Sir Alex Ferguson sets Gary Neville a new challenge

20 February 2009 07:33
Two days after celebrating his 34th birthday, Neville followed in the footsteps of Giggs on Friday and signed a one-year contract extension that will keep him at the club until June 2010.

Giggs, United's most decorated player, agreed a new deal last week while Scholes's contract is also due to expire next summer. Ferguson described the trio, who have a combined age of 103, as the "spirit" of United and indicated that he hopes to offer all three further deals in 12 months time. "We'll see what happens next year. If they keep their performance levels up then they will be here for another year, there's no doubt about that," said United's manager.

There is a distinct possibility that Scholes, Giggs and Neville will not start for United against Blackburn on Saturday, where victory will send Ferguson's seemingly unstoppable team eight points clear at the Premier League summit. Yet the influence all three have in the dressing room, particularly among United's younger players, is just as important as having them in the team, according to Ferguson. "They are the spirit of the club and they are an example to everyone," he said. "I think there are a lot of players in the country who are quite wealthy who don't want to put themselves through the whole process of pre-season training.

"But these three players seem to want to do that all the time. It speaks volumes for their own desires that they want to keep involved with United for as long as they can."

It is likely that the trio will feature over the next few days as United's pursuit of an unprecedented quintuple enters a crucial phase.

Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan await Ferguson's Fifa Club World Cup winners when the Champions League returns on Tuesday and then it is off to Wembley to face Tottenham in the Carling Cup final tomorrow week. Yet despite winning it 10 times, it is the Premier League Ferguson craves the most and he insists his players still have plenty of work if they are succeed where some United teams have failed in the past.

"You can't forget the chances we missed at West Ham when we only needed one goal to win the league in 1995," said Ferguson, who is set to start with Wayne Rooney for the first time since Jan 14, after the striker returned from injury. "Then there was the 12-point lead over Arsenal that we threw away in 1998. These are great reminders to us."

Meanwhile, Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce has hired a mind guru to inject positive thoughts into his struggling squad ahead of the match. United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is unbeaten in 14 successive games, but Allardyce insists that positive thinking can lead to a shock result.

Allardyce employed sports psychologist Mike Forde at Bolton with much success and he is backing his new man at Blackburn – Jamil Qureshi, who worked with the successful 2006 European Ryder Cup team – to pull off similar results with his relegation-threatened squad.

Allardyce said: "Football at this level is all about the inner mind and belief rather than ability – it's about positive attitude, building things up from a mental point of view."

"The psychology can involve many things, such as cutting a video clip and putting it to music. Maybe it is putting something together on a player's better games or his goals. It's just about keeping the belief going."

Source: Telegraph

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