Sir Alex Ferguson has demanded that a reporter, who asked about Ryan Giggs, should be banned from Friday's press conference at Wembley ahead of the Champions League final against Barcelona on Saturday.
“We'll get him. We'll ban him on Friday,” Ferguson said.
United accept that they can do no such thing. Friday's is a Uefa-run event beyond Ferguson's purview.
But the manager's antipathy to a footballing question — albeit one designed to elicit a comment relevant to the Ryan Giggs injunction controversy — was followed six hours later by the gang arriving in a Ford Transit van to thrown eggs and flour at journalists and vandalise six cars.
A press statement on the incident, which was issued without the club's advance knowledge by Greater Manchester Police, included the name of Giggs' street.
Giggs was in the starting XI at Gary Neville's testimonial last night but his manager's response to the events of the past 72 hours suggests that he feels that they could destabilise United's preparations if he allows it to.
The Giggs press conference question — about the value of a having a player of such experience available to play against Barcelona — was put by the Associated Press's Rob Harris, an experienced journalist known in the England and sports business news press corps for his willingness to raise the difficult issues, was the third of the day at Carrington.
“All the players are important, every one of them,” Ferguson replied, then asking his press secretary, Karen Shotbolt, for the identity of the questioner, in an aside which was caught by the microphones.
After establishing from her that this journalist would be seeking attendance on Friday, Fergie replied that he would be banned.
Giggs has shown no superficial signs of the strain surrounding his legal battle with reality TV star Imogen Thomas in recent weeks.
He was convivial with those journalists he recognised at Manchester Airport en route to United's semi final match in Schalke on April 26 and was the only player willing to stop to talk at any length to the daily press corps, after United's second leg win took them to Wembley.
But United, whose detailed preparations for Saturday's game have left Ferguson believing there is “a solution” to the problem of Lionel Messi, know that distractions could be fatal.
Both Rio Ferdinand and captain Nemanja Vidic acknowledged that a key part of United's task would be the psychological one — of not allowing Barcelona to get under their skin with gamesmanship.
“We have to focus and concentrate and then it won't be a big deal to handle the things that we know will come,” Vidic said, in a discussion of the controversy surrounding the Catalans' semi final first leg against Real Madrid.
“Obviously their players have a different mentality to us but it won't be a problem to deal with these things.
“They may do things and argue more than they should do but it wont effect us. The referee for the game will probably be the best referee around. I think he can cope with that.”
The referee has not yet been selected, though Ferdinand said it was incumbent on the United players to realise that gamesmanship was the continental way.
“I just think that some people do that,” he said. “It is the way the game has gone nowadays. It wasn't just Barcelona, Real Madrid were doing the same things.”
Ferguson, whose team's preparations began four days before Sunday's Blackpool fixture, is con
fronted with a central dilemma of how attacking his side should be.
Though he has tended to deploy a solitary striker in away games in Europe, he appears tempted by the option of both Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney.
“It's not just about Barcelona, it's about us too, what's best for us and the best way of winning the match,” Ferguson said. “It will be down to how we operate the attacking part.”
Michael Owen also pointed out the dangers of a defensive set-up.
“When you have players of their quality, you just invite them to keep coming,” Owen said. “OK you have flooded your own box with bodies, but one ricochet, and you are in that defensive mindset and then it's hard to go and chase a game. We know what we have to do. We have been practising.”
Regrouping after an early setback is likely to be one of the “scenarios” Ferdinand said that the players had been focusing on.
His manager said of the 2009 final defeat in Rome: “When we lost the first goal it was that sudden lapse of concentration in terms of regrouping after we'd lost the ball. That's what cost us really. Then after they went through with Messi running midfield, which made it very difficult for us.”
Ferdinand said United knew the defence would have to “do things we don't normally do”.
“We play against one or two strikers, traditionally, but this time we might have no one around us for long periods yet they will still be as dangerous.”