragged just wide of Marco Storari's goal while on the stretch while Thiago Silva almost put the ball in his own goal as he cut out a low cross from Lahm.

There was another flash of danger at the other end with Martin Demichelis heading over the crossbar as his team mates just looked on believing the ball had already gone out of play.

Schweinsteiger then grabbed a deserved second goal for Bayern with a touch of individual skill.

He left Gennaro Gattuso, Massimo Oddo and Kakha Kaladze all on the floor before placing his shot calmly past Storari into the bottom corner from 15 yards.

A goalkeeping error by Hans-Jorg Butt allowed Milan an unexpected route back into the game less than two minutes later.

He flapped at Pirlo's 25-yard free-kick and could only push the ball into the roof of his own goal.

But a grandstand finish enabled Bayern to move comfortably into tomorrow's final against Manchester United.

Young substitute Sene, making his first ever appearance in the first team just 24 hours after scoring the equaliser for Bayern's reserves in their third division match, opened his account for the club in style.

His initial shot was saved by Storari, but the ball fell for Muller, Sene's former team mate in the youth team, who unselfishly laid the ball back into the 22-year-old's path, giving him an easy tap-in from close range.

And there was another tap-in for Muller in the last minute from Alexander Baumjohann's cross to complete a deserved rout of the Rossoneri.

Sir Alex Ferguson welcomed his side's 2-1 win over Boca Juniors in Munich, but admitted he saw plenty of room for improvement in his side.

Anderson and Antonio Valencia both scored their first goals for the Red Devils in a strong first-half performance but, as United tired in the second half, Boca reduced the arrears and had several good chances to level.

And Ferguson acknowledged his side had been slightly fortunate to get away with the win.

"I am satisfied with winning, which is always the main aim, but I didn't think we played particularly well,'' he said. "Maybe it's a realisation that we are coming into a better standard of football after being in the Far East where the games were obviously not as competitive as today.

"But hopefully it brings us on. Boca were the better team in the second half and probably deserved something out of the game.''

Summer signing Valencia made his debut for United in front of 61,000 fans in Munich's Allianz Arena and, after a slow start, he showed glimpses of why Ferguson chose him as the man to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.

And the United manager predicted a bright future for the 23-year-old.

"I think he will figure in many games,'' said the Scot. "It was his first game today. He missed pre-season because he had to go back to Ecuador for a work permit so therefore, for his first game, we are very satisfied.

"He is a good athlete, has good power and running ability, as we saw today with the way he created a good goal. Maybe it was a mistake by the goalkeeper, but he created the opportunity and opened up spaces for himself.''

It took Valencia only 42 minutes of his debut to find the back of the net for the first time.

His goalscoring record for Wigan read just seven goals in 83 games, but Ferguson believes this is something he can and will improve on for the Red Devils.

"We know that when you look at his record at Wigan it is not good in terms of goals,'' added Ferguson. "He knows that too, but when we assess the individual parts of his game, his athleticism and the power in his shooting, then why should he not score more goals?

"Maybe the way we play will give him more opportunities to score so therefore we expect more goals [from him].''

The only sour note for United was the sight of Wes Brown limping off after just 35 minutes, but Ferguson insisted he was only removed as a precaution.

"He felt a little pull on his thigh and there is no point carrying on in a pre-season game,'' he said.

United return to the Allianz Arena tomorrow for the final against either Bayern Munich or AC Milan, and Ferguson claims he has no preference.

He said: "I think all the Germans will want Bayern Munich, but it doesn't matter if we play Bayern, who we have played many times and they were always fascinating games.

"Or there is Milan. We look forward to them.''

Antonio Valencia scored on his Manchester United debut


Antonio Valencia scored on his Manchester United debut as the Red Devils reached the final of the Audi Cup in Munich with a 2-1 win over Boca Juniors.

The Ecuadorian winger needed just 42 minutes of his United debut to find the target after Anderson had earlier netted his first goal for the club with a stunning free-kick.

Federico Insua reduced the arrears in the 55th minute as the Argentinians dominated the second half, but Sir Alex Ferguson's side held on to reach tomorrow's final, where they will meet the winner of the later clash between AC Milan and hosts Bayern Munich.

Ferguson named Federico Macheda and Wayne Rooney in his attack with Valencia making his debut on the right wing.

