Finely-tuned Larsson times United arrival to perfection

HENRIK Larsson will be in excellent shape when he joins Manchester United on loan on 1 January, according to Helsingborgs coach Stuart Baxter.

The former Celtic and Sweden striker, 35, yesterday trained with Sir Alex Ferguson's squad for the first time ahead of his short-term move from the Swedish club.

He will stay in Manchester for the rest of the week before rejoining his family to celebrate Christmas.

"We only finished our season ten days ago so Henrik is still in good shape," said Baxter.

"If he works reasonably hard over Christmas - which I presume he will do - and gets in some good work with United that will bring him back up to speed.

"Of course Henrik has got to adjust to the pace of the game, the same as everyone else. But for the job United want him to do, his fitness will not be a problem."

Larsson arrived in England on Saturday and travelled with the squad to Upton Park on Sunday, where United lost 1-0 to West Ham. Baxter also attended the match, which saw Ferguson's side endure a frustrating time in front of goal.

He added: "If Henrik had been available, I am sure it would have been an interesting one for Sir Alex to tinker with. He would have given him another option.

"I know he is looking forward to the challenge and of course I will be monitoring his progress."

Larsson's two-and-a-half month loan deal kicks in on New Year's Day when he could make his debut against Newcastle. And he cannot wait to get started.

"I feel quite humbled that such a huge club and great manager are interested in what I can do," said Larsson on his website.

"I am really excited at the prospect of playing for United."

Larsson will be available for up to 14 games during his loan spell, which ends on 12 March; eight Premiership matches, up to four FA Cup games and the two Champions League last-16 ties with Lille.

Larsson perhaps could not have timed his entrance better, as Ferguson has called for his side to be sharper in front of goal when they play away from Old Trafford, following the setback to their title hopes at West Ham over the weekend.

Ferguson said: "We've been speaking about it for a few days, we've been throwing a lot of chances away, away from home, and it was another example of that.

"We played some fantastic football and had some excellent opportunities but our finishing should have been better."

Alan Curbishley, who marked his first match as West Ham manager with the victory over United, has told Carlos Tevez he must impress in training if he is to win his place back in the West Ham starting line-up.

Tevez was dropped to the bench on Sunday as Curbishley focussed on the fight for Premiership survival. The Argentina forward was brought to the club just before the transfer window closed for the winter but his arrival, along with compatriot Javier Mascherano, has been blamed for having an unsettling effect on the squad.

The Hammers are still recovering from eight consecutive defeats just after the pair signed from Brazilian side Corinthians, a sequence that played a part in Alan Pardew's dismissal and Curbishley's appointment last week.

"He took it well," Curbishley said of Tevez's relegation to the bench. "He understood and I've said to him that the players who didn't play will be in training the next day and will show me something, because I need to see them perform.

"With the Christmas period they are going to have to show me in training or when they get their chance because there are no reserve games."

He added: "It's a different situation. A new man has come in, they've got to express themselves in training and when they play, and we take it from there."

Mascherano was not on the bench against United and Curbishley will now assess his squad ahead of next week's clash against Fulham, as well as getting to know his players' names after a whirlwind week at Upton Park. "We came in Friday morning and trained for an hour, we were in again on Saturday for 15 minutes so I didn't know what the side was until the morning of the match," Curbishley added.

"I was also wary of plying them with too much information - I'm just getting to grips with their names let alone anything else."

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