England are not a lost cause, says Ferguson

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MANCHESTER, England, Nov 23 (Reuters) England's national team are not a lost cause despite their failure to qualify for the European Championship finals, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said today.

The quality of English football has come under scrutiny since the 3-2 defeat to Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday which put England out of the competition and resulted in the sacking of coach Steve McClaren.

Ferguson, the most successful club manager in English football history, believes, however, that there is still room for optimism and said McClaren's successor did not face a hopeless task.

''It (the job) is near impossible but it's not impossible because you have to think there is a good thread in the England squad that is better than the performance of the other night,'' he told reporters.

''There are good players. There's no point in saying everything is wrong and everything is black -- it's not. There are good players about.'' Ferguson added: ''It's no good looking at these players and saying everything is wrong about English football and what's happening at grassroots level.

''That's nothing to do with the present-day players. There are enough good players there to have a decent future for that particular squad.'' PLAYING STYLE Ferguson said the style of play in the English premier league was not counter-productive to fielding a successful national team.

''You have to look at the quality that Arsenal, Chelsea and ourselves produce to dismiss that theory,'' he said. ''You've got to stick by your beliefs in how you see the game being played and how you want your players to express themselves.

''That will never change and that's down to the coaches and the mentality of the coaches and the players he can produce.'' Ferguson criticised the Football Association's swift dismissal of McClaren and said there should have been a period of reflection.

''I think the outcome in a week's time would have been the same anyway but nonetheless from people who are running the game in our country it doesn't do them much good in terms of an example to football clubs throughout the country who are doing knee-jerk reactions every day,'' Ferguson said.

''Someone has to set a standard of how to behave in terms of doing that and I think that was disappointing.

''To make the decision at 8.30 in the morning over a bacon butty, as it said in the papers, to me is not right. They could have waited.'' Unusually, United had no players in the England side on Wednesday. Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville will miss the joint leaders' league game against struggling Bolton at Old Trafford on Saturday through injury.

Rooney has started light training following an ankle injury and Ferguson expects him to return against Fulham on Dec. 3.

REUTERS PDS HS2113

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