Much of the attention was on the Ecuadorian, who is earmarked to fill the void left by the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

His first few touches exhibited a touch of nerves and it was Boca who made the more confident start to the game with Juan Roman Riquelme playing an intricate one-two with Insua before his shot was deflected wide of the post.

The sale of Ronaldo has not only provided Valencia with the opportunity to take his career onto the next level, but Anderson showed he too could benefit from a bit more of the limelight this season.

He curled an unstoppable free-kick from outside the right-hand corner of the penalty area into the far corner of Roberto Abbondanzieri's goal for his first ever goal for the Red Devils.

He was inevitably invited by the fans to shoot the next time he received the ball 25 yards from goal, but his earlier strike had not quite given him the confidence to try his luck once again as he instead laid the ball off to Wayne Rooney.

The sight of Wes Brown limping from the field with 10 minutes of the first half remaining dampened the spirits somewhat as Rio Ferdinand made an earlier than expected entrance into the game.

By this time, Rooney was fully warmed up and he led United's search for a second.

His first shot, a volley from fully 35 yards out, drew the approval from 61,000 fans inside the Allianz Arena, but it lacked the direction to trouble Abbondanzieri.

Rooney's persistence almost earned him United's second five minutes before the break. He had two bites of the cherry from Valencia's right-wing cross but was denied twice, first by a Boca defender and then by Abbondanzieri.

Valencia's early nerves had evaporated as he started to find his rhythm and it was not long before he opened his account for his new club.

He received the ball centrally from Rooney and, with a dip of the shoulder, he skipped past two Boca defenders before taking aim and releasing a shot from the edge of the area which squirmed under Abbondanzieri's body and in.

Boca emerged for the second half five minutes later than United, but they entered the field with a renewed determination.

Substitute Christian Chavez's curling shot tested Tomaz Kuszczak for the first time in the 52nd minute before Insua brought Alfio Basile's side back into the tie.

He volleyed in Gary Medel's right-wing cross as Boca began to stamp their authority on the game.

Riquelme curled a shot just wide before Craig Cathcart headed against his own crossbar as United began to show a degree of tiredness after their recent trip to the Far East.

Riquelme tested Kuszczak again with 15 minutes remaining and Pablo Mouche's effort just skimmed past the United goalkeeper's left-hand upright as Boca threatened an equaliser, but failed to find one.


Boca Juniors 1 Manchester United 2: match report

Read a match report from Manchester United's 2-1 defeat of Argentine champions Boca Juniors in the Audi Cup in Munich through goals from Anderson and Antonio Valencia.

Sir Alex Ferguson expects Antonio Valencia to emerge as a regular goalscorer at Manchester United after the £17 million Ecuadorean marked his debut with an impressive solo goal against Boca Juniors in Munich.

Anderson’s first goal in a United shirt, a free kick from the edge of the penalty area, and Valencia’s long-range strike maintained the club’s 100 per cent pre-season record and secured a place in Thursday’s Audi Cup final against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.

With Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million sale to Real Madrid leaving United needing to replace the 68 goals scored by the Portuguese over the past two seasons, the pressure is likely to be on Valencia and his fellow midfielders to produce.

But despite a record of just seven goals in 89 appearances for Wigan prior to his summer transfer to United, Ferguson believes that Valencia has the potential to develop into a genuine goal threat at Old Trafford. “This was Valencia’s first game for us and we are very satisfied,” said Ferguson. He is a good athlete, has power and running ability.

“His record at Wigan was not a good one in terms of goals, but maybe the way we play will give him more opportunities and he will get more goals.

“He created a good goal for himself in this game. He opened the space up for himself well, so we are pleased and he will play in a lot of games this season.”

In contrast to Valencia’s debut goal, Anderson’s free kick marked his first goal for the club. In two seasons with United, the Brazilian has failed to find the net in 75 competitive appearances.

The 21 year-old has been challenged to improve on his scoring, however, and Ferguson is hopeful that his goal against Boca could act as a watershed. “I hope this sparks Anderson off and gives him the incentive to be more positive with his shooting. Over the two years he has been with us he has had many close opportunities, hit the post and had saves.

“But hopefully his luck will change and he will go on and score more for us.”

Anderson ended his barren run, albeit in a friendly, with a curling left-foot free kick on 23 minutes against the Argentine champions.

Had Ronaldo still been a United player, it is unlikely that Anderson would have been allowed anywhere near the set-piece, yet he sent the ball past the statue-like goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.

