Racing: Fergie puts his faith in National runners

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson took time off from preparing his side for Monday's derby with defending champions Manchester City by going to watch his two runners in the Grand National on Saturday.

The 71-year-old has enjoyed tremendous success as an owner in both flat and National Hunt racing and said he had little hesitation in backing both What A Friend and Harry The Viking in the world's greatest steeplechase later on Saturday.

What A Friend has lost his way since finishing fourth in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup and, having not won since 2010, is very much an outsider but Ferguson felt there was some grounds for optimism.

"I think his fall at the first in last year's Gold Cup rattled him," he said.

"However, he has talent and I have backed both him and Harry The Viking at the odds of 40/1 each."

Ferguson, who's greatest turf success was with miler Rock of Gibraltar on the flat winning seven successive Group One contests, said he had unbounding admiration for his duo's trainer, Paul Nicholls.

"When you visit Paul's stables you have to be impressed," said Ferguson.

"He is always seeking to improve and always asking questions of himself. That is the secret to being successful in any sport."

The National is due off at 1515GMT with the maximum field of 40.