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ALTHOUGH several players, including David Beckham, have incurred the wrath of Sir Alex Ferguson down the years, Cefn Druids' new signing Phil Marsh has nothing but praise for his former manager at Manchester United.

The 28-year-old recalls benefiting from the fiery Scot's softer side at Old Trafford, where he graduated through the ranks after joining United at the age of 12.

Ferguson also handed Marsh - who was born in St Helens and grew up supporting the Red Devils - his dream debut in the famous United red in 2006.

"He was brilliant with me," said Marsh, reflecting on his relationship with Ferguson.

"He gave me an opportunity and always told me to just express myself, to try and give me that belief that I was good enough to play in that team.

"So he was great. Everybody's got the impression that he was a bit of a hot-head and gave people the 'hairdryers' and all that.

"But, to be fair, as long as you don't step out of line or do anything untoward, then he's really good with you.

"I got on really well with him and his record speaks for itself."

Ferguson displayed his loyalty to Marsh by handing him a professional contract after the attacker was involved in a serious car crash at the age of 17. Marsh was a passenger in a Honda Civic – driven by a fellow youth player – that was involved in a collision on the fringe of Manchester City's training ground and near United's.

After being cut out of the car by firefighters, Marsh was airlifted to hospital with career-threatening injuries which included a broken leg and scapula (shoulder bone), plus head injuries.

But over the next eight to 10 months he fought his way back to fitness and was eventually rewarded for his efforts, as less than three years after the incident he made his one and only appearance for United on October 25, 2006.

On that memorable night, Marsh started in the 2-1 Carling Cup third round triumph at Crewe, where 10,046 fans took in the action.

Marsh was substituted at half-time and he looked back on that 'surreal' experience, by adding: "It was good to be part of a winning team and I played up front with Alan Smith and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a three-man attack which was fantastic for me as a young lad coming through.

"It was a fantastic experience and I did well. I was a young lad who wasn't expected to do too much. But I had a good game and the manager was pleased after it and he said that I'd done well.

"I'll treasure making an appearance for Man United – not many people can say they've done that."

"So it was something I will always remember and I'll treasure making an appearance for Man United – not many people can say they've done that."

After being a regular for Ferguson's reserves side, Marsh was released by United the following summer and has subsequently plied his trade on the non-league circuit with the likes of Stalybridge Celtic, Forest Green Rovers, Guiseley, FC United and Salford City.

But he took away a host of great memories and good footballing habits from Old Trafford, having developed his game working on the same training field as some of the biggest names in world football.

They included Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Ruud van Nistelrooy – not to mention Cristiano Ronaldo, who is officially the world's best player having recently won the FIFA Ballon d'Or.

Marsh was called upon to train with the United first-team squad – including their Carling Cup line-ups – on occasion and also reaped the benefits of taking part in shooting sessions.

"I trained with Ronaldo a couple of times," said Marsh.

"I used to get on with him really well.

"I'd also have a little game of table tennis with him or we'd all play two-touch football. I know a lot of people think he's arrogant and you would be if you were as good as him.

"But he's genuinely a really nice guy.

"Paul Scholes was one of the best players I trained with because he was unbelievable in that he never gave the ball away, his passing and touch were first class.

"But if you asked me who is the best player I'd ever trained with I would say Ronaldo just for the fact that he's the best player in the world.

"And I could relate to Ronaldo's game more than Scholes's because I'm an attacker and Ronaldo is someone I look up to and someone you aspire to be as good as.

"For me, he's the perfect footballer – he's got everything."

[The quotes in this article first appeared in the North West Evening Mail].