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Gignac's gruesome foot

The Toe Poke
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Sir Alex Ferguson: U.S. soccer on the rise

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes football is beginning to take hold in the United States ahead of his side's pre-season tour.

The United squad leave on Monday for their training base in Chicago and Ferguson said that he expects a competitive edge to their matches after the national side held England to a 1-1 draw in the World Cup.

''American soccer is starting to make an impact and it is so improved, '' said Ferguson said. ''I made that point about the United States team before the World Cup. I said they were going to play like real athletes - the guys are fit, committed, they believe in themselves.

''I think American football is that way - they're all fit, athletic, they've got a good feel for the pitch. You can see that there is improvement in MLS. I have spoken to many people in the last few months about that and there is a big upsurge.''

Veteran trio Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will lead the party on the four-match tour beginning against Celtic in Toronto next Friday.

Edwin van der Sar, Darren Fletcher and Dimitar Berbatov will also travel along with some promising youngsters including former Fulham defender Chris Smalling.

Ferguson added on the MLS website: ''Winning is part of what we have to do here, but the main object is to get everyone game time, come back ready, fit to start the season.''

United meet Philadelphia Union at Lincoln Financial Field on July 21, followed by a match against the Kansas City Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium on July 25. They then finish the tour against the MLS All-Stars in Houston on July 28.

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