Sport Soccer

Saturday 20 September 2014

I'd love to boycott a game – Ferguson

Mark Ogden

Published 09/02/2013 | 04:00

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Alex Ferguson

ALEX FERGUSON would "love" to boycott a Premier League game in protest at the fixture scheduling he claims is damaging his team's chances to prosper in Europe.

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Ferguson made the comment as he accused the Premier League of giving Manchester United a "ridiculous" build-up to their Champions League clash with Real Madrid next week by sanctioning a 4.0 televised fixture against Everton at Old Trafford tomorrow.

The United manager, who was yesterday fined £12,000 by the English Football Association for recent comments accusing assistant referee Simon Beck of bias, claims he is considering making as many as 11 changes to his team for the Madrid tie, due to the lack of recovery time between the Everton game and the fixture at the Bernabeu 75 hours later.

Ferguson's anger has been exacerbated by opponents Real being given permission by the Spanish authorities to play their La Liga match against Sevilla today – 24 hours earlier than originally planned – in order to boost their prospects against United.

However, while it is understood that United did not contact the Premier League to ask for the Everton game to be brought forward, Ferguson insists that the domestic fixture list does little to help English clubs ahead of European games.

"It's ridiculous to think that we play on the Sunday and Real Madrid play on the Saturday, giving them that extra day's rest," Ferguson said.

"There is no fairness at all. We are not giving our teams a chance to be successful in Europe, but there's nothing you can do about it. It's done.

"There was also a case which was even more ridiculous than ourselves, when Tottenham played on a Thursday night in the Europa League and had to play Chelsea or Arsenal on the Saturday a few years back.

"That's not fair. It's nothing to do with the FA, it's the Premier League. They agreed a contract with TV and they're in control."

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With clubs receiving £500,000 in appearance money each time they are selected for a televised game, the view within the game is that a demanding fixture list is the price to pay for TV money.

Ferguson himself claimed in September 2011: "When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price, and television is God at the moment."

Across the continent, other major leagues allow European competitors to reschedule fixtures ahead of their ties.

Bayern Munich, who play Arsenal at the Emirates on February 19, have been given permission to play next weekend's Bundesliga game against Wolfsburg as early as Friday night.

Ferguson concedes, however, that there is little that Premier League clubs can do, other than voice their frustrations over television scheduling.

"You can't reject it (a televised game)," he said. "What can you do? Not turn up? I'd love to do that.

"I've complained about and it and you've heard my complaints. Do you think they listen? They play on Friday nights (in Spain, Italy and France). Other countries do make sacrifices for their top teams in Europe."

With Ferguson still scarred by memories of Everton's 4-4 draw at Old Trafford last season, which proved decisive in tilting the title balance towards Manchester City, the visit of David Moyes' team tomorrow has prompted the United manager to warn of further slip-ups.

But he admits that the trip to the Bernabeu on Wednesday will heavily influence his team selection against Everton, despite the risks involved with making wholesale changes.

"It will be different teams . The team on Sunday will not be the team that plays on Wednesday." When asked whether he was preparing to make 10 or 11 changes, he replied: "Yes, yes."

Ferguson is likely to be without Paul Scholes against Everton due to the midfielder being troubled by a knee problem, but Ashley Young has returned to training this week following a month on the sidelines and could return against Everton or Real.

Should the England winger fail to prove his fitness, Nani is set to be handed a role at the Bernabeu, with Ferguson pinpointing his pace and attacking qualities as capable of hurting Real.

Phil Jones is also in contention, despite withdrawing from the England U-21 squad this week with a bout of shingles. United had been keen not to disclose the 20-year-old's condition, which was revealed by England U-21 coach Stuart Pearce this week, prompting an angry response from Ferguson.

"Phil Jones should be okay, irrespective of Stuart Pearce coming and declaring he had shingles, which we thought was in doctor's confidence," Ferguson said.

"It is something we have to address. You hope these things don't happen, but it's difficult. You are dealing with a big unit in terms of the FA, and how news can leak out and it's spread out too many places.

"In this case it was the confidence of our doctor and their doctor and it should not have gone any further. We're disappointed in that, but it is nothing serious – a mild condition that has surfaced – but he should be okay hopefully." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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