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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 19:14 GMT
Sir Alex backs injured footballer
Michael Appleton
Michael Appleton suffered a knee injury in training
Sir Alex Ferguson has appeared in court to support one of his former players, who is suing a surgeon he blames for ending his career.

The Manchester United manager was giving evidence in support of 31-year-old Michael Appleton.

The former United and West Bromwich Albion player is seeking compensation after a series of knee operations forced him to retire.

Surgeon Medhat El-Safty admitted liability at an earlier hearing.

On Wednesday, the court heard testimony supporting Appleton's claim that he could have recovered from his injury in four months with less invasive treatment and gone on to have a successful career.

John Hodgkinson, the surgeon who treated Appleton after Mr El-Safty, said he should have been given physiotherapy rather than an operation.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex said he thought Appleton had "a very good career"

Sir Alex said he thought Appleton had "a very good career in the game" ahead of him when he left Old Trafford for Preston North End in 1997.

He told the court he had "a marvellous attitude and the determination to make it".

He added: "I think he could have been captain material, someone you could rely on, someone responsible."

Current first team players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have also been at Manchester High Court.

When a player like Michael finishes through injury at the age of 25, that's a tragedy
Gary Neville

Manchester United captain Neville played with Appleton in the mid-1990s.

He said: "When a player like Michael finishes through injury at the age of 25, that's a tragedy.

"That's a lad who should have had a career well into his 30s.

"That it ended at such a young age is shocking and surprising to someone like myself."

Wales captain Ryan Giggs said he thought Appleton would have done well in the Premiership.

""He was always a tough player, strong physically, well-built. He looked after himself," he said.

Mr El-Safty's counsel, Miss Mary O'Rourke, argued that Mr Appleton's career would have been unlikely to last into his 30s even without the operation.

But Sir Alex contested this claim, citing five of his players who had suffered injuries and recovered.

The case continues.


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