Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has reached out to Aston Villa counterpart Alex McLeish ahead of this weekend's meeting between the two clubs.

McLeish has been the victim of plenty of abuse from his own fans this season as the West Midlands languish in 15th position on the table and Fergie has given him some kind of words prior to Sunday's clash at Old Trafford.

"I do have sympathy for Alex," said the United manager.

"I have known him since he was a little kid.

"When I brought him into the team at Aberdeen, he was always a very receptive, intelligent young man.

"He was a great player, has had a good career as a manager and will do a good job at Villa given time, trust and confidence.

"We all need a pat on the back at times and Alex has done a remarkable job."

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