Manchester United officials are furious with their own betting sponsors. The Daily Mail says online firm bwin, who are the official gaming and betting partner at United, are quoting odds of 11-2 on Sir Alex Ferguson's return 'given United's slower than usual start to the Premier League'.

United insiders have described bwin's PR promotion as "crass and totally inappropriate", though a club spokesman said: "Bwin are our partners rather than a subsidiary company, and we have no influence on their markets. But Sir Alex has made it abundantly clear on numerous occasions recently that he has no intention of coming back into football management."

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