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Premier League

Ferguson backs manager's strong approach


Sir Alex Ferguson resisted the urge to gloat, or to remind the world that two years ago he had decided Carlos Tevez was not worth the price, or the trouble.

That may have been in his mind, but he limited his comments yesterday to offering his support to his managerial counterpart, "the most important man" at his local rivals.

"I think Roberto Mancini has come out showing his strength of character, his strength of management. That's important in today's management," said Ferguson.

"We have all experienced our own difficulties in management. You cope with it as best you can. My own experience is strong management is important. There is nobody more important than the manager at a football club."

Though not remotely as dramatic, Ferguson has his own problems at the moment, notably a defence that conceded three goals at home to Basle in midweek and has only kept a trio of clean sheets in 11 matches this season.

"I think people will say our performance on Tuesday was careless and we underestimated our opponents. I think there is an element of truth about that," he said. "I certainly wasn't happy. Even in the first half I could smell we were too lax, we could have lost three goals in the first half. We could have scored three goals but that is the way we are playing at the moment – with that cavalier attitude. Maybe people enjoy it, but it certainly doesn't win leagues. We have to be better defensively.

"It's [getting] a balance of defence and attack, that's why you call it a team. We're too cavalier at the moment. On the second goal, for instance, we only had one defender in the penalty box."

The champions, who lead the Premier League on goal difference from Manchester City, are at home to Norwich City today, which would seem a straightforward three points. In the last five seasons United have won 14 of their 15 home matches against newly promoted teams, scoring 43 goals to 10. However, the one draw was this month last season, against West Bromwich Albion, when, as now, United's defence was still to settle.

Norwich won their last match on the road, at Bolton, and pushed Chelsea hard in their previous away game. Ferguson is keen to ensure his team do not "underestimate" another opponent. He said, "Norwich have had a terrific start. There seems to be a great sense of purpose about the place."

Canaries' manager Paul Lambert was part of the Borussia Dortmund team that knocked Ferguson's United out of the Champions League in 1997, going on to win the competition. Ferguson recalled: "His career in management has taken off quite well, Norwich has been a terrific move for him."

The inequality of resources was exacerbated yesterday when Lambert lost James Vaughan until the New Year following a knee operation while Ferguson welcomed back Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez after injury.