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Fergie insists even he's not immune to fans' fury

Alex Ferguson has admitted even he would not be immune from the ire of supporters should things start going wrong for Manchester United.

Ferguson faces another of his former players tomorrow when Alex McLeish brings his injury-hit Aston Villa side to Old Trafford looking for the victory that would almost certainly secure their Premier League status after a miserable run of form.

Villa's performances have not done much to soothe relations between McLeish and the club's fans, who were not impressed at the choice to appoint the then Birmingham boss last July.

Along with Blackburn's Steve Kean, McLeish has suffered the most intense in-house top-flight abuse this term.

Yet it seems everyone is open to scrutiny, including Ferguson, whose decision to rest Paul Scholes for Wednesday night's shock 1-0 defeat at Wigan was condemned by many supporters on United's own TV channel.

"I think so, yes," said Ferguson, when asked whether the abuse McLeish has received could happen anywhere.

"I spoke some time ago about the picture of the melee on the pitch between United and Leeds and in the background the fans were completely passive. You wouldn't get that today.


"We did the right thing resting Paul. It may not have looked like that to the fans but after playing on Sunday and then having another match three days later, we did the right thing."

Yet the mild annoyance at one selection issue by a manager who is trying to win his 13th Premier League title is nothing compared to the anger McLeish's presence has provoked among some sections of Villa's support.

Ferguson insists if Villa show a bit of patience, they will be rewarded.

"I do have sympathy for Alex," said the United boss. "I have known him since he was a little kid.

"When I brought him into the team at Aberdeen, he was always a very receptive, intelligent young man.

"He was a great player, has had a good career as a manager and will do a good job at Villa given time, trust and confidence. We all need a pat on the back at times and Alex has done a remarkable job."