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By Simon Stone, The Times

ALEX FERGUSON is backing his fallen stars to recover from their international
disappointments by firing Manchester United to victory at Aston Villa today.

John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher were both left frustrated by poor results for the
Republic of Ireland and Scotland respectively but it is the England duo Wayne
Rooney and Rio Ferdinand who have suffered most.

Both are facing the dismal prospect of an unexpected summer off as England
struggle to reach Euro 2008, a scenario that would almost certainly see the
dismissal of Ferguson's former assistant Steve McClaren after just 18 games in

But the United boss has felt no need to throw a protective arm around his

After seeing so many players experience the same emotions during his two
decades at Old Trafford, Ferguson is happy to let the nature of the game take
care of the problem.

“They are grown men and they are big men, they have to be able to deal with it,â€
said the Scot.

“There have been a few disappointments, with Scotland, Ireland and England.

“But the situation is nothing unusual.

“And I have not spoken to them about it. The beauty of football is that you
always have the next game in which to rectify what happened in the last one.
Sometimes it is seven days, sometimes it is four. But it means you can always get
over these things quickly.â€

At Villa Park today United will be looking to maintain a six-match winning streak
during which time they have not conceded a goal.

The run has allowed Ferguson's team to keep pace with early table-toppers
Arsenal, who they meet at the Emirates Stadium on November 3.

Some pundits have suggested Arsenal are too raw and inexperienced to last the
pace this season, feeling United, Liverpool and Chelsea will eventually emerge as
the major championship contenders.

Ferguson disputes that theory.

He only has to look back 12 months to find similar opinions being expressed
about his own side, who went on to win the title in such glorious fashion.

“It is still an open race but Arsenal have had a great start and they are the ones
we are chasing at the moment,†said Ferguson.

“I know challenging for a title is a new experience for a lot of their players but
some of them have been there before and the manager has, which is a help.

“People said the same thing about us last year but we led the league for three
-quarters of the season, so I don't think it is a handicap.

“The main thing is I know we will chase them with great fervour and

“Our team is coming together now. We are getting on with the business of
winning games and hopefully we cn continue to do that now.â€
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