SIR Alex Ferguson waded into the spat between Martin O’Neill and Alan Shearer at the weekend and came down firmly on the side of the Black Cats’ boss, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
Former Newcastle striker turned pundit Shearer suggested in a newspaper column a week ago that O’Neill might be sacked if he didn’t win last midweek’s game against Reading.
Shearer also returned to the tired claim that previous manager Steve Bruce’s Geordie background cost him his job, saying that O’Neill would have been sacked by now had he been a Tynesider.
Those comments irritated O’Neill, who called into question Shearer’s own management credentials, and Ferguson was even more scathing of the Match of the Day expert’s opinion.
That was perhaps all the more surprising, given there was no love lost between Ferguson and Sunderland at the end of last season when the United manager felt home fans at the Stadium of Light were disrespectful to the Red Devils on the day they failed to win the title.
But, in his programme notes, Ferguson reflected: “Our visitors got a midweek 3-0 win over Reading to improve on a dismal run.
“It was a spell that had Martin O’Neill under pressure, with even Alan Shearer suggesting before the Reading match that defeat would bring the sack.
“Perhaps there was a touch of the old Newcastle-Sunderland rivalry behind such a bitter remark.”
Ferguson then went on to have a pop at Match of the Day generally and a post-match interview with O’Neill.
He said: “I was appalled when I heard an interview with the questioner asking if Martin O’Neill still had belief in himself.
“What a question to put to a man who took Celtic to a Uefa Cup final and won three titles with the Scottish club, and that’s apart from his wide experience in English football.
“It was insulting to him and I felt for him.
“You have to recognise that Sunderland have had to sell a few players and have had injuries to make what is always a difficult job even more testing.
“I am sure the majority of Sunderland fans know they have an excellent manager quite capable of guiding their club through troubled waters.”