Thursday, July 5, 2012

New No 7

Sir Alex Ferguson hands Antonio Valencia No.7 shirt and he hints at more Old Trafford arrivals
4 July 2012

Manchester United have unveiled a new No.7 – but it is Antonio Valencia who will be wearing the iconic Reds shirt next season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s switch is rich reward for United’s form player of 2011-12. But that doesn’t mean the Old Trafford boss has ruled out more summer imports to join close-season recruits Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell.

Valencia requested the famous number after Michael Owen vacated the shirt when he was released by the club at the end of last season. The Ecuadorian winger – United’s players’ and fans’ player of the year for 2011-12 – had no qualms about wearing the number that carries so much history at the club, having previously been worn by George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. Japanese midfielder Kagawa, who was signed from Borussia Dortmund for £17m, will wear the vacant 26 shirt, while teenage playmaker Powell, who was brought in from Crewe, has taken Valencia’s former number 25 jersey.

But there could be more new shirt numbers to dish out if Fergie’s squad revamp is successfully completed. Deal “There’s a possibility (there could be more signings). We’re working on one or two things,” revealed Sir Alex. “We always try to get our work done at the end of the season – we spent a good deal of time sorting the deal with Shinji and we’d agreed a deal with Nick Powell before the play-offs, which was a good move by us because the boy had an outstanding final at Wembley.

“When you don’t get deals done immediately and you’re negotiating with a club over a long period then you can’t expect to just snap your fingers and get it done.

“It’s a matter of gradually getting to a point where both clubs are satisfied and then having the opportunity, hopefully, to speak to the player.”

United have added another date to their pre-season tour schedule and will now play Hannover 96 in Germany on August 11 at the AWD Arena. The Reds will also play games in China, South Africa, Norway and Sweden. And while Ferguson is still waiting to see if any extra seats for new arrivals need to be booked, Darren Fletcher looks like he will be eased back after his enforced absence to fight a chronic bowel complaint. The Scottish midfielder has been out of action since December and the Reds boss is unsure whether he will travel.

“We’ll wait and see about that,” he added.

“Obviously, the boy is trying very hard to get back to his level. It’s not going to be easy but we’ll give him every possible chance and we’ll see how he does.

“He kept himself active towards the end of the season when he replaced Paul Scholes as reserve coach when Scholes decided to come back to the fold. He’s a terrific lad and we all hope he can come back.”

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“Nothing has happened with Dimitar and he’ll join the tour to South Africa and China,” Fergie added.

“He’s a fantastic footballer. It wasn’t a great season for him last season, partly because I settled more with Rooney and Welbeck and Chicharito. I don’t think I treated him unfairly, but he can feel disappointed he didn’t get more football. He’s a fantastic talent.”

However, United won’t have Paul Pogba on the payroll next season, despite Juventus not yet officially confirming they have signed the Reds’ 2011 FA Youth Cup winner. The 19-year-old French midfielder ran down his Old Trafford contract and Ferguson is angry about the manner of his departure.

“Pogba signed for Juventus a long time ago as far as we’re aware, which is disappointing,” he added.

“I don’t think he showed us any respect at all so, to be honest, I’m quite happy that if they [players] carry on that way, they’re probably better doing it away from us.”

The future of Mancunian defender Zeki Fryers, who has yet to accept a new deal, is also is in doubt.

“We haven’t heard anything from Zeki Fryers,” said the United boss. “I don’t know what’s happening there but he’s not been in touch with the club.  “His agent hasn’t been in touch with the club and I can only assume he’ll be back for training.”

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