No problems with Beckham - Ferguson

February 27, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted there are 'no problems' between him and David Beckham.

The former England skipper is set to return to Old Trafford for the UEFA gala game on March 12 when Marcello Lippi's European XI tackle Manchester United in a match to celebrate the 50th anniversary of both the Treaty of Rome and the Red Devils' entrance into European competition.

It will be the first time Beckham has returned to his old club in a non-England capacity since his departure for Real Madrid in 2003.

At the time, it was suggested Beckham was the victim of a massive fall-out with Ferguson, who took a dislike to the midfielder's desire to court publicity away from the pitch and left him out of a key Champions League tie with Real Madrid in preference to Juan Sebastian Veron.

Ironically, since Beckham's exit, Real Madrid have won nothing and United boast only single successes in the FA Cup and Carling Cup, suggesting the move did not really work out for either party.

Yet Ferguson is anxious to play down any talk of a rift with a player who was integral to so much of his success and, he believes, will be afforded a hero's reception when he returns next month.

'David will get a great reception, just like all the others who have done great things for United,' Ferguson told Gazzetta dello Sport.

'I have seen him a couple of times since he joined Madrid and everything is fine between us.

'He is returning home for a night and that is just what we needed for a gala game.'

Ferguson has also re-iterated that he has no plans to step down as Manchester United manager.

Ferguson reversed his original decision to retire in 2002, since when pundits have continued to speculate when the Scot will eventually call it a day.

Having signed a rolling one-year contract following the arrival of the Glazer family as owners, Ferguson's departure date has become harder to predict.

There are some who feel the former Aberdeen boss, who has become the most successful British manager of all time, may consider his future if United were to win back the Premiership title this term.

However, Ferguson has rejected such talk and insisted his focus remains as total as it has always been.

'Retirement can wait, it is not a possibility for at least a couple of years,' he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

'I decided to retire back in 2002 and I regretted it. To have reconsidered that decision gave me a boost of energy.'

It is a measure of Ferguson's longevity that the candidates to replace him have changed so often.

Former Red Devils skipper Roy Keane is the latest man to force his name into the frame, having begun his own managerial career is such superb style at Sunderland.

Mark Hughes is another live option, while former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is believed to have been lined up to replace Ferguson until he performed his stunning retirement U-turn.

Ferguson's old friend Marcello Lippi has also been mentioned.

Lippi certainly has all the credentials to do the job, having enjoyed so much success at Juventus and then steered Italy to World Cup glory in Germany last summer.

'Any president who has great ambition should put Lippi at the top of his list if they are looking for a coach,' said Ferguson.

'Marcello is an excellent tactician. There is no reason why he could not come to an English club but at this time I cannot see one available.'

Ferguson and Lippi will renew rivalries next month when the Italian takes charge of the Europe XI which tackles United in the celebration game to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and the Red Devils' entrance into Europe.

Before then, United will have hoped to advance further in both the FA Cup and Champions League, as well as enhancing their position at the Premiership summit.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho may have stated United are getting all the good fortune just now, but even if Lady Luck deserts the Red Devils, it will still be difficult for the current champions to haul back a nine-point deficit.

Many believe victory at Liverpool this weekend would be a virtual title-clincher and while Ferguson refuses to get carried away by his side's current position, he knows where the pressure is being applied.

'Compared to our last two campaigns, we have had a magnificent start this season,' he said.

'Now it is Chelsea who are following us. They are the ones who have to play every game under pressure.'