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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Fergie backs McLeish to succeed at Villa

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson expects Alex McLeish to win over angry Aston Villa fans if his controversial appointment as the club's new manager goes through.

• Villa continue McLeish talks
• Blues demand £5.4m compensation
• Blog: fury should be aimed at Lerner

The former Birmingham City boss, who walked away from Villa's arch-rivals on Sunday, will be an unpopular choice to replace Gerrard Houllier but he is expected to be installed on Friday after successful talks with owner Randy Lerner.

But Ferguson, often regarded as a mentor for McLeish having given him his break as a player at Aberdeen, is convinced his fellow Scot will prove doubters wrong.

The 70-year-old said: "At the end of the day what will count is this - can he do the job for Villa?

"It doesn't matter whether there are 50 against him, 500 against him or five against him because the experience and the ability he has got, believe me, he will prove that he can do the job.

"I've known him for a long time and I know his abilities. I know how conscientious he is. I know the determination and work ethic he's always had to make sure he does the job right.''

Fans' ire culminated with a protest at Villa Park on Wednesday evening but that depth of ill-feeling has not deterred club Lerner from pursuing McLeish.

Villa were also not put off by a war of words with Birmingham, who claimed McLeish was tapped up and threatened to take out an injunction to block his appointment. That was not carried out and nor was a threat to report Villa to the Premier League.

Blues, however, did demand £5.4million in compensation to cover the final two years of McLeish's contract but reports in the UK press claim the two club's have settled on a figure nearer £2 million.

McLeish began his managerial career with Motherwell and Hibernian before winning two league titles with Rangers and then taking over the Scotland national side.

He won the Carling Cup with Birmingham last season only for the campaign to end in the disappointment of relegation from the Premier League.

Ferguson added: "I have known Alex since he was 18 years of age when he went to Aberdeen.

"He was always intelligent, he was always inquisitive in his nature, he was always asking questions, and these to me are essential ingredients for being a successful manager.''

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