Birthday-boy Fergie shows no signs of mellowing

Alex Ferguson: 'I'm sure there are some electricians working in Bolton,' he said sarcastically 'There must be one at least.'

Alex Ferguson: 'I'm sure there are some electricians working in Bolton,' he said sarcastically 'There must be one at least.'


SOCCER: Alex Ferguson may have talked himself into trouble with the English Premier League after voicing fresh suspicions that Bolton Wanderers allowed Wednesday's game against Middlesbrough to be frozen off to improve their chances of a shock victory at Manchester United today.

Ferguson's tongue was presumed to be firmly in his cheek when he made similar comments earlier in the week, but yesterday he made it abundantly clear that he was not joking. "I'm sure there are some electricians working in Bolton," he said sarcastically. "There must be one at least."

The Old Trafford manager is deeply sceptical about Bolton's explanation, namely that their undersoil heating system was beyond repair, but having voiced his complaints he may now find himself under investigation.

The Premier League have accepted Bolton's account and are likely to seek an explanation from Ferguson, at the very least, as to why he seems to be insinuating foul play on the part of the Lancashire club.

Ferguson, who is already facing a possible English Football Association disciplinary charge for comments about referee Rob Styles, believes the authorities should take a closer look at the Premiership clubs who cancelled their St Stephen's Day matches.

"We asked for our game against West Bromwich Albion to be brought forward to December 24th, and they refused us because they said it was unfair to the rest of the Premier League. But then you can say your undersoil heating doesn't work? It's a definite advantage for them (Bolton).

"The Premier League should be more vigilant with teams who are supposed to have undersoil heating. They should at least make sure it's maintained."

Sam Allardyce's version of events is, unsurprisingly, very different. He says the disadvantages for Bolton of calling off the Middlesbrough match far outweigh the advantages. Their participation in the Uefa Cup means they already have a congested fixture-list without fitting in another game, and Middlesbrough would have been going to the Reebok Stadium with several key players injured and in a bad run of form.

Ferguson was also mystified as to why Newcastle had cancelled their match against Charlton Athletic. "(They) called it off because there was a danger for people walking to the stadium. But there were 100,000 people in the Gateshead shopping centre and they didn't close the shops, did they?"

Ferguson is 64 today and there is no sign of age mellowing him or of him setting a retirement date. His tongue is clearly as sharp as ever too. United face Arsenal for the first time this season on Tuesday, and he set the tone for a traditionally explosive match with some withering comments about Patrick Vieira, Arsene Wenger's former captain, now at Juventus.

Vieira's description of Ruud van Nistelrooy in his recent autobiography as a "coward" and a "cheat" has gone down badly at Old Trafford.

"It depends what you class a coward or a cheat," Ferguson retorted. "We've all got different ways of looking at these things. Some people would call it spitting in another player's face. That wasn't a very brave thing to do, was it?"

United's Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze fears missing the World Cup next summer through injury. The United left back tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in September, and Ferguson has already cast doubt on whether he will return in time to compete in Germany.

Heinze now is forced to agree. "I don't see myself in the World Cup, but not because of Ferguson's words," he said. "I don't see myself in Germany because I'm not playing at the moment."

Guardian Service