FOOTBALL NEWS

23/03/2009 11:48, Report by Ben Hibbs
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Reds on national duty

United's players head out en masse this week to join up with their national squads for friendlies and World Cup qualifiers over the next ten days, and the break comes at a timely point for the Reds.

On the back of two straight league defeats, this is a chance for the players to take a step back, then return and regroup for the clash with Aston Villa a week on Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani will be in action for Portugal's World Cup qualifier against Sweden on Saturday, but some reports suggest Ronaldo may not be called on for a friendly against 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa on Tuesday, which would aid his freshness for United.

Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney are both suspended for the Villa match (along with Paul Scholes) so they will look to keep up their match sharpness with Serbia and England respectively.

For England, who face Slovakia in a friendly on Saturday and Ukraine in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday 1 April, United have three other representatives - Ben Foster, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick.

Serbia meet Romania in their Group Seven qualifier on Saturday, after which Vidic will return to Carrington. Also in that group, Patrice Evra's third-placed France will be aiming to close the gap with a double header against Lithuania, who occupy second spot.

Several Reds face far-flung journeys; Carlos Tevez is in the Argentina squad for their clashes with Venezuela and Bolivia, while Brazil, a point ahead of Argentina in second (though trailing South America qualifying group leaders Paraguay by six points), have Anderson in their squad for matches against Ecuador and Peru.

Ji-sung Park is confident ahead of South Korea's meeting with their northern counterparts on 1 April (they also have a friendly against Iraq on Saturday). The effervescent midfielder says he isn't too fatigued after travelling to

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