James Lawton: United will pay the price for Ferguson's fall outs

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The Independent Football

Lady Bracknell's assertion that losing one parent is unfortunate, losing two is careless, might also apply to the most important players in a title-winning football team.

That Sir Alex Ferguson appears to have lost the affection of both the long-time enforcer of his will, Roy Keane, and his top scorer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, in the same week looks positively light-headed. At least Ferguson's decision to put both players up for interview yesterday morning suggests he is aware of the problem.

It is also ironic that Van Nistelrooy's punishment of a fine and exclusion from last week's loss to Liverpool was the result of a dispute with David Bellion, who is coming to the end of a first season at Old Trafford of near monumental ineffectiveness.

Can Fergie's ire have been initiated and sustained by Van Nistelrooy's public regret at the loss of David Beckham's ability to cross the ball? Those might have been ill-timed remarks, but they surely didn't put into the red an account so gloriously filled last season with sustained brilliance and commitment.

The manager can be prickly enough that he might have caused a riot at the Last Supper, but never before has he appeared confused about which side of his bread is buttered. This one, for anyone concerned about United's future, is deeply worrying.

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