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Football: Fergie does a Beck flip; RACE FOR THE TITLE Q: Are you sick of the hype over Beckham? A: You have all been told not to f***ing ask that. F***ing idiots, the lot of you (WE'LL TAKE THAT AS A YES, THEN).

Byline: MARTIN LIPTON, Chief Football Writer

SIR ALEX FERGUSON yesterday staged an extraordinary rant when quizzed about David Beckham's proposed move to Real Madrid.

Fergie's advisers warned that he would not field questions about Beckham's move to the Spanish giants despite Real edging closer to a pounds 38million bid. And the Manchester United boss launched into one of his famous 'hairdryer' tirades when a radio reporter ignored orders and raised the topic at the club's Carrington training ground.

"You've been told not to f*****g ask that, right?" snapped Fergie.

"Cut that out, cut that out. F*****g idiots, you all are.

"You do that again and you won't be coming back here. You f*****g sell your radio stations and newspapers on the back of this club."

Ferguson has become increasingly angered by speculation linking his most high-profile player with a move to Real Madrid and would not even discuss the form of his replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Asked about Solskjaer, Fergie fumed: "I'm not getting into that because I know where you're going.

"You sell your papers and I'll run Manchester United.

"You are pathetic. I have to

say that. Honestly, you really are pathetic people. I'll run Manchester United. All right. Goodbye boys."

Beckham was yesterday told by Real full-back Roberto Carlos that Madrid is the place for him - and Real president Florentino Perez will join United chief executive Peter Kenyon at a board meeting of the G14 group of Europe's most powerful clubs in Brussels next week.

While G14 business will fill the official agenda, Real seem poised to confirm to United that they are willing to make an offer to take Beckham away from Old Trafford.

Although Real will not make any formal offer until the end of the Premiership season, Madrid sources revealed last night: "The club believes that the chances of getting Beckham are higher now than they have ever been.

"It's all about preparing the ground. When the time comes, Real will make a bid direct to the United board."

If that bid comes, Carlos is convinced that Beckham should jump at the chance.The Brazilian superstar said: "What our president has done by buying Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo is to open the door to great players and it is not surprising that they are keen to come."

United's official silence on the Beckham speculation has been noted in Madrid, where the breakdown of his relationship with Ferguson is seen as the green light for a pounds 30million initial bid.

Ferguson's decision to omit Beckham against Real on Wednesday looks like the final straw and Beckham's father Ted last night hinted at exactly that.

Speaking on Sky Sports News, he said: "I don't know what he's going to do, but the England captain simply can't be on the sub's bench for his club.

"I'm a United fan and of course I'd prefer him to stay but it's up to him to talk to the club, his family and his agent to work out what's best for him."

Beckham has two years left on his contract and United are a club who do nearly all their transfer activity in the summer.

Next year, 12 months from walking out on a free under the Bosman ruling, Beckham's value will have plunged.

CAPTION(S):

SOLSKJAER: In favour
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2003
Words:554
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