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´Senile´ Ferguson cool over Calderon ´hot air´

Sir Alex Ferguson's dispute with Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon escalated on Friday as the Manchester United manager responded to the latest insult to come from Spain.

Calderon used a Madrid-based newspaper sympathetic to his club to describe Ferguson as “senile”, after the United manager referred to Real's historic links with former Spanish dictator Franco.

Relations between what are, arguably, the two biggest football clubs in the world have been strained in the wake of Real's summer pursuit of United winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

And while Ferguson claimed he did not want to become embroiled in a war of words with his bitter rival on Friday, he could not resist a short, sharp response.

“He has a few strange things to say every week,” said Ferguson of Calderon.

“There is a lot of hot air comes out of that man and I'm not going to get involved in it.

“I think he is very disappointed not to get Ronaldo and I'm delighted to say he is still here. I'll keep saying that.”

Ferguson had kinder words, however, for another international football figure as he responded to reports that Diego Maradona is expected in Manchester – possibly as early as Saturday when United take on Hull City in the Premiership – to check on the form of United forward Carlos Tevez.

Maradona, Argentina's national team coach in waiting, is reportedly eager to check on Tevez's form at the first available opportunity and he is assured a warm welcome from Ferguson.

“We have had no application for the game from the Argentine FA and Carlos hasn't heard anything,” said Ferguson.

“But I think he will be an inspirational figure to the team. He is bringing in (Carlos) Bilardo as his assistant and the experience of Bilardo will be good for Maradona.

“Listening to Tevez talk, all the players are delighted, Carlos is over the moon that Maradona is on board so it can work.”

United's Wayne Rooney has also found himself in the spotlight this week and the centre of controversy after kissing the badge on his United shirt in response to abuse from Everton fans in last weekend's draw at Goodison Park.

Rooney had been cautioned by referee Alan Wiley for a challenge on Mikel Arteta and was immediately substituted by Ferguson who was fearful he would be sent off.

Ferguson, however, has not forgiven Wiley for his handling off the matter.

“What damage did he do? The booking itself was the most ridiculous booking.

“I read about Alan Wiley phoning David Moyes to apologise for the penalty kick he disallowed in the Everton game against Stoke. When you see that booking, you would think he would be on the phone to apologise for it.

“It put us under pressure because one tackle from Wayne – and the boy does tackle, he's a committed player – and he would have been sent off. The crowd would have got at the referee and it would have been difficult for him.”

Fri 31 October, 2008
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