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Fergie downplays United form concerns


MANCHESTER, England, December 2- Sir Alex Ferguson has downplayed concerns about Manchester United’s form ahead of a trip to Aston Villa which will give the champions a chance to reduce their five-point deficit to Manchester City.

United were held to a draw by Newcastle at Old Trafford last weekend and their confidence took another battering in midweek when a second string side was beaten at home in the League Cup quarter final by Championship side Crystal Palace.

Ferguson, though, is satisfied with his full strength side’s form.

Ferguson said: “I think our form last Saturday was excellent. We played as well as we have played all season and if it had gone for us in the goalmouth it would have been a good result because Newcastle have been doing very well. We made enough chances to have won the game comfortably.”

Dimitar Berbatov and the Da Silva twins, Fabio and Rafael, are out of the trip to Villa Park while Michael Owen, Anderson and Tom Cleverley remain longer term casualties.

Ferguson, meanwhile, is contemplating shipping out some of his young players on loan following the League Cup exit.

He said: “It works well for the young players and that’s what we are looking for (Federico) Macheda and (Mame Biram) Diouf, they need game time, there’s no doubt about that. They are young and every young player wants to play and we want to give them that opportunity.”

Ferguson also backed former United player Steve Bruce to make an early return to management after being dismissed by Sunderland this week.

Bruce was sacked following a disappointing start to the campaign and Ferguson believes he paid the price for the growing demands on managers to deliver immediate success.

Aston Villa are managed by Alex McLeish, a fellow Scot and former player under Ferguson who has also found himself under pressure following his appointment to the Villa Park job last summer.

And the United manager said: “Alex McLeish has been under scrutiny a wee bit but in the climate we have with today’s supporters, that’s understandable, they just don’t have the patience any longer.”

Ferguson believes Bruce also struggled to win over the supporters at the Stadium of Light because of his background as a boyhood Newcastle United fan.

But he is convinced the ex-centre back should have been given more time after losing a number of key players in the summer and bringing in several new faces.

He added: “Being a Geordie didn’t help him because they are so passionate and committed to their team up there. What happens at the side of the Wear really matters to them and I think Steve has suffered because of that.

“And Alex, because he was the manager of Birmingham City, that doesn’t help him either. But that’s the kind of supporters we have nowadays, they have no patience.

“He rebuilt a whole team so that requires a bit of patience from everyone and I think Steve was realising that himself, that he would have to wait a little bit.

“It’s been a complete turnaround and he lost a few players this summer, (Jordan) Henderson, the boy (Asamoah) Gyan, Anton Ferdinand.

“He’s lost a few players like the keeper (Craig Gordon) with a bad injury so he needed that time, and I think losing to Newcastle earlier this season didn’t help him either with the way they are in that part of the world.

“But he’ll be back because in general his managerial record is good. It’s disappointing for him at the moment but he’ll be back.”

Martin O’Neill, the former Villa manager, has been tipped to replace Bruce at Sunderland and Ferguson said: “Martin’s got a very good track record. The job he did at Villa Park was excellent, he did a great job with Celtic and won the League Cup with Leicester.

“So he has the track record to do well and if that’s the job he’s going to, I’m sure he’ll do well.”