Early Doors

Fergie dead wrong about the Glazers

Early Doors

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Pick up a newspaper today and you'll notice something refreshingly un-footbally about it.

The beaming, sideburned features of Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins will almost certainly adorn the front.

Further back, you'll find more superb facial hair from Hashim Amla, who struck a glorious triple hundred for South Africa at The Oval.

There's The Open, which saw one of its most dramatic finishes ever after Adam Scott did what Aussies do best and choked away a four shot lead with four to play.

And you will also find news of a Fernando Alonso masterclass - the Spaniard drove his car slightly faster than everyone else at the German Grand Prix yesterday.

Against such heights of sporting excellence, this weekend football found itself at something of a low ebb.

Such a low ebb, in fact, that even Bebe scored - the human punchline netted a stoppage time equaliser for Manchester United against Ajax Cape Town.

The ever-tedious summer transfer market proved even duller than usual, too, with only the 'will he, won't he?' transfer sagas of Robin van Persie and Luka Modric for succour. (SPOILER ALERT: He will. So will he.)

So, with the sports world looking the other way, what better time for Alex Ferguson to launch one of his regular defences of the Glazer family?

"I am comfortable with the Glazer situation. They have been great," Fergie quipped.

"They have always backed me whenever I have asked them. I have never faced any opposition.

"When the Glazers took over here there was dissatisfaction, so there have always been pockets of supporters who have their views. But I think the majority of real fans will look at it realistically and say it's not affecting the team. We've won four championships since they've been there, one European Cup."

So - if you don't like the Glazers, you're not a real fan.

This view was reinforced by the Daily Mail's Bob Cass, who endured a highly entertaining Twitter meltdown.

The thrust of Cass's argument in one tweet: "Those whose opinions differ from the most successful boss in English football history are not just s***, they are idiotic s***."

(Also from Cass yesterday: "And Adam Scott's birdie has just won him the Open.")

Aside from asserting that you're not allowed to disagree with a successful manager about ANYTHING, the Glazer apologists' argument runs as follows:

They point to the fact that United - despite paying £45 million a year in interest alone on their £423m debt - are still very much a competitive team.

As Ferguson says, United have won plenty of trophies under the Glazers and came within a gnat's gonad of another Premier League title last season.

The club is also such an effective money-making machine that it can still turn a profit despite the financial burden.

So, everything's OK? Well, not really.

If an elderly gentleman leapt on Michael Phelps's back during an Olympic swimming event, Phelps's exceptional physique might prevent him from drowning - but his medal-winning ability would be somewhat compromised until the octogenarian was safely returned to dry land.

That is the situation United find themselves in. Yes, they have won trophies with an increasingly thin squad under Glazer - mainly thanks to Fergie's genius. But how much more could they have won? How much better-placed would they be to compete with Manchester City's fabulous wealth, and the brilliance of Spain's big two?

Of course, the two abovementioned weekend football stories concern Ferguson directly - Bebe is a terrible footballer whom Fergie speculated could have a future at Old Trafford.

Van Persie meanwhile, if ED can spot a freight train coming down a tunnel, will snub United when someone else (City) offers him twice as much cash to join from Arsenal.

United have already been priced out of a move for Modric, who is set to join Real Madrid.

Ferguson and United chief exec David Gill love to harp on about 'value in the market'.

Ergo, they wanted Eden Hazard and ended up with Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese is a very good player, and cost a great deal less than Hazard in terms of transfer fee and wages. In simple 'value' terms he may even be the better signing.

But this is Manchester United, a club that aspires to be the best in the world. For them, value should not be about paying 50 per cent of the transfer fee for 85 per cent of the player.

Prudent as it may be, settling for less is not a formula that will bring them the long-term success they want - Premier League and Champions League trophies.

Ten years ago, Ferguson saw the need for a top-class centre-back after a calamitous season featuring the slow-motion stylings of Laurent Blanc.

He identified a player, and did what it took to buy him. He had to pay a British record fee, including £5m to agents.

The club forked out top whack on wages, and the player played hardball in subsequent contract negotiations - to the point where fans booed him.

That player was Rio Ferdinand, in whom blogger United Rant estimates the club have now invested £100m.

Despite the doping ban and the injuries, few people could legitimately claim Ferdinand has not represented 'value' - he has provided a decade of excellence.

Top clubs pay top dollar and make sure they get the best. That's what Barcelona did with David Villa, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. It's what City did with Sergio Aguero and Chelsea with Hazard.

Thanks to the Glazers, that is no longer a game Manchester United can play.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: ED is already enjoying Andre Villas-Boas's second coming: "I think Modric is wrong (to want to leave Tottenham). This will go against him. He has worsened the situation with what he's doing and now the chairman (Daniel Levy) is very angry."

SPORT CROSSOVER OF THE WEEKEND: Carlos Tevez in not-so-triumphant caddying debut at The Open. Hey, at least he looked happy, eh?

'DON'T DO IT!' OF THE WEEKEND: Ashley Cole joins Twitter. And he's already rowing with Arsenal fans. ED gives him four days.

COMING UP: It's Ordabasy versus Astana in the Kazakhstan Premier League - and it's LIVE at 14:00!

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