'They treat us like s***'
Alex Ferguson yesterday launched a withering attack on the English FA, accusing them of treating Manchester United "like s***".
The United manager's relations with the FA were already fractured by a string of disciplinary summons, including his five-match touchline ban and £30,000 fine for criticising referee Martin Atkinson at the end of last season.
Ferguson was also charged with misconduct, before escaping with a warning, for praising World Cup final referee Howard Webb prior to the Old Trafford clash with Chelsea in May.
And United's problems with the English game's governing body didn't end there.
Wayne Rooney received a two-match ban for swearing into a television camera at West Ham in April, while both Ferguson and United chief executive David Gill have since complained of over-zealous treatment at the hands of English football's governing body.
But Ferguson's latest attack, which was prompted by the revelation that United will supply up to eight members of Fabio Capello's England squad for next week's European Championships qualifier, has left relations at a new low.
"Having so many England players is fantastic." Ferguson said. "The FA may one day realise who has produced more players for their country than any other club in the world.
"Maybe they will get some joy from it at some point in their lives and realise how important we are to England.
"They treat us like s***, but we are pleased for the players because they deserve to be there. They are outstanding. We are all pleased."
Last month, Ferguson accused the FA of having an "unfair" focus on United in terms of disciplinary measures, while Gill, an FA board member, has claimed that, last season, United were the victim of "poorish decisions" that "wouldn't necessarily have hit other clubs."
Despite the friction between United and the FA, the club opened the doors of its Carrington training ground to the FA's disciplinary unit earlier this month in order for Ferguson's squad to receive a briefing about rules and regulations. The FA last night declined to comment on Ferguson's outburst -- which was edited out of footage of his press conference on United's in-house television channel, MUTV -- but they are not expected to take any action against the Scot.
Although Ferguson's antipathy is largely directed at the FA, he echoed comments by former United captain Gary Neville that the club's players are also subjected to negative treatment from England supporters and hinted at the taunts being rooted in jealousy of United. "We cannot do anything about that (jealousy)," Ferguson said. "It doesn't concern me.
"But I was at an England game many years ago when Glenn Hoddle was booed during the warm-up and he was one of the most talented players at the time.
"I don't know where it comes from. You'd never hear it in Scotland. I don't know what creates it."
Having let fly at the FA with both barrels, Ferguson then found time to defend his old adverary, Arsene Wenger.
Bill Shankly once went seven years without silverware, Matt Busby and Bill Nicholson five and there was a time when Ferguson contemplated the kind of wilderness where Wenger now finds himself.
Between 2004 and 2007 Ferguson saw himself elbowed aside, first by Arsenal's famous 'Invincibles' and then by the ruthless side Jose Mourinho constructed at Chelsea. London, not Manchester or Liverpool, seemed to be English football's first city.
"The minute I won the league last season, I became concerned how we were going to win it again," he said.
"It is the name of the game. You cannot stand still and I have tried never to do that here.
"The years between 2004 and 2007 when we lost the title I was always thinking how we could get it back."
Shankly would have revelled in the age of Sky Sports News and the ceaseless, repetitive radio phone-ins. Busby would probably have adapted with a measure of distaste. It would have horrified Nicholson, the martinet from Scarborough who revolutionised English football at Tottenham.
None of them had to cope with the kind of carping and instant analysis Ferguson believes corrodes the game.
"The press play their part," he said. "But their job is to get a headline, so that is natural. It is the supporters who have to play a bigger part. The supporters of today have not got the patience of 30 years ago -- nothing like it.
"This country has become more tribal than ever through football. It has always been there but it is not as big as it is today. I am aware of that.
"Education does not come into it. They go into pubs and into work on a Monday and it surfaces all the time. There is a change in supporter participation; it is far more volatile than it ever was." There may have been a time, half a dozen years ago, when Ferguson would have revelled in Wenger's discomfort.
The Arsenal manager remarked, only half in jest, that they get on better because he is no longer a serious threat to Manchester United. In truth, it is because Ferguson always respects those football men who endure.
"I would like to know who is going to replace him?" he answered when asked if he thought Wenger was vulnerable.
"The work he has done in the past 15 years has been the best in Arsenal's history.
"Yes, he has not won a trophy in six years, but what does that mean? The quality of his sides has not been reduced.
"The competition is far greater than when Arsenal and ourselves were going head-to-head for about eight years. Chelsea's involvement has created a lot of the problem in terms of trophies to win because they and ourselves have been dominating the Premier League.
Now Manchester City have come on the scene.
"It is a bit unfair, of course, but who understands fairness and unfairness today?
"It is quite a cynical world. (Arsenal) answered everybody back on Wednesday (against Udinese). They got a great result and the game on Sunday will be another stepping stone for them."
The loss of first Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and then Samir Nasri to Manchester City has undermined Arsenal as they embark on a visit to Old Trafford for a match that for a time seemed the nearest the Premier League possessed to Spain's El Clasico.
Having endured his own version of the Fabregas saga with Cristiano Ronaldo, when Real Madrid were courting the Portuguese superstar, Ferguson wondered if Wenger really had any choice in deciding the matter.
"When you face that inevitable situation where a player is not going to sign a contract, you can threaten to do what Arsene did with Nasri and keep him for another year and not get anything for him, or take the money.
"I think it is sensible to take the money. If he is not going to sign, why throw away money? We had the same situation with Cristiano. He had two years when we were under pressure to let him go, but we had had him for six years and we had to answer the question of how long do you think you are going to have top European players?
"We like to think they will stay forever. Some have been very good that way but Cristiano always had this dream that he wanted to play for Real Madrid. You have to plan ahead. We did plan.
"We looked ahead and bought Nani. Fabregas wanted to go back to Barcelona. We had the same situation with Gerard Pique. Eventually his parents wanted him to go home.
"We had four years with him. He was a fantastic player but we understood.
"You cannot become bitter about these things because this is the modern world. The important thing is to try and do your best for your club and make sure you prepare for these moments." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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