Ferguson’s ready for Ronaldo challenge after Newcastle exploits

JOY ... Northern Ireland's Shane Ferguson celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side's first goal.
JOY ... Northern Ireland's Shane Ferguson celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side's first goal.

NEWCASTLE United’s Shane Ferguson’s ready for the biggest challenge of his career – stopping Ronaldo.

The 21-year-old is in the Northern Ireland squad for their World Cup qualifier against Portugal a week today.

And Ferguson – who started Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester United – would love to face free-scoring Real Madrid winger Ronaldo.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has watched Ferguson closely this season, and he could be handed a start at left-back.

Ferguson had been buoyed by his recent club form – he set up goals against Manchester United, Reading and Bordeaux – and he’s hopeful of another opportunity on the international stage.

“You just want to be able to show what you can do, and thankfully I’m getting that chance through the manager,” said Ferguson.

“It was even better for me that Michael O’Neill has been in the stands.

“I spoke to him before the game against Bordeaux, and it was great to see him there.

“Now I just want to push on and keep showing what I can do.”

Ferguson scored for Northern Ireland in Finland in August, and he’s relishing his return to the international stage after being largely overlooked by ex-United striker O’Neill’s predecessor Nigel Worthington.

“Being back on the international scene’s brilliant,” he added.

“Scoring against Finland gave me confidence.

“It was an unbelievable feeling because it came in front of my family at Windsor Park.

“It’s something I’ll always be proud of.”

n ROBIN Van Persie has escaped punishment for his elbow on Yohan Cabaye in Manchester United’s 3-0 win at St James’s Park on Sunday.

Referee Howard Webb has viewed replays of the incident, and reportedly did not deem it worthy of a red or yellow card.

Newcastle United manager had called for the incident to be investigated.

Cheik Tiote, meanwhile, won’t face action for his stamp on Tom Cleverly as Webb saw it at the time – and didn’t believe it was reckless.