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Football: Fergie's wrecked Barthez .. he's tried to turn him into a proper goalkeeper!; THAT'S WHY HE'S MAKING SO MANY ERRORS, SAYS FAB'S FRENCH COACH.

Byline: David MCDONNELL

SIR ALEX FERGUSON was last night accused of undermining the confidence of blundering keeper Fabien Barthez by asking him to change his unique style.

Ferguson's patience snapped with Barthez even before his howlers against Arsenal, as the Manchester United boss demanded the Frenchman cut out the risk-taking and put safety first.

But Barthez's goalkeeping mentor from his Monaco days believes the Highbury howlers happened precisely because the French international is being asked to play against his natural instincts.

Jean-Luc Ettori believes the 'back-to-basics' policy Ferguson has urged Barthez to adopt will ultimately cause more problems because the flamboyant keeper knows only one way to play - on the edge.

Ettori, under whose guidance Barthez earned a reputation as one of the world's best keepers, has blamed his poor form on the coaching instructions he is now being given at Old Trafford.

The respected French coach is convinced that asking the vastly experienced Barthez - a World Cup and European Championship winner - to change his style at this stage of his career is a waste of time.

"Fabien has obviously been told not to take any risks with the ball at his feet, but that is just not natural for him," said Ettori.

"The second goal against Arsenal was, in my opinion, as a result of Fabien playing against his natural instincts.

"Fabien would normally control the ball and stride forward before clearing it. That's his style. But he tried to get rid of the ball as soon as possible and of course it all went wrong.

"What Manchester United must realise is you have to let Fabien be natural.

"He is a risk-taker by nature and although he will make occasional mistakes, he will save you more often. It is important now for Manchester United to back him.

"The most important thing for any goalkeeper is to have confidence, and that's what Fabien needs right now."

Despite the criticism currently being hurled at Barthez, Ettori believes the French national keeper, rated one of the best in the world, has the mental strength to bounce back.

Ettori thinks his fellow countryman will have been hurt by all the abuse he has received but will be determined to prove people wrong. He said: "He won't let any reaction show but inside he'll be saying to himself 'I'll show them I'm still number one'.

"He'll stay an extra hour or two and work till he drops. He will come back from this. That's the kind of player he is."

Ferguson is now facing the huge dilemma of whether to drop Barthez for Saturday's Premiership visit of Chelsea and allow No.2 Roy Carroll a run in the side while the Frenchman regains his focus.

Old Trafford goalkeeping coach Tony Coton discussed things with Barthez at the beginning of the month and it was agreed he would cut out the unnecessary risks in favour of a more cautious approach.

But, as his performance against Arsenal showed, it is against Barthez's nature to play that way and he is finding it increasingly difficult to suppress his maverick streak.

CAPTION(S):

LOW PROFILE: Fabien Barthez well disguised as he left home yesterday; FRENCH FARCE: Barthez gifts two goals to fellow-countryman Thierry Henry and gets a consoling hug from the Arsenal man; When Fab's dream came true; Barthez replaced Ruud van Nistelrooy for the last ten minutes; FABIEN BARTHEZ had his moment of glory as a Manchester United outfield player in Singapore in July
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 28, 2001
Words:578
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