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Red-hot Chicharito

Posted: 15 Mar 2011 10:13 PM PDT

Mexican strikes twice as United march into last eight

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 13:06:00

Football

PEA IS PERFECT! Hernandez was United's hero against Marseille

LONDON: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson hailed the progress of Javier Hernanez as his brace ensured his side narrowly edged past Marseille with a 2-1 victory in their last-16 return-leg clash at Old Trafford this morning and earn a quarterfinal berth.

The Red Devils were held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg. Hernandez, also known Chicharito or "Little Pea", combined excellently with Wayne Rooney throughout the match with the England striker orchestrating the move which resulted in the Mexican tapping in to open United's account in the fifth minute.

Rooney continued to pull the strings all evening, before Hernandez capped off a deadly display by doubling his and United's tally by tapping in Ryan Giggs' cross in the 75th minute.

However, United spent the final stages of the match rather nervously after Marseille made it 2-1 in the 82nd minute when Wes Brown presented the visitors with an own goal.

With Rooney discovering his form of late and Hernandez quickly realising his burgeoning talent, Ferguson feels an effective partnership is quickly forging.

"It's been developing pretty well. The way Rooney has been playing in the last couple of games has really threatened teams," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

"He's got such power and speed with the ball and, of course, Hernandez is unbelievable.

"Hernandez's movement for the goal, he's made three different types of run, in, out, in, out, in, out, the boy's just got goals in him."

With United looking potent in the attacking third, a lot was left to be desired by a dodgy defensive display that Marseille will be disappointed not to have capitalised on.

This was evident by clearcut misses by Andre-Pierre Gignac and Souleymane Diawara which may see the visitors stunning United.

Ferguson was quick to apportion any blame to his players, pointing to a crippling injury list that was increased with the enforced changes of John O'Shea and Rafael this morning.

"I think it was a lack of understanding between the players. We've changed the back four so many times," he said.

"Without the experience of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand we're obviously going to be under some pressure because the boys are young. Players like Chris Smalling, Rafael and Fabio are young players.

"We kept getting players taken off for injury and it shook the balance of the team in a big way.

"I thought we were quite comfortable, then John O'Shea's off, Fabio's off and we've made a substitution which was a killer.

"We could put Darron Gibson on to give us a bit more height, because it was important tonight for us to have a bit of height as their set piece play is very good and it caused us a lot of problems."

Despite a rough ride, United have booked their places in the last eight for the six successive season.

With the Red Devils still looking to repeat their historic treble of 1999, Ferguson was coy about who he would like to face in the next round in Europe.

"Whoever we get. We've been through this over the years and you never get what you want," he said.

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Barca admit Real are not behind doping insinuations

Posted: 15 Mar 2011 10:09 PM PDT

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 12:56:00

MADRID: Barcelona are content that bitter rivals Real Madrid are not behind the doping allegations currently dogging the Spanish champions.

The Catalans vehemently refuted claims by Cadena Cope that the club conduct business with dubious doctors and Barca recently threatened legal action against the radio station.

Barca spokesman Toni Freixa defended the integrity of the club while admitting that Real president Florentino Perez (pic) contacted the Catalans to dispel speculation that Los Blancos were behind the allegations.

"Real president has already contacted us to say they had nothing to do with the allegations by the radio station," he told Marca.

"Barca president Sandro Rosell has no reason not to believe him. These reports are a serious blow to the reputation of Barca, their doctors and athletes," he said.

Cadena Cope have since come out and apologised to Barca for their insinuations of doping at Nou Camp and also Valencia.

The Madrid-based broadcaster also suggested Real asked the Spanish Football Federation to take doping tests more seriously, and to keep in mind Barca's connections with the doctors.

However, both clubs denied the allegations and Cadena Cope issued an apology.

Juan Antonio Alcala, the columnist who made the allegations, said: "Maybe I have been naive about this. I was given to believe that this information came from Real. If I have to apologise and go down on my knees then I will do so.

"I am convinced that Barca are doing nothing illegal. It is not our intention to put in doubt the triumphs of Barca."

The station also released a statement, saying: "Given the possibility that our information could harm or defame those clubs, Cadena Cope apologises to Barca and Valencia, and the fans of both clubs if anyone interpreted the information in that way."

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