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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Briatore Tells Players He's Not Picking the Team...Ainsworth's Managerial Opportunity and Manchester United

Daily Mail/Tom Collomosse Gareth Ainsworth has chance to show at Manchester United that he can be Rangers' permanent boss

- Manchester United vs QPR Chart

-As a part-time musician, Gareth Ainsworth played a few tough gigs with his band Dog Chewed The Handle, but they don't come much more difficult than taking on Manchester United at Old Trafford.
- In his fifth game as caretaker-manager of Queens park Rangers, Ainsworth knows a shock win in tonight's fourth-round Carling Cup tie against the Premier League and European champions would leave him perfectly placed to earn the job full-time.
- Rangers' billionaire owners will expect the meeting with United to be a glimpse into the future of their club, with chairman Flavio Briatore having promised to lead Rangers into Europe within four years.
- The chance to take his seat in the directors' box at venues like Old Trafford was why Briatore bought Rangers along with fellow Formula One businessman Bernie Ecclestone 12 months ago.
- Briatore will be at the stadium along with Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, who owns a 20 per cent stake in the club, and vice-chairman Amit Bhatia, but the focus will be on Ainsworth's battle with Sir Alex Ferguson, a man with 34 years' managerial experience.
- The chasm could not be greater. Ainsworth was only one year old when Ferguson took charge of East Stirlingshire in 1974.
- Yet Ainsworth has made a solid start and has gained two wins and a draw from four tough Championship fixtures against Reading, Birmingham, Ipswich and Cardiff since replacing Iain Dowie last month.
- And crucially, he appears to have the backing of the players - although distancing himself from men who were team-mates until May this year could prove problematic. Ainsworth has been a key figure in the Rangers dressing room since he joined the club before the 2003/04 season, and it is clear that, even as manager, he remains 'one of the lads'.
- Ainsworth has even banned his players from calling him 'boss' or 'gaffer', ordering them to stick to 'Gaz' when addressing him.
- That cannot be the case for ever, though, and it is how Ainsworth reacts to a poor result or to having to tell a former team-mate he is dropped that will say much about his capacity to succeed as a boss.
-Defender Matthew Connolly said: 'Things have not changed too much since Iain left and Gareth took over. Gareth is a great motivator, and all the players get on really well with him.
-'He is geeing everyone up and encouraging everyone, and he has done very well so far. We have not had any easy games since he took over, so what he is doing is very impressive.
-'Last season, Gareth was still training with us, and he is still the same guy who is treating us all in the same way as he did before.'
Briatore has been accused of meddling in Ainsworth's team selections but the co-owner held a clear-the-air meeting with the squad this week about his role in first-team affairs following the departure of Dowie
-Connolly revealed: 'Flavio explained to us that he had nothing to do with the team. After what happened [to Iain Dowie], Flavio told us that he was not picking the team. Flavio comes to the training ground and talks to us, but he is not there every day.
-'He does sometimes come into the dressing room, as do Amit Bhatia and Bernie Ecclestone.'
-At least publicly, Bhatia, the son-in-law of the world's fifth-richest man Mittal, claims Ainsworth has a strong chance of being the club's next permanent manager.
- Bhatia said: 'Gareth has done a commendable job. We have had some very impressive results, and we are keen to give him a fair chance.
- 'Let's see what happens in the future, in terms of a replacement or otherwise. It was a tricky situation which saw the club part ways with Iain Dowie, but he left us in a healthy position, and we thank him for that.'
- During a playing career which featured spells with Preston, Lincoln, Wimbledon, Cardiff and Rangers, Ainsworth, a physical, determined winger, extracted the maximum from the talent he had.
- He will need to do the same if he is given the job full-time, because Ainsworth knows that Rangers' owners will not settle for Championship football for much longer.
- Ainsworth said: 'The Premier League is the place we want to be so this is going to be a little taste of what the boys can expect and what they can look forward to, because I believe QPR will be in the Premier League very soon.
- 'I'll still feel the pressure, though. We want to go up there and give a good account of ourselves and who knows what will happen. Some people say they won't play their first team but their second team is pretty good as well.'
Since becoming a boss, Ainsworth had to tell his band mates he was hanging up his mic. But after hitting all the right notes during his first fortnight in charge, 'Gaz' can expect a lengthy encore if Rangers win at Old Trafford. Mail

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