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Football

Ferguson back at work after scare

Ferguson is one of the English game's most successful managers
Ferguson is one of the English game's most successful managers

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LONDON, England -- Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has returned to work two days after undergoing hospital treatment for a minor heart irregularity, his club has announced.

Ferguson underwent treatment after United lost 2-0 to first division West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup fourth round on Wednesday and United said that the "minor heart irregularity" had been dealt with successfully.

"I am fine," Ferguson, 61, said on Friday.

News of his "heart scare" was splashed on the front and back pages of British newspapers.

"It was just the sensationalism of the newspapers, but there is nothing you can do about that," Ferguson added.

"When any celebrity goes into hospital these days someone is going to telephone the newspapers and that is what has happened. I am fine and there is no problem. I have seen a doctor. There is no problem."

Ferguson was at United's training ground Friday to prepare for the club's match against Aston Villa on Saturday and he said he had no intention of cutting back his workload.

"No, I enjoy the work I do and it will continue," he said.

Ferguson has been in charge of United since November 1986. He had planned to retire from coaching at the end of the 2001-02 season but in February 2002 he agreed to a new contract, which he is negotiating to extend.

Blackburn manager Graeme Souness and Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier, who have both suffered heart problems, sent their best wishes to Ferguson.

Souness, who had triple-bypass surgery 10 years ago, said heart problems were commonplace in soccer management.

"It's the price on the ticket and emphasizes the pressure every manager is under whether you are at the top or bottom of the league, " Souness said.

Getting older

"We are all getting older and Fergie's a wee bit older than me. I think it is a realization, at least it was with me, that you are vulnerable. I was 37 when it happened to me.

"The stress is there all the time. It is either something you can put up with or can't put up with. If you can't put up with it, you can't do this job."

Houllier had emergency heart surgery in October 2001 after collapsing at half-time during a match against Leeds and took several months to recover.

"Sometimes we do not know what happens inside ourselves, but the good thing is that it seems a minor thing and he will be back training the team," Houllier, 56, said.

"Maybe a lot has been made out of it, but the only important thing is his health and it looks like there is nothing threatening.

"But I know what I am talking about on things like this. Alex is a workaholic, very committed and dedicated to his job. But you do not know what is going on inside your body, a couple of managers have had problems. I had mine."

In the past few weeks, Ferguson has maintained his stance that his decision to perform a U-turn on his widely publicized retirement plans two years ago, was one of the wisest moves he has ever made.

Ferguson said at the time he felt healthy and able to continue handling the pressures of management.

He is one of the most successful managers in the English league, taking Manchester United to a string of Premiership titles and the Champions League Cup.

During his 17 years at the club, Manchester United have won 23 trophies, including the Premiership eight times and the Champions League in 1999 -- the year of the 'treble' in which the club also won the league and FA Cup.

Meanwhile, Manchester United and Ferguson have said they regret comments which may have called into question the integrity of the Football Association.

In October, Ferguson accused Arsenal of "striking a deal" with the FA after the London club were punished for their part in the fracas during and after the Premier League match between the two sides on September 21.

The FA responded to Ferguson's outburst by requesting that he and the club explain the comments and clarify whether they reflected the club's official position.

In a statement on Friday, United said they had received assurances from the FA that there was no truth in newspaper stories that a deal had been done.

"Both Manchester United and Alex Ferguson accept such assurances unreservedly and express their regrets to the FA for any comments made by Alex at his press conference on October 31 which may have appeared to have called into question the integrity of the FA's disciplinary process," the statement read.


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