Ferguson 'disappointed' by rumours of Mourinho exit

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Disharmony at Stamford Bridge should sound sweet to a man attempting to remove the Premiership trophy from London for the first time in four years but rather than make capital out of Jose Mourinho's frustration yesterday, Sir Alex Ferguson insisted he and Manchester United would dearly miss their Portuguese rival if he left England at the end of this season.

With both Porto and Chelsea, Mourinho has been a persistent thorn to Ferguson's ambitions in the Champions' League and Premiership but a declaration of support from a man who has thrived on rivalry for 20 years at Old Trafford is not as surprising as it might seem. The pair have developed a respectful relationship since Mourinho's arrival in England and the United manager is acutely aware of Chelsea's capacity to overcome their present problems and anxious to guard his squad against complacency.

"It would be disappointing for me [if he left], because I've enjoyed Jose's company the times we've met after games. He's got a good personality and I enjoy the competition against him," Ferguson insisted. "Everyone seems to get that picture of Chelsea from the outside, but I don't see too much wrong on the inside. We just treat it that way.

"If I knew exactly what was happening on the inside, I'd be more interested, but I don't," he added. "Why would Jose be telling anyone about his plans? I certainly wouldn't be telling anyone about my plans.

"It's normally us involved in these kind of things, thunder and lightning everywhere. I think the important thing for me is to make sure that I'm still manager of my club in May."

The United manager also said he was unsurprised by David Beckham's decision to swap Real Madrid and the prospect of further Champions' League football with Milan for LA Galaxy.

"I anticipated it. I thought that was to be expected, him going to America," Ferguson said. "We wish him well, because it's a big career change.

"I don't think there was any chance of him coming back to the Premiership, having played for us.

"I think you've got to gauge his position at Real Madrid at the moment, which I think has accelerated his decision. He's only started five games for them this season, and he can't be happy with that. Like every top player, he wants to play."