x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ferguson backs McLeish as Villa manager

Manchester United boss says old friend will succeed.

Alex McLeish has been backed by his old manager Sir Alex Ferguson
Alex McLeish has been backed by his old manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, is convinced that Alex McLeish can survive the backlash from Aston Villa fans and succeed at Villa Park.

After quitting as manager of arch-rivals Birmingham City a week ago, McLeish completed his contentious move to manage Aston Villa yesterday and accepted that he needs to win over supporters who opposed his appointment as the club's third manager in less than a year.

Ferguson, who gave McLeish his break as a player at Aberdeen, believes McLeish has the tools and the players to win over the Villa faithful.

"I have known Alex since he was 18 years of age when he went to Aberdeen," Ferguson said. "He was always intelligent, he was always inquisitive in his nature, he was always asking questions, and these to me are essential ingredients for being a successful manager."

McLeish's first competitive fixture at Villa will be the Premier League opener at Fulham on August 13.

Ferguson said: "Once the fans are confronted by the reality that Alex is the manager, they will step back and say, 'Well, we have made our complaints and voiced our opinion, let's see what happens next and give the man his chance.'

"There are some good players at Aston Villa and overall it's a really good set-up. There are some good young players and therefore he will have that opportunity to weld it all together, the youth and the experience."

McLeish, whose contract details have not been announced, is replacing Gerard Houllier, who left Villa last week because of heart problems after just nine months in charge.

"I am honoured to have this opportunity to manage a club with such a fantastic history as Aston Villa's," McLeish said.

"I know that some of our fans have voiced concerns and I can understand why. It will be up to me to convince you that I am the right man to drive the club forward and I intend to give absolutely everything to prove that I can be a success at the club."

Paul Faulkner, the Villa chief executive, defended the appointment.

"Unquestionably, Alex meets the criteria we set out at the beginning of our search, which was based on proven Premier League experience, leadership, a hardworking ethic and, most importantly, a shared vision for Aston Villa," Faulkner said.

"Alex's vast experience and proven abilities demonstrate clearly that he is a strong leader and an ambitious man."

One of McLeish's first tasks as Villa's manager will be to shore up a defence that leaked 59 goals in 38 league games last term.

One player believed to be under consideration is McLeish's former charge at Birmingham, Scott Dann, who looks set to depart St Andrew's following the club's relegation.

McLeish faces competition from rival clubs, though, with Stoke City reported to have bid £12 million (Dh71.2m) for the defender yesterday, according to British newspaper The Daily Mail.

Dann, 24, has proved an impressive performer in England's top flight and his calf injury sustained in January proved a damaging blow in Birmingham's doomed bid for survival.