Ferguson's superior instinct

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The Independent Football

Why Sir Alex Ferguson would wish to integrate the shop-soiled charisma of Paolo Di Canio into his renascent United is something of a mystery, especially so when the old warhorse has plainly managed to recreate much of the old competitive hunger that was the trademark of an all-conquering team.

But then this is maybe not the time to question the Ferguson instincts too closely. He has been gloriously vindicated by his decision to "rest" David Beckham. He has made a fool of anyone who believed his assertion that United's battle to retain the title was over and, if his campaign to sign Ruud van Nistelrooy was not the apotheosis of football etiquette, it is beginning to carry the stamp of genius.

The result, in these days of terrible division in football, was a Sunday-night sight that reminded us of how much exhilaration the game can still bestow.

Ferguson's dance of celebration when Van Nistelrooy knocked in the winning goal at Villa Park was both strangely touching and comic. When it was over he scuttled back to the right side of the touchline with the demeanour of an elated, mischievous kid; the one which, behind the bluster and the bullying, you have to suspect he will always be.