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Fergie denies takeover link

Alex Ferguson distanced himself yester-day from the Red Knights' proposed bid for Manchester United, angrily rejecting allegations that he had formally backed their takeover campaign.

Responding to reports that he had not only given the Knights his formal support, but had offered to invest his money in a takeover, the United manager said: "It's absolute rubbish. There's not an ounce of truth in it."

A spokesman for the club added: "The Glazer family and manager enjoy 100pc trust in each other."

Ferguson and David Gill, the United chief executive, had previously made much more ambivalent statements about the Knights, a group of millionaire fans who are trying to force the Glazer family out of the debt-laden club.

Both men have reiterated comments made by the Glazers that the club is not for sale, but have steered clear of criticising the Knights' leaders.


The Scot, who is a friend of Jim O'Neill, the Knights' ringleader and chief economist of the Goldman Sachs investment bank, said last week: "I've no issue with the Red Knights. I know some of them, I'm quite friendly with a couple of them. If they want to try to buy the club, it's entirely up to them."

The comment followed an earlier statement by Gill describing O'Neill and another Knight, Mark Rawlinson, a corporate partner at the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer law firm, as "credible people".

O'Neill, who has been given dispensation by his employer to pursue a takeover bid, is at a business conference in New York this week, so could be temporarily distracted from the Knights' campaign.

However, it is understood that Goldman Sachs gave him permission to pursue his private bid for United more than five weeks ago, despite complaints from the Glazers, whose £500m bond issue the bank helped to organise.

The Knights have now also hired an investment banker, Guy Dawson, of Nomura, to help to advance their bid.

Dawson and Rawlinson defended the club against the Glazers' takeover bid in 2005.

Fans' support for the Red Knights' takeover bid is also gaining momentum.

Yesterday more than 120,000 people had signed up to an anti-Glazer campaign being run by the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST) that supports the Knights' bid.

Last Tuesday MUST urged fans to sign up to show their backing for the Knights and quickly doubled the number of their supporters from 50,000 to 100,000.

United fans are also wearing the green and gold colours of Newton Heath -- the original guise of the club -- to demonstrate against the Glazers.