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Fergie Purrs Over Gattuso-Pirlo Pairing
The Guardian, April 24th, 2007 3:21PM

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Under different circumstances, AC Milan's Gennaro Gattuso, pegged by the English press as the danger-man before Manchester United's UEFA Champions League semifinal, could have been a Red Devil. In fact, in a press conference on Monday, Sir Alex Ferguson made his admiration for Milan's entire squad abundantly clear.

The United coach tried to sign Gattuso last year to fill the gaping void left by Roy Keane's departure in 2005. Indeed, Gattuso would have fit "the Roy Keane role" nicely, but Milan was unwilling to let him go. This season, that role has been shared equally by Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, though neither has the tackling ability of Gattuso. For this reason, United relentlessly chased after Bayern Munich's Owen Hargreaves, who's now all but certain to arrive at Old Trafford next season.

Instead, United now look to Milan's midfield pairing of Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo as the key to the two-leg semifinal. While Gattuso "is a player we have always admired," Ferguson said Pirlo, three-time man of the match for Italy in the World Cup last year (including the final) "is a fantastic footballer." He added that it would be a "big ask" of Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves to forge as effective a central midfield pairing. Although as Carrick showed against Roma in the quarterfinals, he's already much improved, and capable of getting even better.

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