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Sir Alex Ferguson has asked Manchester United fans to abandon their planned protest against John Magnier at Cheltenham races.

“It is effectively the equivalent of the FA Cup final to horse racing fans and I would not wish this special festival to be marred,” he said.

“I am asking supporters to refrain from any form of protest.

“And I am strongly opposed to any disruptive behaviour which may reflect badly on the club and its supporters.”

Supporters had been planning at the meeting to voice their opposition to the club’s biggest shhareholder, Magnier, who is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Ferguson over the stud rights to Rock of Gibraltar.

It had been reported earlier this week that Cheltenham officials had given permission for a demonstration to take place.

However, Ferguson has pleaded with the fans to call off their protest.

“My current dispute with John Magnier is a private matter not involving the club and its supporters,” added Ferguson.

“And I am concerned first and foremost to protect and serve the best interests and further success of the club.”

“I wish to express my real appreciation for the support which I have always received from supporters in the 17 years I have been with the club.

“And I re-affirm my complete commitment to furthering the interests of the club.”

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