Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Ferguson: Fans' abuse down to society

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir 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 on Sunday 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.

"I think so, yes," said Ferguson, when asked whether the abuse McLeish has received could happen anywhere. "It is a change in society."

He added: "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."

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 approach Birmingham for their new boss last summer.

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

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

"We did the right thing resting Paul on Wednesday," he said. "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 amongst some sections of the club's support.

"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," Ferguson said.