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11/02/2013 10:48

Papers: United's go-to man

Michael Cox writes in The Guardian...

How United nullified Fellaini
Manchester United started their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 defeat at Everton, where Marouane Fellaini was allowed to roam across the pitch, exploiting the absences in United's backline, and thriving in aerial duels against the makeshift centre-back Michael Carrick. Sir Alex Ferguson was able to select a more orthodox defensive quartet here [on Sunday] but still had a plan for stopping Fellaini. It involved Phil Jones, who has become Ferguson's go-to man for specific defensive tasks against particularly dangerous opponents. Last month, for example, he was deployed in a right-sided defensive midfield position to help Rafael da Silva cope with Gareth Bale, and it was no surprise Ferguson summoned Jones to take care of Fellaini. His versatility and determination has made him a trusty foot soldier – and just as the likes of John O'Shea, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-sung have played valuable roles for Ferguson by flitting between functional roles and performing astutely in big games, Jones might play a significant part in United's trip to Madrid on Wednesday evening.

For many of the papers, the battle for league supremacy is all but over after United's win over Everton and Manchester City's defeat at Southampton. Headlines include "Ruthless Fergie closes in on 13th title" (Daily Mail) and, taking into account the Reds' 12-point lead, "Dozen look bad! Ferguson smells blood" (The Sun) and "It dozen get any bigger" (Star).

Apart from praise for Ryan Giggs - "23 Giggabytes: Ryan extends his top-flight goals scored" - the other big topic is the Real Madrid clash. Football pundit Mark Lawrenson (The Mirror) claims United need to score in Wednesday's away leg in order to win the tie and The Telegraph says "Ronaldo is the one symbol of hope at Real" after the ex-United star scored his 20th hat-trick in Spanish football on Saturday. Meanwhile, The Independent recalls Sir Alex's triumph over Real Madrid in the 1983 European Cup-Winners' Cup final - and how a quiz between his Aberdeen players helped to get them in the mood.

More - Jones injury concern | Sir Alex wary of Real aims | Mourinho: World is waiting

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