Fergie hails Brit spender O'Neill
The Aston Villa line-up which Manchester United face in Sunday's Carling Cup final could contain seven British players. With another player, Richard Dunne, hailing from the Republic of Ireland, it is a testament to O'Neill's determination to place his faith in players well versed in the domestic game. The policy seems to be working too, given Villa have finished in the top six two seasons on the trot. And in addition to this weekend's showpiece, Villa have also booked an FA Cup quarter-final trip to Reading and still have a chance to break into the top four and claim one of those sought-after Champions League berths. "In the modern day game we are always tempted to try to get the best players from Europe. That is a fact," said Ferguson. "We would endorse the fact if you can get an English player it would be better and Martin has gone with British players. "He has never really gone down the road of a lot of foreign players. That shows consistency in what he thinks is the best way of getting something from his team." There was a time when O'Neill was heavily tipped to succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford. Indeed, an angry Ferguson once apologised to O'Neill when the Irishman, sitting at the same table, was asked directly whether he would like the Red Devils job during a press conference before a pre-season friendly involving United and Celtic in Seattle in 2003. Ferguson's own longevity appears to have put paid to that notion although, without being close friends, the Scot clearly has a lot of time for O'Neill, and his management methods. "I know Martin quite well," he said. "We have always enjoyed each other's company and respect each other after games, which is the only time you really get to know them. "In a social aspect we don't mix at all because we all have our own jobs to do but we might have a cup of tea or a glass of wine, so professionally I know him reasonably well. "He is down to earth. He is intelligent and all his teams reflect him because they have had a good work ethic. "At Leicester he was good at plucking out players who had just been run-of-the-mill at other clubs. "He took them to Leicester and they did well. Matt Elliott was a perfect example. A bread-and-butter player at Oxford, he went to Leicester and got a League Cup medal. "Celtic was a different level altogether, with the demands and expectation. But he won the treble in his first year, so he is clearly very capable."
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