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Saturday 22 September 2018

Ferguson backs McLeish

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson expects Alex McLeish to win over sceptical fans and prove a success as Aston Villa manager.

Villa are set to confirm the controversial appointment of former Birmingham boss McLeish on Friday after successful talks with the 52-year-old this week. McLeish only quit at St Andrew's on Sunday and the prospect of him moving across the city has enraged Villa supporters.

But Ferguson, often regarded as a mentor for McLeish having given him his break as a player at Aberdeen, said: "At the end of the day what will count is this - can he do the job for Villa?"

The 70-year-old added: "It doesn't matter whether there are 50 against him, 500 against him or five against him because the experience and the ability he has got, believe me, he will prove that he can do the job. I know how conscientious he is. I know the determination and work ethic he's always had to make sure he does the job right."

Fans' ire culminated with a protest at Villa Park on Wednesday evening but that depth of ill-feeling has not deterred club owner Randy Lerner from pursuing McLeish.

Villa were also not put off by a war of words with Birmingham, who claimed McLeish was tapped up and threatened to take out an injunction to block his appointment. That was not carried out and nor was a threat to report Villa to the Premier League.

Blues, however, did demand £5.4million in compensation to cover the final two years of McLeish's contract. There were reports on Thursday night that a compromise figure of £2million had been agreed but there was no confirmation from either club.

Yet with a contract with McLeish understood to have been finalised, it is thought only legal issues concerning Birmingham are preventing the appointment from being officially confirmed.

McLeish began his managerial career with Motherwell and Hibernian before winning two league titles with Rangers and then taking over the Scotland national side. He won the Carling Cup with Birmingham last season only for the campaign to end in the disappointment of relegation from the Barclays Premier League.

Ferguson added: "I have known Alex since he was 18 years of age when he went to Aberdeen. He was always intelligent, he was always inquisitive in his nature, he was always asking questions, and these to me are essential ingredients for being a successful manager."

© Press Association

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