Valencia’s goal was also straight from the Ronaldo textbook. Having received the ball from Wayne Rooney 40 yards from goal, the 23 year-old raced past two Boca defenders before aiming a right-foot effort goalwards from the edge of the penalty area.

Abbondanzieri should have saved comfortably, but the ball squirmed under the Argentina No 1’s body, enabling Valencia to claim his goal. Boca provided the toughest test for United without Ronaldo, however, and the Premier League champions were impressive enough before the effects of Monday’s overnight flight from China began to take its toll in the second-half.

Federico Insua’s 55th-minute volley reduced the arrears for Boca and Martin Palermo almost equalised 15 minutes later with a header that struck the crossbar.

United held on, though, to claim a place in the final, a game that is likely to come too quickly for Wes Brown, who was replaced by Rio Ferdinand in the first-half after appearing to sustain a thigh injury.

Ferguson said: “Wes had a little pull on his thigh and it was wise just to take him off.

“I’m satisfied with the win, though. That is always the main aim, but I don’t think we have played particularly well.

“Boca were the better team in the second half and probably deserved something out of the game.”

Match details

Boca Juniors (4-1-3-2): Abbondanzieri; Soto, Lopez, Forlin, Rodriguez;Diaz (Chavez h-t), Battaglia, Insua; Riquelme; Palermo (Viatri 82), Noir (Mouche h-t).
Subs: Garcia (g), Gaitan, Marino, Gunino, Krupoviesa, Philippe, Monzon.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; O'Shea, Cathcart, Brown (Ferdinand 37), Fabio (Evra 77); Valencia (Nani 68), Carrick (Scholes 77), Anderson (Fletcher 77), Park (Giggs 68); Rooney, Macheda (Berbatov 68).
Subs: Foster (g), Vidic, Evans, Gibson, Tosic.
Referee: W. Stark (Germany)


Boca Juniors 1 Manchester United 2: match report

Read a match report from Manchester United's 2-1 defeat of Argentine champions Boca Juniors in the Audi Cup in Munich through goals from Anderson and Antonio Valencia.


Sir Alex Ferguson expects Antonio Valencia to emerge as a regular goalscorer at Manchester United after the £17 million Ecuadorean marked his debut with an impressive solo goal against Boca Juniors in Munich.

Anderson’s first goal in a United shirt, a free kick from the edge of the penalty area, and Valencia’s long-range strike maintained the club’s 100 per cent pre-season record and secured a place in Thursday’s Audi Cup final against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena.

With Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million sale to Real Madrid leaving United needing to replace the 68 goals scored by the Portuguese over the past two seasons, the pressure is likely to be on Valencia and his fellow midfielders to produce.

But despite a record of just seven goals in 89 appearances for Wigan prior to his summer transfer to United, Ferguson believes that Valencia has the potential to develop into a genuine goal threat at Old Trafford. “This was Valencia’s first game for us and we are very satisfied,” said Ferguson. He is a good athlete, has power and running ability.

“His record at Wigan was not a good one in terms of goals, but maybe the way we play will give him more opportunities and he will get more goals.

“He created a good goal for himself in this game. He opened the space up for himself well, so we are pleased and he will play in a lot of games this season.”

In contrast to Valencia’s debut goal, Anderson’s free kick marked his first goal for the club. In two seasons with United, the Brazilian has failed to find the net in 75 competitive appearances.

The 21 year-old has been challenged to improve on his scoring, however, and Ferguson is hopeful that his goal against Boca could act as a watershed. “I hope this sparks Anderson off and gives him the incentive to be more positive with his shooting. Over the two years he has been with us he has had many close opportunities, hit the post and had saves.

“But hopefully his luck will change and he will go on and score more for us.”

Anderson ended his barren run, albeit in a friendly, with a curling left-foot free kick on 23 minutes against the Argentine champions.

Had Ronaldo still been a United player, it is unlikely that Anderson would have been allowed anywhere near the set-piece, yet he sent the ball past the statue-like goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.

Valencia’s goal was also straight from the Ronaldo textbook. Having received the ball from Wayne Rooney 40 yards from goal, the 23 year-old raced past two Boca defenders before aiming a right-foot effort goalwards from the edge of the penalty area.

Abbondanzieri should have saved comfortably, but the ball squirmed under the Argentina No 1’s body, enabling Valencia to claim his goal. Boca provided the toughest test for United without Ronaldo, however, and the Premier League champions were impressive enough before the effects of Monday’s overnight flight from China began to take its toll in the second-half.

