Man United stutter in Europe as Arsenal fly

By Myles Palmer

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OBVIOUSLY, Arsenal will beat Celta Vigo again.

Vigo are 18th in the Primera and Mostovoi is not joking when he says,”We have no chance against Arsenal.”

That is not a wind-up. That is the truth.

On a fast pitch, Arsenal’s lightning attacks will slice Celta to ribbons and send a statement to the other seven quarter-finalists

CHELSKI will eliminate Stuttgart, a youngish team who have proved to be one-dimensional, as I suggested before Xmas.

Stuttgart are an efficient side who do simple things quickly, but you need more than that in the Champions League.

Damien Duff is back – and I rate Duff above Nedved.

So tonight’s Manchester United-Porto game is the most interesting game this week.

Porto are 2-1 up from the first leg and Roy Keane is suspended after trampling on Vitor Baia.

I reckon Roy was more annoyed with Cristiano Ronaldo than with any Porto player, since Ronaldo gave him a pass he could not reach. So he stood on the keeper’s hip.

Had far more sympathy with Roy in 1999, when his tackle missed the ball by a centimetre and caught Zidane and a yellow put him out of the biggest game of his life.

I recall it clearly : centrefield, far side, missed the ball by a whisker, clipped Zizou’s shin, unlucky.

Maybe I’m wrong about Benni McCarthy. I never thought he had much skill but his first goal was a decent volley inside the near post and his second goal was an awesome power-header.

Benni is a box player, an old-fashioned centre forward.

He wants a move to the Premiership and if he scores tonight he might get one.

The way Wes Brown is “playing”, Benni must fancy his chances.

Fergie and Gary Neville have initiated a war of words, slagging off the Porto players as divers, and they hope that van Nistelrooy can turn the tie round.

I gather that Fergie was furious when Ruud said the team missed Beckham as a player and as a person.

As you know, Dutch players are very opinionated.

They are brought up to say what they think.

If you have 11 Dutchmen in a dressing room, you will have 12 opinions.

It’s the way they are. They can’t help it

So Fergie dropped Ruud for the first Fulham game. Rumour has it that Ruud was very angry about that.

He had a fierce row with Fergie, they were face to face at one point, allegedly.

My guess is that the United dressing room hasn’t been the same since Fergie kicked that boot into Beckham’s eyebrow after Arsenal beat them last season.

The United players know that if Fergie had played RVN, Howard and Giggs, they would have beaten Fulham comfortably at Loftus Road and they would not now be nine points behind Arsenal.

United cannot win the Prem or the Champions League with the side they have now, so they will concentrate on trying to beat Arsenal at Villa Park in the FA Cup.

OK, Portuguese clubs don’t travel well.

In 1999 or 2000 or 2003 you would have bet your house on United beating Porto at Old Trafford.

But now I wonder. I wonder about Benni.

Because Benni can do what most Portuguese strikers can’t do – put the ball in the net.

I don’t think Benni McCarthy will score tonight. But if he does, I will never call him a scrubber again.

Also, Deco is a better player than he looked in the first game, when Alenitchev was superior.

Jose Mourinho,41, is an up-and-coming coach, like Ronald Koeman and Roberto Mancini.

UNITED HAD a horribly counter-poductive pre-season, starting in Portland Oregon, the HQ of Nike.

They are now reaping what they sowed on that USA tour.

On Monday I went to buy my Guardian and the newsagent said “Are you still confident about your prediction?”

“Which one?”

“That Man United will be sold this week.”

“Malcolm Glazer is waiting to see if they stay in the Champions League.Because that will affect the price, won’t it?”

REAL MADRID will be without Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos when they play Bayern Munich tomorrow.

Figo will need to remember how he supplied Raul before Ronaldo arrived.

After fumbling that Carlos free-kick in the 1-1, Oliver Kahn said he would go to Madrid and “win the game on my own”

Last week he said,”I should be able to stop a ball like that, period. It was one you could stop without arms and legs.”

Roy Makaay won’t mind being back in Spain for a game of football. He made his name at Deportivo and speaks the language.

I never bet on scores.

But Porto could draw 1-1.

And Madrid might lose 1-0 to their bogey team.

9th March 2004.