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FOOTBALL: GET OUT ..and take carthorse Veron with you!; FERGIE ABUSED AT STORMY AGM.

Byline: DARREN LEWIS

AN ANGRY Manchester United shareholder launched an astonishing attack on Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday, telling the manager he should immediately quit the club.

An explosive annual general meeting saw Ferguson come under fire six days after his team's humiliating defeat at arch-rivals Manchester City.

Ferguson was told he should have stepped down when he said he would last summer - and taken "carthorse" Juan Sebastian Veron with him.

The shareholder demanded a massive shake-up of the club's under-performing players, shouting: "You should have retired last season like you planned.

"You need to clear out your stable, starting with that carthorse Juan Sebastian Veron."

Ferguson, who has spent an increasing amount of time watching his recently-retired champion racehorse Rock Of Gibraltar, dismissed the man as an "idiot".

But fans have grown frustrated at the club's stuttering start to the season after shock defeats to Bolton and Leeds and the 3-1 reverse at Maine Road which have left them eight points behind leaders Liverpool.

Supporters also questioned Ferguson's continued defence of captain Roy Keane and his decision to splash out pounds 30million on injury-prone centre-back Rio Ferdinand.

The shareholder added: "Sir Alex is more blinkered than his racehorse He's done a great job for this club and I have the greatest of respect for him, but now is the time for him to go."

Ferguson was prompted to explain why he reversed his decision to retire at the end of last season.

He said: "People know my heart is at this club.

"You can't be at Manchester United for 16 days let alone 16 years without it getting into your blood.

"Last year was supposed to be a crisis because we didn't win a fourth straight title, but I'm happy dealing with the expectations.

"People know the reasons why I decided not to retire and you never know what the future holds.

"The value of good, experienced managers has been shown by Bobby Robson at Newcastle."

United chief executive Peter Kenyon also hit back at fans who attacked the club for not spending more. He said: "Do you want another club that is pounds 100million in debt and doesn't know where its next team is coming from?

"Since flotation we have spent pounds 250m on players, the stadium and a new training facility at Carrington. We have spent pounds 90m on players in the last two seasons."

Kenyon also voiced his frustration at Lazio for their failure to pay the pounds 12m owed for Dutch defender Jaap Stam, bought 14 months ago.

Lazio owner Sergio Cragnotti's Cirio empire is in trouble and so far just pounds 4million has been handed over.

Kenyon added: "The way this has been carried out is abysmal.

"Football is all about honouring commitments and any team who buys players without paying for them is competing on an unfair basis. We are very unhappy about it."

United have started legal action to recover the money and are further angered by the fact that weeks before Stam's move, they paid Lazio a lump sum of pounds 28m for Juan Sebastian Veron.

Kenyon said: "This is a situation we didn't want and one we certainly won't be repeating."

CAPTION(S):

TARGET MAN: Sir Alex was blasted by a fan unhappy with United's performances this season
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2002
Words:547
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