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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 15:02 GMT
Bruce rallies to Ferguson defence
Steve Bruce
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce has leapt to the defence of his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson has been criticised following Manchester United's slump out of the Champions League after losing to Benfica on Wednesday.

But Bruce, who played under Ferguson at United between 1987 and 1996, said: "If Sir Alex is under pressure, we have all gone barking mad.

"He has won 25 trophies in 20 years and he is under pressure? Do me a favour."

United captain Gary Neville has also voiced his support for Ferguson, insisting the club's players have the battling qualities to bounce back from Wednesday's Champions League exit.

When you look at some of the players at the club, they are going to stay up there
Bryan Robson
"The players do not have to lift themselves, they know their responsibilities," said Neville.

"They have a lot of fight as they have shown over the last few weeks. That's why they are at Manchester United."

United face Everton on Sunday as they look to maintain their Premiership challenge and keep within catching distance of rivals Chelsea.

Former United skipper Bryan Robson has also backed Ferguson to revive fortunes at Old Trafford.

The West Brom boss is adamant Ferguson, shocked at United's exit from European competition this season, is still held in high esteem by Premiership managers.

Robson said: "Sir Alex is still the man everyone should look up to. He has proved that. He has been there for 18 years and I think he has won more trophies than any other British manager.

He's been through worse and come through it, and I have no doubt he will come through it again
Mark Hughes on Ferguson
"When you've got a record like that, he is the person you do look up to and you'd love to achieve anything like he has achieved as a manager.

"I am sure he will stay at the top. Don't worry, United will finish in the top three. There is absolutely no doubt about that. I also wouldn't put any money against them winning one of the cups.

"Sir Alex has fantastic young players coming through who need a bit more experience - but when you look at some of the players at the club, they are going to stay up there. They are not going to slip down the league."

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes is also backing former mentor Ferguson to come through the latest furore surrounding his future.

"Sir Alex has also experienced this before," said Hughes.

"He knows the situation, that if United lose in games then he is open to criticism along with his players, and that has always been the case.

"But his experience knows how to deal with it. It makes him stronger as a guy, and his team stronger as a group.

"He's been through worse and come through it, and I have no doubt he will come through it again."




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Interview: Birmingham boss Steve Bruce



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