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Cantona unveils Fergie's statue

ERIC CANTONA and Ruud van Nistelrooy were set to be among the most notable guests at the unveiling of a statue in honour of Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford today.

United commissioned award-winning sculptor Philip Jackson to create a nine-foot bronze sculpture which will be placed outside the stand that already bears Ferguson's name.

Its precise details have yet to be revealed but Ferguson recently inspected it himself and declared himself satisfied.

His longevity at Old Trafford is encapsulated by the guests who will be in attendance.

In addition to Cantona, who signed for United almost 20 years ago, and Van Nistelrooy, who scored 150 goals in five seasons but has never been back since he was sensationally jettisoned in 2006, Ferguson's first captain, Bryan Robson, will be there, plus Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored the winner in the 1999 Champions League final.

United's entire first-team squad will also be present, as will England coach and long-time Red Devil Gary Neville.

Tributes ahead of the ceremony have been pouring in. Yesterday, it was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, today it is Arsene Wenger, with whom Ferguson has had so many battles.

The Frenchman said: "I don't remember anybody else being at the top level for such a long time.

"In some ways it is scary because when this guy leaves the club, no matter the quality of who comes in after him, it will be a huge hole.

"The club will be destabilised even if the guy who comes after him is top quality because the print of everything, the life of everything, revolves around Ferguson so much at Manchester United.

"He has to be immortal so the club doesn't suffer!

"It is a job where you need to dedicate your life to football and Ferguson has done that and that deserves massive respect.

"He has won absolutely everything and, of course, that is something exceptional."

Ferguson won the first of his 12 Premier League titles with United in 1993 and has also overseen Champions League success twice. There have also been five FA Cup wins.

England hero David Beckham found stardom under Ferguson and was a member of six title-winning sides before leaving for Real Madrid in 2003.

Beckham may have had his differences with Ferguson but the pair have long since been reconciled.

He said: "I think the manager has been so successful because he's passionate about Manchester United and he's a born winner.

"He knows how to win games, how to handle pressure and how to look after his team and his players.

"Playing under him for the years that I did, well - he was like a father figure to me."

Neville is another whom Ferguson has influenced so much.

"To be at this club for so long is staggering. You would never believe it could happen," he said.

"I've said before, United had Matt Busby, now they've got somebody who's replicated his longevity at the club and surpassed his success -- you would just never believe it could be achieved.

"It's really not something you can put into words, what Alex Ferguson has done for the club."