Ferguson goes on defensive in wake of Giggs Twitter furore
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson will attempt to prevent the naming of Ryan Giggs as the footballer covered by a controversial privacy injunction from overshadowing their Champions League final preparations.
Giggs was named in Parliament by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming on Monday afternoon, prompting the publication of his identity in mainstream media outlets that had hitherto been restrained from repeating allegations of an affair that were widespread on social media sites including Twitter.
With the Champions League final just four days away the furore poses a huge test of Giggs’s experience and Ferguson’s ability to galvanise his squad ahead of the climax of the season against Barcelona at Wembley on Saturday.
Ferguson and the entire Manchester United squad are scheduled to appear at an open media day at Carrington today. It is thought highly unlikely that Giggs will attend and it is also uncertain whether he will take part in Gary Neville’s testimonial against Juventus at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening.
With an injunction still in place despite the widespread naming of the Welshman, Ferguson will not address any questions about the subject. Club officials refused to engage with the topic on Monday night because of sensitivity over breaching the terms of the injunction, and it is thought the manager will take the same approach.
Ferguson and club officials are understood to be deeply dismayed at the turn of events and the unwanted distraction ahead of a defining game. The matter has been monitored in recent days by Ferguson and chief executive David Gill, but it is believed that the Glazer family have not had direct involvement in the matter.
Giggs trained as normal on Monday, arriving at Carrington at about 9am for a full session with all those players who did not play in Sunday’s 4-2 defeat of Blackpool.
The 37-year-old winger was the subject of chants referring to the injunction from Blackpool fans during the game and was prominent in the title celebrations following the match, strolling around the Old Trafford pitch with team-mates accompanied by his children.
The perceived dissonance between this image and that portrayed by his alleged affair with Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas was at the heart of newspaper objections to an injunction granted by the High Court.
On Monday, after weeks of speculation prompted by publication of his name on Twitter and in the Sunday Herald newspaper in Scotland at the weekend, any vestige of anonymity was removed by Hemming.
Speaking on the floor of the House of Commons and covered by Parliamentary privilege, Hemming said it was no longer practical for Giggs’s name to be kept out of the public domain as so many people were now aware who he was.
“With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter it’s obviously impractical to imprison them all,” Hemming said.
The MP was immediately rebuked by the Commons Speaker, who said it was “not the occasion” to raise such issues. Hemming retaliated, however, saying he wished to clarify the enforceability of a law which “clearly does not have public consent”.
The identification came just hours after the High Court had refused to allow journalists to name Giggs.
The rash of injunctions taken out by footballers to protect revelations concerning their private lives has been a feature of the season. Eight clubs with players affected by the issue held a summit meeting with lawyers in March.
It has not been raised at Premier League level, though there are ongoing concerns about the impact of player behaviour on the value of the brand and its rights.
Giggs, who signed a one-year contract at Old Trafford earlier this year which will take him beyond his 38th birthday in November, goes into the game with Barcelona as the most successful player in United's history, having amassed 12 league titles and two Champions Leagues among his haul of medals.
The Welshman’s 875 appearances for United since his debut in March 1991 also mark him out as the club’s longest-serving player and his four goals in 37 appearances in all competitions this season highlight Ferguson’s continued reliance on his abilities.
Regarded as the senior figure in the dressing-room, Giggs has often been portrayed as a role model for young professionals entering the game.
Appointed an OBE in 2007, Giggs’s success and longevity was rewarded with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2009, when he edged ahead of F1 driver Jenson Button in a public vote for the title.
Having been a high-profile figure during his early days at United, when he dated celebrities such as the television presenter Dani Behr, Giggs admitted in an interview in March that an expose in the now-defunct Today newspaper in the mid-1990s about his family background prompted him to take a step out of the limelight.
As a pivotal figure in United’s run to the Champions League final, Giggs is expected to be involved against Barcelona, despite not figuring in the squad for the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City last month following the initial revelations involving Thomas.
Giggs is due to travel to London with the United squad on Thursday.