Ferguson praises Bucs

2008-07-23 00:00

DURBAN — Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was full of praise for Orlando Pirates after his Red Devils defeated second-string Bucs 1-0 in their second Vodacom Challenge match played at King’s Park Stadium here on Tuesday night.

The United boss said Bucs had improved a lot from the disjointed side that were beaten 4-0 by the mighty Reds in the Challenge series two years ago at the same venue.

Pirates’ new coach Rudi Krol decided to rest most of his first-team players and fielded a virtual reserve team against the champions of Europe and England in this annual tournament.

Said Ferguson: “What I saw today of Pirates showed me they have improved a lot since we played them in the same event two years ago … Our keeper, Ben Foster, was forced to make two really good saves in the second half. We were a little lucky not to have conceded a goal.”

Krol said he will make changes to the side for tonight (at 8.10 pm) when the Buccaneers meet arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the third match of the series and the playoff for the final. The Soweto derby winner will earn the right to face United in the sell-out final to be staged at Loftus on Saturday. Kick-off is at 3.30 pm.

A fired-up Chiefs held United 1-1 in the opening Challenge match at Newlands in Cape Town last Saturday.

Asked whom he would prefer for the Challenge final, Ferguson said: “I am not too worried. Pirates from what I saw tonight were aggressive and had plenty of speed in attack. I think Pirates are now slightly ahead of Chiefs. The gap has closed between the two sides since 2006.”

Krol was unrepentant after fielding a weakened side against United. “I had to juggle my squad … We were a little nervous at the start, but we showed a lot of improvement after halftime. I have to field two competitive teams in the space of three days against top-class opposition. That is not easy. Obviously I will be making changes against Chiefs.

“The goal now is to get a second chance to play against a great side like United in Saturday’s final. We made mistakes, but this was an exhibition match and I have time to fix these mistakes,” he said.

Ferguson said: “My younger players did fine for 25 minutes of the first half, but after that we lost our way. It was only when I brought on Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes in the second half that we regained our shape and concentration … ”

In Port Elizabeth tonight it will be the turn of new Buccaneers goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs, defenders Benson Mhlongo and Innocent Mdledle, star striker Excellent Walaza and his veteran partner, Gilbert Mushangazhike, to shine against a highly charged Chiefs.

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