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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Fergie rates former reject Johnson
David Johnson
Johnson shone against Man U on Tuesday night
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has paid tribute to David Johnson, the striker he once rejected at Old Trafford after his impressive performance against Premiership giants Manchester United.

Though Johnson has yet to score his first Premier League goal, he is already putting top-class defenders in a spin.

The striker's speed and strength was on show on Tuesday evening as newly promoted Ipswich Town held last season's champions Manchester United to a 1-1 draw.

"We know David Johnson is a handful," said Ferguson. "He's a powerful lad and gives defenders a hard time."

It has been a long road to the top for Johnson who was originally a product of Old Trafford's youth system.


However, the 24-year-old was released in 1995 after Ferguson decided he did not have what it takes to play for Manchester United.

Ferguson added: "At United he was an exciting young schoolboy, but he got a bad knee injury which kept him out for a season.

"When he came back his concentration wasn't as good as it should've been and I explained that to him when I released him.

However, Ferguson is not bitter that Johnson's impressive form has been in an Ipswich shirt and not a Manchester United one.

"It is a credit to him that he has buckled down and you only have to look at him now. The boy has responded in the right way and it proves he has the right character," said Ferguson.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Fergie: impressed by Johnson
"He was always a lovely lad and I'm glad to see him performing at this level."


After leaving United five years ago, Johnson moved to Bury where he was eventually spotted by Town boss George Burley who paid a then club record of 1.1m for him in November 1997.

The striker's 55 goals in 117 games were to help the Suffolk club make it back into top-division football after a five-year absence.

Now George Burley is convinced that Johnson will not have trouble finding the net in the Premier League.

Burley said: "If he can keep improving the sky's the limit for David. Each season he seems to get better. This will be a long season and he's got to look to improve again."

United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez had to be at his best to deny Johnson his first goal in the Premiership on Tuesday.

The French keeper twisted in full flight to tip a header away from the corner.

The striker also nearly scored earlier in the game, when he lobbed Barthez, but the flag was up for offside, serving as a lesson to Johnson that he must curb his habit of drifting beyond the last defender too early.

Burley said: "Manchester United played with their defence up and it's something David has got to learn, but Jaap Stam is a world-class player and he caused him plenty of problems."

The Ipswich boss has no doubts about Johnson's international potential, though there is some confusion about where he should play.

The striker was born in Jamaica, played for England at schoolboy and B-team level, trained with Wales and was rejected at the 11th-hour after agreeing to represent Scotland.

However, if Johnson keeps up his current form throughout the season, the home countries reconsidering the Ipswich marksman.

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See also:

22 Aug 00 |  Eng Prem
Fergie's men survive Ipswich scare
22 Aug 00 |  Ipswich Town
Sir Alf tribute unveiled
13 Aug 00 |  Ipswich Town
Ipswich set sights on survival
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