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Blair leads tributes as Fergie's legacy set in stone

TONY BLAIR has hailed Alex Ferguson as someone you would want in the trenches alongside you as he prepares for tomorrow's Old Trafford statue unveiling.

The tribute marks his remarkable 26 years at the United helm, which has brought a level of success unprecedented in the English game.

And for the former British prime minister, a Newcastle fan, it merely underlines the qualities that set Ferguson apart from the rest.

"He is one of these people that has a strength of character that immediately marks him out as a leader of people," said Blair.

"He's a great competitor but he's also got huge integrity, to himself and to what he believes in.

"If you're in a tough situation and everything is coming down on top of you and you feel you're slowly getting surrounded by the people that want to put you in a deep dark pit, Alex is the type of person you'd want standing alongside you."

The statue will be placed outside the stand that also bears his name.

Approaching his 71st birthday, there have been a few signs, including the health scare Ferguson suffered in May, that have hinted the ceremony could preface the end of his reign.

But those who know him best do not give that impression.


And Bobby Charlton, who travelled back from Turkey with Ferguson after Tuesday night's defeat to Galatasaray, is putting no timescale on his departure, knowing just how difficult he will be to replace.

"When we made the decision to go for him we didn't in our wildest dreams think that it would last as long as this," said Charlton.

"But, from the beginning, he obviously made people aware of what he did and how he did it with regard to controlling players and how to work with (the club) management, which is also very, very important.

"I won't see his like again, I'm certain of that. We're really lucky, and people are really envious of us.

"He was born to do this job and he's going to be with us as long as he wants. He's just a sensational manager, I keep repeating it, (but) others must look on in envy."