- Premier League
Ferguson attempts to appease Newcastle fans
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has moved to smooth over relations with Newcastle United, claiming their fans are among "the best supporters in the game".
Ferguson enraged all involved with the Magpies when he described them as a "wee club in the North East" during a recent spat with Toon boss Alan Pardew about managers pressuring referees.
But the Scot attempted to clear up his comments, telling the Mail on Sunday: "It was never my intention to belittle Newcastle fans.
"I want to clear up any misunderstanding that may have arisen over what I said. I have nothing but the highest regard for Newcastle fans and I always have had. They are up there with the best supporters in the game.
"Their passion, commitment and fervour have never wavered, even though they have had little to celebrate.
"They have turned up in numbers to get behind their team wherever and whenever the games have been played. When I take a team to St James' Park, I have stressed to the players that not only have they got to beat the opposition on the field, just as important is coping with the atmosphere created by the fans.
"Sadly, results have not matched their loyalty. If Newcastle's achievements had matched the support of the people who pay to watch them play, the club would be among the game's giants. It's tragic that they haven't been able to win a league title for over 80 years."
Newcastle impressed in finishing fifth in the table last season but have struggled badly in this campaign, failing to win a single game away from home in all competitions and suffering elimination from the FA Cup at the hands of Championship side Brighton on Saturday.
Ferguson claimed some Magpies fans have contacted him to express their distress at the direction of the club. "Among the criticism there were also messages from people who feel they have been let down by the club and that it has not matched their own ambitions for success," he added.
Ferguson's side beat Newcastle 4-3 after coming from behind three times and scoring a late goal at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils winning the corresponding fixture 3-0 at St James' Park in October.