Ferguson expects no more mistakes

 

Alex Ferguson does not believe lightning will strike twice as Manchester United go into tomorrow's English FA Cup third-round tie against Middlesbrough.

A fortnight ago Bryan Robson brought his side to Old Trafford to pull off the shock of the season against his former club by beating United 3-2 - the Teessiders' first win there in 68 years.

Ferguson is certain his players will not make the same mistakes again. "What we learned from the defeat was that the players knew the defensive mistakes they made contributed to the result," Ferguson said.

"I think we would have won the match if we hadn't been so careless in our defending but the points have been made and there was good evidence in the second half at Chelsea that we are starting to look a bit more solid.

"I think the players' concentration has to be vital in that area and if that is the case we will have a much better Sunday than the last time we played Boro."

Dwight Yorke is fit again after missing four of the last five games - one of them the Middlesbrough defeat. But David Beckham and Gary Neville are missing, each suspended for picking up five bookings.

United go into the game after keeping consecutive clean sheets against Nottingham Forest and Chelsea - the first time that has happened since November. Three straight would be a first this season.

Injuries and suspension are threatening to seriously hamper Middlesbrough's chances, but a glance at their recent cup pedigree makes interesting reading.

Middlesbrough have never won a major trophy in their 123-year history, but they have come agonisingly close the last two seasons.

Robson's side were just three minutes away from lifting the League Cup in April 1997 when Leicester striker Emile Heskey forced a replay which Steve Claridge's strike won for Leicester.

Six weeks later they were back at Wembley to face Chelsea in the FA Cup final but were beaten from the moment Roberto Di Matteo's first-minute thunderbolt screamed into the net.

Last season's League Cup final reverse by the men from Stamford Bridge completed a miserable treble for Boro, but fuelled an even greater desire to get their hands on some silverware.

Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa is suspended, while experienced trio Paul Gascoigne, Gary Pallister and Robbie Mustoe will all undergo fitness tests.

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier has criticised Dietmar Hamman, whose tackle on Steve McManaman in the match against Newcastle may force the midfielder out of action for the next month.

It means McManaman will be a frustrated spectator tomorrow when his Anfield team-mates try to negotiate an FA Cup thirdround tie at Port Vale that is full of dangers.

Hamman has claimed that Patrik Berger dived for the second yellow card offence, but Houllier said: "I have heard that the player was complaining that he was sent off, but if he sees the video of the tackle maybe he will think about it more because I don't think Steve will play for a month.

"It was a very nasty tackle. He has a very badly twisted ankle. The ankle has gone all colours, black and yellow, and he has had a scan which shows there is no fracture or damage to the ligaments.

"But his foot is swollen and it may take at least three weeks before he can play, I hope no more."

Paul Ince, now clear of suspension, will return in McManaman's absence, while Jason McAteer is on stand-by because Vegard Heggem has flu.

The Norwegian, who has started to produce some highly effective performances from right wingback, has missed two days' training and was confined to bed yesterday. Houllier hopes to have Robbie Fowler back from a knee injury that forced him to miss the Newcastle game. Karlheinz Riedle, now over a bruised foot, scored twice in that match and could well hold his place with Fowler on the bench.

Leeds' tie away to Rushden and Diamonds pits David O'Leary against two of his old Arsenal team-mates in Rushden coach Brian Talbot and Chris Whyte, who was also a member of United's championship-winning side in 1992.

For Talbot there can be no greater incentive than putting one over on his great friend, with O'Leary saying: "Brian was one of the best box-to-box midfielders I've seen."