Federico Insua’s 55th-minute volley reduced the arrears for Boca and Martin Palermo almost equalised 15 minutes later with a header that struck the crossbar.

United held on, though, to claim a place in the final, a game that is likely to come too quickly for Wes Brown, who was replaced by Rio Ferdinand in the first-half after appearing to sustain a thigh injury.

Ferguson said: “Wes had a little pull on his thigh and it was wise just to take him off.

“I’m satisfied with the win, though. That is always the main aim, but I don’t think we have played particularly well.

“Boca were the better team in the second half and probably deserved something out of the game.”

Match details

Boca Juniors (4-1-3-2): Abbondanzieri; Soto, Lopez, Forlin, Rodriguez;Diaz (Chavez h-t), Battaglia, Insua; Riquelme; Palermo (Viatri 82), Noir (Mouche h-t).
Subs: Garcia (g), Gaitan, Marino, Gunino, Krupoviesa, Philippe, Monzon.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; O'Shea, Cathcart, Brown (Ferdinand 37), Fabio (Evra 77); Valencia (Nani 68), Carrick (Scholes 77), Anderson (Fletcher 77), Park (Giggs 68); Rooney, Macheda (Berbatov 68).
Subs: Foster (g), Vidic, Evans, Gibson, Tosic.
Referee: W. Stark (Germany)


Anderson Scores As Manchester United Beat Boca Juniors In Germany

Manchester United's Audi Cup victory over Boca Juniors was marked by the names of their goalscorers, with Brazilian midfielder Anderson, yet to net a senior goal for the Red Devils, scoring from a free-kick, and Antonio Valencia, the winger signed from Wigan Athletic in the wake of the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, slotting what proved to be the winner.

Anderson opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, after Valencia won a free-kick on the right of the Boca penalty area, with a superb strike.The Argentinians barely threatened in the early stages of the game, and United were soon two up.

This time it was Valencia himself who scored, the Ecuador international taking advantage of some poor goalkeeping to slot in after showing good acceleration to beat a defender and shoot.

Boca introduced a couple of substitutions at half-time, and it seemed to boost them, as they forced a fine double-handed save from Tomasz Kuszczack, the Pole diving to his right to pluck the ball from the air.

They then looked to have given themselves a way back into the game on 55 minutes, when Federico Insua volleyed in substitute Christian Chavez's fine cross from the right with the side of his foot.

Juan Roman Riquleme went close with a free-kick, and United youngster Craig Cathcart, playing at centre-back today, hit his own bar, but the Red Devils hung on as the game petered out amidst the usual raft of substitutions.

Manchester United: Kuszczak; O'Shea, Cathcart, Brown, Fabio; Valencia, Anderson, Carrick, Park; Rooney, Macheda.

Boca Juniors: Abbondanzieri; Soto, Lopez, Forlin; Diaz, Battaglia, Riquelme, Insua, Lopez; Noir, Palerm

Sir Alex Ferguson: No risk involved in Michael Owen transfer


Sir Alex Ferguson has defended his ''punt'' on signing Michael Owen from Newcastle this summer after the striker made a promising start to his Manchester United career.

Owen has scored four goals in as many games since joining the Red Devils in a shock move from Tyneside and Ferguson expects more of the same this season in a gamble which may well pay dividends.

''He is a natural goalscorer and his record is fantastic,'' said the Scot. ''He is 29 now and he has just got to stay the way he has been for 10 years.''

The England frontman's injury woes have grabbed most of the attention over the last four years, but Ferguson believes if he can stay fit and agile - as he has been in pre-season so far - he could well turn out to be one of the bargains of the summer.

The 29-year-old should make his next appearance in a United shirt in this evening's Audi Cup clash with Boca Juniors, a game which will be staged in Munich's Allianz Arena.

Should he figure in that fixture and play again against either Bayern Munich or AC Milan, six games in 12 days would suggest his injury problems are a thing of the past.

''His injuries have always been the main subject and that is probably why everyone in Europe was not after him,'' continued the United manager. ''We don't think we have taken a risk, given his record as a goalscorer.

''It is a good punt, or a good bet on him to do well, and hopefully we are right.''

Owen has been given the number seven jersey at Old Trafford and, even if he can only score half as many as the last bearer of that shirt, his signing will be regarded as a success.

