Old heads help Reds hold nerve

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David Beckham turned in another thrilling performance at Old Trafford's Theatre of Dreams - then put his progress down to Manchester United's old stagers.

Beckham, who scored twice, said: "The first goal was very important to us. As soon as the first goal went in it calmed us down a bit. There was a bit of nerves but all the young players have played together before in the youth team and the reserves so we are used to each other.

"The experience of the older players helps us like Eric (Cantona), Pally and Giggsy. Getting the result was what we wanted and the goals were just a bonus.

"We'll train as usual this week and just keep on doing what we have been doing all season and then we'll go up to Middlesbrough and hope to get a result there."

Forest also face Newcastle, the rivals to United in the two-horse title- race, at the City Ground on Thursday. Steve Stone, Forest's England winger, said: "As a Geordie I'd be delighted if Newcastle win the League but Manchester United need not worry. I'll be just as committed."

Before the game, the United manager, Alex Ferguson, attempted to stifle whispers that Forest might have been more fired up at Old Trafford than four days later back home. "It doesn't matter whom we play - they will be trying their hardest," he had said. "Every team that comes to United try their hardest."

Next up for United are Middlesbrough in the final game of the season at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday.

The Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson - another Geordie - insists his 13 years with United will have no effect on his approach. "My conscience will be clear," said Robson after being bombarded with suggestions via a radio phone-in show that Middlesbrough will lie down and let United take the title.

"I'll be picking a team that I hope will win," he said. "Liverpool had all this sort of thing last season when people said they would let Blackburn win the last game of the season and take the title because of the Anfield rivalry with United. But that was never going to happen."