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Jan 23, 2010

Sir Alex Ferguson calls for unity at Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson has called for unity among warring factions at Manchester United and has stated "we must not lose our focus - which, from where I stand, is about building a strong football team that will win trophies".

• Rooney set for new Utd deal as Real come calling
• Manchester United's debts swell to £716.5m
• United bond seeks to buy time
• Editor's Blog: As debts rise, so only can anger

Using his programme notes to state his opinion on the growing controversy about United's mounting debt, which has seen fan groups express outrage at the £700 million scale of the Glazer family's liabilities, having been brought into focus by the launching of £500 million bond scheme, Ferguson seemingly stopped short of backing his paymasters.

Ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Hull City, Ferguson wrote in United Review: "The family of Manchester United is under pressure as a result of all the issues and controversies surrounding the ownership and financial situation of the club that have been stirred up in the media.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and to express disapproval if the don't like what they see around them. Just as it has always been the right of the fans to let it be known if they are not happy with the way their team are playing. I'm not slow to express disapproval myself if there's something I don't agree with - even in the boardroom with the directors. But once I walk out of the meeting I get on with my job as manager of the team.

"Some of our fans are clearly unhappy with the financial position, but we mustn't allow the situation to become divisive. The danger, as I see it, is that we could be presented as being split, which would be harmful and inaccurate because I believe the vast majority of United fans are behind us and appreciate the importance of standing together in support of the team."

Ferguson, aiming for a record 19th league title, wants the club's support to unite behind his team, which has yet to hit the form of the last three seasons and began the day in third position behind Arsenal and Chelsea. "I could see our opponents rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of watching us fall out among ourselves if we don't all think carefully about what we are doing," he continued. "We must not lose our focus - which, from where I stand, is about building a strong football team that will win trophies. That's what we are about, or at least should be.

Invoking his predecessor as United's figure-head, and the man known by most as the true father of the football club, he continued: "We must remain loyal to the cause of Manchester United. The staff and players should be quite one-eyed about that, and stay true to the history of the club and all the work done by Sir Matt Busby and the other managers who have contributed to creating the great club we have at Old Trafford today."

Last week's game against Burnley saw angry scenes as fans were ejected for displaying an anti-Glazer banner in the Stretford End. This week has seen fans mount a "green and gold" protest, with those who want the Florida-based businessmen out of the club marking themselves out via their wearing of the colours of Newton Heath, the club founded in 1878 who eventually became Manchester United in 1902. Several accusations about the aims of the bond scheme have been made and, last week, a meeting of the independent Manchester United Supporters' Trust saw one fan activist call for Ferguson to resign.

Ferguson acknowledged that such activities had taken place but called for fans to back his team: "This is not about stifling criticism; it's simply a plea to stand together rather than take action that will damage ourselves more than anyone else. Manchester United is bigger than me, the players, the directors, officials and the fans. And particularly at this critical stage of our season, we need to pull in the same direction."

The Scot, 68, is nearing the final lap of his glittering managerial career and speculation ever rages about when he will finally take his leave of Old Trafford. Ever thirsty for honours and clearly eager to achieve his infamous aim of knocking Liverpool from their perch as English football's most-honoured club, Ferguson signed off by himself refocusing on the football.

"It would be a shame to lose our concentration now because I can really see light at the end of the tunnel as we ready ourselves to push for the championship."

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