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Ferguson backs Scholes as United target treble

Sir Alex Ferguson believes experienced midfielder Paul Scholes could play an important part in Manchester United’s bid this season to match their treble achievement of 1999.

The 33-year-old former England midfielder is expected to feature in Wednesday’s league match at home to Portsmouth after ending three months out following a knee operation with a substitute appearance in last weekend’s 3-1 FA Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

”Something special seems to happen when the ball goes to him. He has an innate sense of composure about him,” said United boss Ferguson.

”The game just seems to stop so he controls it. He is an amazing player.”

Scholes underwent an operation to repair his cartilage in October after pulling up before the Champions League match against Dynamo Kiev.

United, top of the Premier League on goal difference from Arsenal — who they will face in the last 16 of the FA Cup next month following Monday’s draw — are currently in with a chance of winning their domestic title, the FA Cup and the Champions League, where their next opponents are French club Lyon.

”It is an improbable goal but we would like to prove otherwise,” said Ferguson of the treble.

”People have said what happened in 1999 will never be done again, but we will go for it.

”We are in the next round of the FA Cup, we have two games to come against Lyon and we are top of the Premier League. We are trying our best.”

Portsmouth, ninth in the table and with one of the best away records in the league, could give a debut to new loan signing Milan Baros.

The Lyon striker, who has played in England for Liverpool and Aston Villa, could prove an important transfer-window addition to the Pompey squad, which is currently depleted by the loss of forwards Kanu and John Utaka to the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.

”It is a tough game to begin with and United are the favourites but if we go there and fight we can get a result because I know the players here and they have some top quality,” said Baros.

Arsenal face Newcastle for the second time in four days at the Emirates on Tuesday with the Magpies looking to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s 3-0 thrashing in the FA Cup.

Bolton manager Gary Megson has a fully fit squad for Tuesday’s visit of second-bottom Fulham. Gretar Steinsson and Matt Taylor made their debuts at Newcastle in the Trotters’ last outing on January 19 and should feature again.

Sunderland face Birmingham in a match that could have a bearing on both clubs’ chances of top-flight survival while relegation candidates Wigan are away to Middlesbrough.

Wednesday sees Chelsea, looking to maintain the pressure on the top two, at home to Reading.

Basement side Derby, in their first match since the takeover of the club by United States-based investors, are at home to Manchester City with both sides looking to recover from FA Cup exits against lower league opponents.

West Ham are at home to Liverpool in the visitors’ first match since the embarrassment of conceding two goals to non-league Havant and Waterlooville while Everton, currently in the top four, welcome Tottenham to Goodison Park. — Sapa-AFP

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Julian Guyer
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