Cristiano Ronaldo, United's former number seven, scored 26 times last season and Ferguson admits Real Madrid's new signing is the new standard bearer in world football.

''Ronaldo is fantastic - the best player in the world - and we wish him well,'' he said. ''He has given us six great years and it is difficult to hold onto players from other countries for that long.

''We were lucky. I never expected to have him for more than six years.

''The move to Madrid was something he wanted and we thought we should grant him that. He was great for us, never let us down and was a great professional. He will do well next year.''

Ferguson will this evening take his first close look at the man earmarked to take Ronaldo's position in his side next season, Antonio Valencia, but there will be no sight of former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves just yet.

Hargreaves was the first player to score a goal in a competitive match at the Allianz Arena when he netted here for the Bavarians in August 2005.

But his career, like that of Owen's, has been dogged by injury recently and Ferguson does not want to do anything which may jeopardise him making a complete recovery from two knee operations - not even for reasons of nostalgia for the Canada-born 28-year-old, who spent a decade growing up in Munich.

''Hargreaves will not play in this tournament,'' he said. ''We had hoped he would be joining us, but he is still in his programme of rehabilitation.

''He has had major operations on both knees and we are not rushing that. He is young enough to come back once he is fully fit, but we are not rushing him.''


Manchester United Haven't Taken A Risk On Michael Owen - Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United recently signed Michael Owen on a Bosman transfer from Newcastle United, much to the surprise of the wider footballing community.

However, the former Liverpool poacher has scored four goals in as many matches in pre-season, and Sir Alex Ferguson expects more of the same once the Premier League kicks off in August.

"[Owen] is a natural goalscorer and his record is fantastic," SportingLife quoted Ferguson as saying.

"He is 29 now and he has just got to stay the way he has been for 10 years."

Owen’s tryst with niggles and injuries have been the talking point of his career during the last four years, and yet Ferguson reckons the striker is a safe bet.

"His injuries have always been the main subject and that is probably why everyone in Europe was not after him," the wily Scot explained.

"We [United] don't think we have taken a risk, given his record as a goalscorer.

"It is a good punt, or a good bet on him to do well, and hopefully we are right."

If Owen features in the Red Devils' Audi Cup matches on Wednesday and Thursday, he will have played six games in 12 days - a promising sign for a man whose career has been so blighted by injury.

Milk Cup: Robert’s red-hot for Manchester United

Manchester United last night roared into the quarter-finals of the Milk Cup, where an assignment against their feeder club from Brazil, Desportivo Brasil, now awaits them.

The young Red Devils will go in to that game tonight with plenty of confidence having found the back of the net seven times in the first two days.

Dubliner Robert Brady was again the star of the show for United as the young striker took his week's tally to four goals, bagging a brace — scoring United's first and last goals.

In between Michael Ngoo and Etzaz Hussain pushed United further ahead.

However man of the match was Cantolao goalkeeper Patricio Musso Savage, who saved his side from a much heavier loss.

United boss Paul McGuinness said: “It was a comfortable success for us. We played some very clever football, but we were given the room to do just that.

“I must also praise their goalkeeper, he gave a top class performance.”

There was late drama for South Coast Bayern as the Californians broke County Tyrone hearts with a last gasp winner.

Hector Lopez pounced in the last minute of stoppage time to find the only goal of the game.

Bayern coach Vishtasp Farhadi said: “It was a very late goal, in the last minute of overtime, but I feel that we deserved it.

“However, Tyrone had a chance right before we scored when they got in behind our defence, so we have to give them credit, they played very well.

“Two wins from the first two games is great — you can't do better than that.

“We would like to make the final, but we will take each game as it comes, starting with the quarter-finals.”

FC Porto now await for last year's beaten finalists in the quarter-finals.

County Antrim meanwhile picked themselves up after an opening night defeat against Manchester United. They were 3-2 winners over their Republic of Ireland counterparts Cherry Orchard in Broughshane.

Mark Smith, Karl Bothwell and Carl Winchester were on target for Antrim, with Matt Doherty and Craig Walsh replying for Orchard.

For boss Stefan Seaton it was ample reward: “We're delighted to get the win, although with the goal difference it was always going to be difficult to get through to the Milk Cup quarter-finals.

“We would love to still claim one of the trophies on offer, but the main objective is to develop these young footballers and test them against some of the best sides in Europe and the world,” he added.

County Down's Premier boys followed in their Junior counterparts footsteps as being the only County team to progress to the Milk Cup knockout stages.

