'Keep faith in system' demands Queiroz

Carlos Queiroz, assistant manager at Old Trafford, took Sir Alex Ferguson's place at the customary Friday press conference to respond to the most difficult week of his United career, one that started with a home defeat by Blackburn that many critics argued was an inevitable consequence of a system that has cost the team goals and style, and continued with implications he had labelled the club's support as "stupid" for demanding a return to 4-4-2.

The Mozambique-born coach vehemently denied both suggestions and argued that he valued all formations. However, he held out little hope for those advocating a change in tactics by insisting it was the responsibility of players to make a system work, not vice versa, and that it would undermine United's inauspicious title challenge if the management's conviction wavered.

Queiroz said: "I am very supportive of all systems, but it is the players who make the systems in that they create efficiency and points for our team. The final project of a team is to defend well, to avoid goals. If in 10 games we only concede one goal and have to defend with 10 players behind the ball we will do that and if we have to score we will go forward with five, six or seven players to do that.

"The issue is to defend and attack well, not whether 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 is best. The system is a false problem, because when you win who cares about the system?

"We didn't concede one opportunity for Blackburn in the second half and when you create as many chances as we did in that game then you have to believe in your performance. If players are consistent and create opportunities then it is impossible not to win. We have to make the players believe that, otherwise if you stop believing then you won't get anywhere.

"We believe we produced good football against Blackburn and we have to make the players believe they can do it again with the right result."

Ferguson was on business in London yesterday, where United face Fulham this afternoon, and though the pressure on the United manager eased with victory over Benfica in the Champions' League on Tuesday his assistant admitted that interpretation of an interview he had given to a Portuguese newspaper left him fearing a reaction from the crowd. "It was really uncomfortable for me, but before Benfica I thought Manchester United had the best fans in the world and, afterwards, I am sure of it and I want to show my gratitude to them," he said.

Queiroz, however, refused to expand on who or what he was referring to when he spoke of the amount of imagination and stupidity within football. "It was taken out of context," he insisted; "I don't want to go into details. Whatever happens in football you have to use criticism as an inspiration. The position of each coach is to expect and accept criticism. We should respect whatever criticism we get because our job is to produce results, create entertainment and make people happy."