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Manchester United's kids are still alright: Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson has absolved his young players of blame for Manchester United's shock FA Cup defeat to Leeds United last weekend.

The icy conditions around the north-west mean United have been forced to wait to get that dire performance out of their system.

While Ferguson is still at a loss to explain why his team ended up getting outplayed on home soil by the League One promotion contenders, the United chief is adamant the younger men in his squad were not the ones responsible.

“You can't blame young players. The young players were looking for a bit of help in that game and didn't get it,” he said.

“It was a bad team performance and I was shocked by it.

“I couldn't believe that after all the preparation we had done for the game and explaining to the players how difficult it was going to be, we turned in a performance like that.

“It was a bad day, but I am beyond that now.”

Instead, Ferguson will look for instant improvement at Birmingham this evening.

Not that it will be easy. Ferguson himself was snowed in on Tuesday, when the heavy falls took hold of the north-west.

United's players were given two days off, then spent two days training inside, which is hardly ideal preparation, even though the Red Devils do have a significant advantage with undersoil heating on one of their outside surfaces making one decent pre-match practice possible.

Ironically, the bad weather has come at a time when Owen Hargreaves was finally starting to do some normal training with the reserve team, meaning an end to an 18-month injury nightmare is coming closer.

Rio Ferdinand is two weeks away from a return due to his long-standing back injury, which is roughly the amount of time Nemanja Vidic will be out of action after suffering a nerve problem in his leg prior to last weekend's game.

However, he realises an overall improvement is required if United are to end Birmingham's 12-match unbeaten run, a record that has seen Alex McLeish's men climb into the top eight.

As one of his old warhorses at Aberdeen, Ferguson has always kept a close eye on McLeish's progress.

“Alex has done a brilliant job at Birmingham,” said Ferguson.

“He is a very progressive young manager. He has always been ambitious. Alex understands the history of Birmingham and you will see a change there over the next few years.”

Belfast Telegraph