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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Barthez, Blanc praise old boss Ferguson

Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez added to the tributes pouring in for Sir Alex Ferguson, saying the retiring manager showed him "a different kind of football" during his time at the club.

The World Cup-winner, who won two Premier League titles during his four years at Old Trafford, praised Ferguson's man-management style following the news that the 71-year-old will retire at the end of the season.

"He was always: 'How are you? How's your wife, your parents, your children?' He always wants to know how if a player feels good. With him, I discovered a different kind of football," Barthez said, adding he felt no rancour towards Ferguson, despite being replaced by Tim Howard after the 2002-03 season. "It went really well. He puts you on the bench, but he explains the whys and wherefores. It's all clear. He always protected me."

Barthez also backed former international team-mate and France coach Laurent Blanc to succeed Ferguson as United manager.

Everton boss David Moyes is the favourite to inherit Ferguson's position at Old Trafford, with reports suggesting that the Scotsman's appointment is imminent despite Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright insisting on Wednesday evening that he is yet to been contacted by the Premier League champions.

Blanc played under Ferguson between 2001 and 2003, winning the Premier League title in his final season before retiring. Barthez, who was also Blanc's team-mate at Old Trafford during his own four-year spell at United, told RTL the ex-Bordeaux coach not only has what it takes to succeed English football's most successful manager, but would also likely receive his blessing.

"Knowing his personality, he would even be a very good successor," Barthez said. "Laurent liked Ferguson a lot, and Ferguson liked him. They had talks, they share the same vision of football, based on trust, and also a lot of love and protection towards the players."

Former Auxerre coach Guy Roux, who - in more than four decades in the dugout in Burgundy - guided the former boys' club from local football to the Ligue 1 title with Blanc in his side in 1996, also gave his backing to the classy central defender, himself a French title-winner at the helm of Bordeaux in 2008-09.

"It wouldn't be idiotic, he was very much appreciated by Ferguson. I'd be happy about it. If I were asked to vote on it, I would vote for him," said Roux, 74, who warned United against following Barcelona's modus operandum. "It's going to be difficult, but they mustn't try to take someone similar to Ferguson. Barcelona's mistake was that after [Pep] Guardiola, they took the number two [Tito Vilanova]. When he fell ill, it was the number three. If he'd have got a cold, they would have taken the gardener."

Blanc would not be drawn on the possibility of taking the reins from Ferguson. Like Barthez, however, he acknowledged the impact the Scot had had on him, despite arriving at Old Trafford aged 35 and already a World Cup winner and European champion.

"I think he's someone who has a gift for handling human beings," Blanc told RMC. "What really surprised me was that he had great players in front of him who he considered his sons, because he'd known some of them since they were 12. I'm not surprised that today players like Giggs, Scholes and Gary Neville are still there. They're with their father. The club has a family feel to it even if it's one of the biggest clubs in the world."

Gerard Houllier frequently pitted his wits against Ferguson's during his six-year reign with United's arch-rivals Liverpool. Despite the enmity between the clubs, the former France coach insisted Ferguson never let the on and off-the-pitch animosity spill over into their relationship.

"What was great about him was that, once the match was finished, he didn't talk about what had happened. For him, the most important game is always the next one," Houllier told RTL. "What I like about him is his humility. He's an enormously hard worker. He really knows world football. And above all, he has an energy, a loyalty to the men with whom he worked. When you're with Alex, you're with him for life, even if you make a stupid mistake, which was sometimes the case with his players."

When asked what his abiding memory of the United manager was, Houllier replied: "He's a bloke, who - outside of football - is absolutely wonderful, who has a lot of humour, and who loves red wine."

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