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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fergie support for Blatter stance on imports

Sir Alex Ferguson believes clubs should be seen to have 'a proportion of home-based players' - and feels rivals Arsenal would 'protest the loudest' at such a rule.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has announced he will lobby for restrictions on the number of foreign players in each team and Ferguson has voiced his support.

'It's certainly not wrong that clubs should be seen to have a proportion of home-based players,' the Manchester United manager said.

'I totally agree (with Blatter) but it would be a problem for a club like Arsenal. That's why they'll protest the loudest.

'You want to protect your own, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, for the good of the game in England, it would be good to see more home-based players at the top clubs.

'United's critics would say `It's all right for you, you already have English players in your side'. But I think if you asked a neutral, they would rather see more home-based players.'

He added: 'Under the present Treaty of Rome you couldn't make it law. It would have to be an agreement between the clubs. But if it went to a vote, I think it would get through [even though] there would be opposition from clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal, who have strong Spanish and French connections.

'It would certainly be a contentious issue but I agree with the principle of it.'

In an interview in the club magazine, Inside United, Ferguson also called for agents to be more strictly regulated to prevent money flowing out of the game.

'I think we need a tariff for agents that brings them in line with other professions, like lawyers or accountants,' he added.

'Agents need to be regulated in a far stricter way than they have been in the past.

'They are a very lucky breed because as long as you have greedy club presidents, agents will always be in the driving seat. But if world football recognises the need for regulation, that would make a real difference.

'The set up has to be more professional.'

Wenger has also expressed his views on the topic in Arsenal's club magazine, and feels no coach 'at the highest level' would think it is a good idea.

'I find the whole proposal completely ridiculous,' he said.

'The thinking behind it, I believe, is to protect the national teams. But it won't protect the best players, it will protect the mediocre ones and you don't win a World Cup with mediocre players, you win it with world-class ones.

'The best English players - the Rooneys, the Owens, the Gerrards, the Lampards - they are all playing for their clubs anyway.

'FIFA are wrong if they think this will improve international football. Look at rugby for example. The Argentina national team - all their players play in Europe, and the national team takes advantage of that. Had they all stayed in Argentina, would they have made the semi-finals? To mix the best with the best makes everyone better.

'I am worried that it could happen. I would say that it's more than 50% likely to be brought in.

'FIFA is powerful enough to implement the rule internally, if (Sepp) Blatter has the support of the council and his committees. Will it go through or not, I do not know but it looks as though it could. I have already had many discussions at UEFA and it looks as though it could happen.

'I don't believe one football coach at the highest level would say it's a good idea. A football coach is always confronted with the same problem - he wants to reward good players.'

Asked what would happen if the rule was introduced, Wenger added: 'First of all we have to fight against it.

'If you fight it that should buy us some time. During that time you have to adapt to it.'

The Gunners boss fears the issue could prove divisive and refused to rule out clubs splitting from FIFA.

'Maybe, I don't know what the evolution will be,' he added. 'I always think that it's the strength of the sport if it's unified at the top level and you do not have a split.

'Because then the rules can begin to change and before you know it you have different sports. So that is dangerous too. If the football bodies don't take care of the sport that could happen and that's a real danger. Read more...

Giddy Gunners give Reds boost

United and Arsenal may have shared the points at the Emirates last weekend but Sir Alex insists the Reds emerged from the trip to North London with one valuable advantage.

Indeed, the Reds' boss says his troops will go into Sunday's clash with Blackburn Rovers full of confidence in their ability to go all the way in this season's title race.

"At the end of the Arsenal game, our players were in the dressing room feeling absolutely sick," the United boss told Manchester United Radio. "That's twice in two years they've turned the game around and got something in the last minute, so we were definitely disappointed to come away with a draw.

"Meanwhile, their dressing room was elated. They were celebrating as if they'd won the World Cup, which I found very interesting. Our players took something out of that, psychologically.

"I think we're a better team than Arsenal now. They're a young team and they're going to be a very good team – there's no question of that – but we went there when they were on top form and they hardly managed a shot on goal. There were definitely a lot of positives for us."

Despite Sir Alex's belief in United's superiority, he still had high praise for Arsene Wenger's team.

"I think English football has taken another step forward from last year. At the moment, Manchester United and Arsenal are possibly the two best teams in Europe. And don't dismiss Chelsea – they'll be there come the end of the season." Read more...

Neville suffers calf strain

Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that Gary Neville has suffered another setback in his ongoing return from injury.

The Reds' club captain picked up a minor calf strain during training on Sunday, ruling him out of Wednesday night's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kyiv.

"Unfortunately Gary's got a little calf strain again," Sir Alex told his pre-match press conference. "It's a real dampener for the boy and us. I don't think it's a long one, but it is a setback."

Sir Alex, meanwhile, has no other fresh injury worries and is likely to rotate his squad for Wednesday's tie, admitting: "There'll probably be two changes, maybe three, but no more."

Michael Carrick and Louis Saha are both pushing for inclusion after substitute cameos against Arsenal and could play, although the Boss admitted that he is still cautious about the latter's fitness concerns.

"Carrick could possibly come back into the picture, and you saw how Louis can change a game on Saturday, so we'll be monitoring how he is tomorrow," said Sir Alex.

"We're never going to risk his availability for the rest of the season. If we have to start him as a sub that's what we'll do. He's such a different player to any we have here." Read more...

Owen: Kyiv were "afraid" of United

Owen Hargreaves has accused Dynamo Kyiv of being "afraid" during Manchester United's 4-2 win in the Ukraine, as Sir Alex Ferguson's side cruised to one of the easiest European away triumphs during the Scot's stint in charge a fortnight ago. If United can beat Kyiv in their Champions League rematch at Old Trafford on Wednesday, they will book a place in the knockout phase with two games to spare. "Dynamo seemed a bit afraid of us in Kyiv," Hargreaves said. "It is very rare in the Champions League that you see someone pulled apart so easily and concede four goals at home. Normally, those type of games are very difficult but Dynamo were really quite poor, surprisingly so for that level of competition."
Staff reporter, The Times