Ferguson's decision vindicated

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The Independent Online
Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, yesterday explained why he left out his pounds 7m striker Andy Cole, a decision that was vindicated as his team moved a step nearer the Premiership title.

Ferguson had stuck withCole through thick and thin, naming the former Newcastle man in his side despite Cole's failure to score consistently. But yesterday, after Cole's last 10 games had brought just two goals, Ferguson dropped him and drafted in the home-grown talents of Paul Scholes, who responded to his first start in almost five months by scoring the opener.

"I thought that if we were going to get a result and score then Scholes had to be given his opportunity because we know he is a marvellous scorer,'' Ferguson said. "We knew he would be fresh and had the crowd behind him and that they wouldn't get anxious if he missed chances. But if he was going to play it had to be up front from the start. Once we decided that, Andy had to be the one to step down. It wasn't an easy decision but it was the right one."

The selection left Cole on the bench and while Ferguson attempted to soften the blow, his words must have seemed less than comforting.

"It is not a great deal. Andy has contributed marvellously for us with his movement, pace and link play but he has not scored the goals he thinks he should have."

Ferguson was clearly more than happy. "I think the first goal was significant,'' he said. "In most games we churned out results but now we are seven goals better off and that makes it very difficult for Newcastle. It was certainly better than all those one-nils, wasn't it?"

David Beckham, scorer of two goals and named man of the match, said: "I think the two goals just before half-time were important. Once we got them we calmed down and that allowed the other goals to come in the second half. The result was what we wanted and the goals were extra really."

By contrast, the Forest manager, Frank Clark, was less than impressed by his team. "We didn't have any quality in the areas that mattered," he said.