Andrew Burns found Down's goal in last night's 1-1 draw with Watford, his third of the tournament so far.

Tuesday Premier results: Fenerbahce 1-0 Sheffield United, Co Antrim 3-2 Cherry, FC Porto 2-1 Otago, Trudovye Rezervy 5-3 Burnley, Shamrock Rovers 0-0 Co Armagh, Cruz Azul 1-1 Co Fermanagh, Co Londonderry 0-2 Desportivo Brasil, Co Tyrone 0-1 South Coast Bayern, Watford 1-1 Co Down, Club Cantolao 0-4 Manchester United.

Today's Milk Cup Premier 1/4 finals fixtures (6pm): Fenerbache v Cherry Orchard (Riada Stadium),South Coast Bayern v FC Porto (Ballymena Showgrounds), 7pm: Manchester Utd. v Desportivo Brasil (Limavady), Sheffield Utd v Co. Down (Mullaghacall, Portstewart)

Today's Slemish Premier Trophy 1/4 finals fixtures (3.30pm:) Shamrock Rovers v Cruz Azul (Roe Mill, Limavady) Otago v Co. Antrim (Broughshane) Co. Armagh v Trudovye Rez (The Warren, Portstewart) 5pm: Watford v Co. Londonderry (Castlerock)

Today's Dunluce Premier Trophy League fixtures: 1.30pm: Club Cantolao v Co. Tyrone (Parker Avenue, Portrush) 3.30pm: Burnley v Co. Fermanagh (Anderson Park, Coleraine)

Owen Hargreaves could be out of action until Christmas, fear Manchester United



Owen Hargreaves could be ruled out until Christmas after suffering another setback in his recovery from knee surgery.

The Manchester United midfielder, who had operations on both knees last September to cure a tendinitis problem, was due to join up with his team-mates in Munich to continue his rehabilitation.

But a complication has forced Hargreaves, 28, to stay in Colorado under the eye of renowned knee surgeon Dr Richard Steadman.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson originally said a "conservative estimate would be September" for his return.

But there is a fear it could be autumn before he is anywhere near a first-team comeback, while doubts remain whether he will ever make a full recovery.

Speaking in Munich before United’s opening game in the Audi Cup, Fergie said: "Hargreaves won’t be playing because he’s still recuperating in America.

"We hoped he’d be joining us here but we can’t rush him. He’s had a major operation on both knees and that’s a serious business. He won’t be rushed back and he’s young enough for us not to need to do that."

Cristiano Ronaldo hard to follow as Antonio Valencia makes Manchester United debut


Antonio Valencia will make his Manchester United debut against Boca Juniors in Munich with Sir Alex Ferguson admitting the £17m summer signing faces a tough task replacing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Valencia, who missed United's four-game tour of the Far East due to an extended break following World Cup duty with Ecuador at the end of last season, has linked up with Ferguson's squad in Germany in the build-up to the four-team Audi Cup in the Allianz Arena.

The 23-year-old arrival will be expected to fill the right wing position at United in the wake of Ronaldo's £80m transfer to Real Madrid.

But with Ronaldo scoring 68 goals for United during his last two campaigns at the club, Ferguson concedes that becoming a direct replacement for the Portuguese will not be easy for Valencia.

He said: "I hope we have found the answer to Cristiano, but he scored 26 goals last season and that, for a winger, was exceptional.

"He was fantastic for us, the best player in the world, and we did very well to keep him for six years.

"With foreign players, it is always difficult to keep hold of them. Cristiano wanted his move and I hope does well. I'm sure he will do.

"Antonio is a player that we watched for some time last season. He is young, athletic and has good power and, at 23, we think he can develop with us.

"He has potential, though, and we believe he can develop and he will start against Boca.

"Fitness-wise, he is still behind the rest of squad, but he has spent some time at Carrington while the rest of the squad was away in the Far East."

Nemanja Vidic and Northern Irish defender Craig Cathcart have joined the United squad in Munich, but England midfielder Owen Hargreaves has missed out on the opportunity to return to Germany, having launched his career with Bayern.

Hargreaves had been due to link up with the squad in Munich to begin light training following two knee operations last December and January.

But Ferguson has admitted that the player, due to return to action in September, remains in the USA to continue his recovery at the Colorado clinic of knee surgeon Richard Steadman.

Ferguson said: "Owen is still in the United States, continuing his rehab.

