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By ESPN Staff

Sir Alex: No row over Hargreaves' timekeeping

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson insists Owen Hargreaves has a big role to play as his team chases glory on two fronts.

Ferguson has dismissed reports claiming the former Bayern Munich midfielder had angered him because of poor timekeeping.

Instead he praised Hargreaves performance when he stepped off the bench in the 2-0 victory against Roma in the Champions League quarter-final first-leg match at the Stadio Olimpico.

The England international could face Middlesbrough tomorrow and Ferguson said: 'In many ways he changed the pattern of the game for us the other night.

'He did a fantastic job when he came on and he will be involved again on Sunday.'

With six games remaining in the Barclays Premier League, United are in the driving seat but Chelsea and Arsenal could still overtake them.

Ferguson, however, remains single-minded, knowing they face a difficult game at Middlesbrough, who lost narrowly to Chelsea at the weekend.

He said: 'It is important to do our own job well. With only two home games left, we have to make sure our form stays strong.

'We are approaching the finishing line. There is not long to go now but sometimes it is a lifetime away.

'At this time, nerves can play a part and form can play a part. We have to be consistent.

'We have to make sure we are at our best against Middlesbrough. There is no question they should have got something from the game with Chelsea.'

United are aiming to make it six successive clean sheets in the league at the Riverside Stadium and Ferguson has revealed the club are 'not far away' from agreeing a new contract with Rio Ferdinand.

Ferdinand is in the form of his life and recently captained England in the friendly against France.

The 29-year-old, who arrived in July 2002 from Leeds, has two more years left to run on his current deal.

But the defender has already indicated he is keen to stay put at Old Trafford for the remainder of his career.

That was music to the ears of Ferguson, who confirmed: 'We have been negotiating for a few weeks and I do not think we are far away.

'But you know what negotiations are like these days, they are never easy.'

Meanwhile Ferguson has confirmed he will contest an FA charge of improper conduct.

Along with assistant Carlos Queiroz he has been brought to book for comments made following the FA Cup defeat by Portsmouth in March.

Ferguson's charge concerns remarks about referee Martin Atkinson and Professional Game Match Officials Board general manager Keith Hackett.

Queiroz's charge relates to comments about Atkinson. The Portuguese coach has not commented on whether he intends to contest the charge as well.

Asked on what grounds he would appeal, Ferguson said: 'Were you at the game? That is all I am going to say.'