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Fergie the old hand shows softer side…for a bit

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By Simon Hart

For a brief moment, it seemed Sir Alex Ferguson really might be mellowing with age.

Twenty-four hours after ending his seven-year feud with the BBC, the Manchester United manager spent part of his weekly news conference on Friday defending the record of his erstwhile chief adversary Arsene Wenger, who comes to Old Trafford with Arsenal on Sunday.

Ferguson then reflected on the potential of his latest crop of young talent before a question about the possible involvement of some of these young guns in the England senior team.

“It is not a problem it is fantastic,” he began. According to reports in Friday’s newspapers, four of the United players aged 22 or under who have caught the eye in the season’s opening weeks –- Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck –- will be watched by England manager Fabio Capello on Sunday before the Italian names his squad for next month’s Euro 2012 qualifying matches.

Can’t win with kids? United just did.

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“You can’t win anything with kids,” said former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen of Manchester United’s young team in 1995. Alex Ferguson’s troops went on to win the Premier League that season in 1996.

Are we about to see a similar outcome in the 2011/12 season after Ferguson hauled off the experienced trio of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick with United 2-0 down to rivals Manchester City before they staged a second-half comeback to win the Community Shield 3-2 on Sunday?

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