"We hoped that he would be here with us, but he has had a major operation and there is no point rushing him.

"He is still young and he has plenty of time on his side, so he won't be rushed."

'It is hard for me to get my head round. Why should they listen to me?'


This is a story about fame. Last year, three men fronted a video and poster campaign to try to reduce the spread of HIV in Sierra Leone. They told young men to wear a condom, to stop blaming others for not getting themselves tested, and to fight the stigma of the virus. The campaign achieved dramatic increases in the number of young men who knew how to practise safe sex and who were prepared to be tested. However, the people giving the advice were not doctors, politicians or even film stars, but footballers: Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.

"It is weird," said Michael Carrick, who is talking to teenagers in Hangzhou about the stigma of Aids as part of a Unicef project. "You see kids who maybe haven't got long to live, they meet you and they are happy for a while. It is hard for me to get my head round that. Why should they listen to me? I find that so strange."

It is a good question. Hangzhou is a modern, prosperous city to the west of Shanghai, and Manchester United are big news. Their hotel, on the shores of a mountain-ringed lake that gives it the feel of an oriental Switzerland, was constantly under siege; the moment someone in club uniform appeared on the stairs, hundreds of voices in the lobby exploded. Some fans have slept on the pavement outside.

However, Aids in China is largely a rural phenomenon, with the virus most rampant in Yunnan province, near the border with Burma, and it is spread by the drugs of the Golden Triangle not sex. And surely nobody in Yunnan knows who Michael Carrick or Dimitar Berbatov are?

Yet the Unicef officials in the Hyatt Regency tell a story of one of their colleagues who travelled to a desperately remote village in Trinidad that she thought had been abandoned. Eventually, she found everyone in a single house, crammed around a television watching the European Cup final. Manchester United have never played in Sierra Leone and, given the poverty of the country, are unlikely ever to do so. Most people in Yunnan have television, and the name Manchester United will mean something to someone.

"Listen," said Berbatov, who, like Giggs, is a Unicef ambassador and supports five care homes in his native Bulgaria. "If David Beckham says something about HIV, then people will remember it. People do listen to the famous and maybe that is a little bit strange. When I was a boy I listened to my parents because what better example can you get than your parents? But many of these kids don't have parents; they need someone else.

"But really, I don't think you should need to talk to a famous person before you can address the problems you face. You need to understand the problems before they hit you. We come here for a reason, that is to train and play football, but there is also this, and I would say it is equally important and when I look back on my life it might be more important."

Nearly six out of every 10 Chinese teenagers have no idea how to protect themselves from Aids. Sixty-nine per cent believe it can be passed on through chopsticks. Unlike in South Africa, where Manchester United toured last summer, the Chinese government has been quick to recognise the spread of the virus. It is illegal to discriminate against HIV carriers, but to emphasise the point Berbatov and Carrick take part in a game where each teenager has a sticker placed on their forehead. They don't know what colour it is. If it's blue, everyone can shake hands with them. If it is yellow, you can go up to them but you can't shake their hands, although they can touch yours. If you have a red sticker, nobody goes near you. These 12- to 15-year-olds with red stickers quickly discover what it is like to be shunned.

Games like these, along with books, educational materials and sports equipment, are packed in boxes and sent to 295 schools in the worst-affected areas. It is a two-year project and the £230,000 cost is borne by Manchester United. The box itself opens up into a sort of blackboard. It trades under the name of "Skills for Life in a Box".

It is easy to be cynical about footballers and these kinds of events. You think of Cristiano Ronaldo constantly looking at his watch during the club's media day to mark the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster; of Liverpool's reserve keeper Charles Itandje giggling through the service to mark the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough. It is a box to be ticked, like listening to Harry Enfield's creations, Smashie and Nicey, talking about "charideee".

But it matters to others. CLR James, the great writer on the Caribbean, asked: "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" It goes for football, too. "But if it wasn't for football, I wouldn't have seen the things I have," Carrick reflected. "I am being educated. I have been to hospices and orphanages and if not for football, then I would never have done.

"It makes a massive difference now that I have a child of my own. I went to South Africa last year. It was my first tour and when I got home I thought that having a child changes a lot. I come here, I see these children and what they are going through and look at it in a completely different light.

"It puts into perspective how lucky I am, how lucky my little girl is. She has things, she has her health. But it feels surreal being here, trying to help but you just keep thinking ..." And he can't put it into words.