Ferguson backs Leeds for big-time return

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson confidently expects FA Cup opponents Leeds United to be back in the Premier League and reignite one of English football’s most bitter rivalries.

Leeds, former English champions and one-time Champions League semi-finalists, have endured a spectacular fall from grace but are currently topping League Two, the third tier of English football.

Today, they will play at Old Trafford for the first time since 2004 and will have an opportunity to see how they measure up against the English champions.

“They will not be too far away from the Premier League in the next  couple of years,” said Ferguson.

“When you look at the position they are in at the moment in League One, they look certain to be in the Championship next year.”

Ferguson has endured a roller-coaster relationship with Leeds United from where he bought Rio Ferdinand, Alan Smith and Eric Cantona.

“I used to enjoy the rivalry,” added the United boss. “It makes you perform.

“We had some great games at Leeds. The atmosphere was always electric and our record was pretty good.

“We don’t need to spell out what Sunday’s game means to the Manchester United fans,” admitted Ferguson.

“There have been some fantastically feisty occasions over the years. And there was always a tinge of hostility.

“We always told the players to make sure they behaved properly on the pitch because we didn’t need to add to the problems off it.

“Leeds are bringing 9,000 fans, so it will be a busy day for the police.

“But it will be an absolutely brilliant atmosphere and should be a good cup tie as well.” — AFP

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