Dowie ready for heavyweight contest

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The Independent Online

The Crystal Palace manager, Iain Dowie, is looking for his side to follow their excellent performance against the champions, Arsenal, with another big game against Manchester United in the League Cup tonight.

The Crystal Palace manager, Iain Dowie, is looking for his side to follow their excellent performance against the champions, Arsenal, with another big game against Manchester United in the League Cup tonight.

Dowie's side were inspired in their 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Saturday after watching a DVD of the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" when Muhammad Ali defeated the then undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion, George Foreman. Dowie will not be content unless Palace follow Saturday's performance up by knocking Sir Alex Ferguson's side out of the fourth round of the cup at Old Trafford.

He said: "Ali is famous for saying nothing is impossible and at the time [when he beat Foreman] it was a big shock. I'm very much a fan of Ali's.

"The mental toughness you need to be a boxer is something I admire.

"It might not win or lose you the game but sometimes that one per cent you can control will help you. There's been a steady improvement in the way we prepare for games mentally.

"The anxiety has gone away and we are more relaxed. We are expressing ourselves a little bit more. I sensed that it had an impact.

"It's a massive task to go and win at Old Trafford but it's something we hope to do and it's a cup competition. If United have an off-day, why not? I hope they don't take the competition too seriously!"

Palace are unbeaten in their last four matches, a run which included a 2-1 win at The Valley over local rivals Charlton in the last round. Dowie looks set to rest a host of his key players again for the trip to Old Trafford, as he did against Charlton.

Phil Neville has admitted he does not have an answer to explain his lack of first-team action for Manchester United this season. The 27-year-old England international thought he had finally established himself as a United regular last season when he was rewarded for his 43 first-team appearances with a new five-year contract.

However, Neville has largely been ignored by Sir Alex Ferguson this season despite United's injury problems. The Bury-born player had started just one game all season before United's win over Arsenal last month. He kept his place for the following week's trip to Portsmouth but was then dropped

"I have played three games in six months, which isn't good enough really," he said. "It is frustrating and I don't know why it has been like that. All I can do is bide my time and wait for a chance to impress the manager."

Neville will get his opportunity tonight when he lines up for United in their League Cup tie with Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, while Darren Fletcher is also expected to make a rare appearance.

¿ Manchester United will visit Beijing for the first time as part of the club's Far East tour next summer. Full details of the four-match trip, which will also take in Hong Kong and Japan, are not due to be confirmed until the middle of December, but it is known that Ferguson's side will take on the Chinese Super League team Beijing Hyundai on 26 July.

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