Alex Ferguson has admitted he has a soft spot for Paolo Di Canio.

The new Sunderland boss faces a baptism of fire at Chelsea this afternoon, when defeat would send them hurtling into the relegation zone should Wigan beat QPR.

It is precisely the reason Di Canio was appointed following Martin O'Neill's dismissal last weekend.

Yet the move has been overshadowed by the furore over the Italian's links to fascism, which after three days of hot debate, finally triggered a statement from Di Canio in which he denied supporting the ideology.

Ferguson has not got involved in that particular argument.

However, speaking to United Review ahead of Manchester United's derby encounter with City on Monday, Ferguson said he does like Di Canio's management philosophy.

"I must confess to a liking for the fellow and his approach to the game," said Ferguson.

"As I wrote the other week, he wears his heart on his sleeve and I like his football philosophy, wanting to play the ball on the ground rather than in the air.

"I have this picture in my mind of him being in the technical area pointing to the sky and then the ground in an effort to get his players to keep the ball down.

"He has a tough challenge on his hands with his fight to keep Sunderland in the Premier League."