Alex Ferguson was at odds with his prodigious 18-year-old midfielder Ravel Morrison last night after declaring that the club have made a contract offer to a player who now seems to be lost to Manchester United.
Morrison's representatives suggested that the club have not offered a deal and, with Newcastle United ready to improve on a £500,000 bid for the player, he has evidently reached the conclusion his future lies elsewhere.
The midfielder tweeted "no contract offer to talk about" during the week and appears to have been disillusioned by the fact that Ferguson opted to bring Paul Scholes out of retirement, rather than give him his chance against Manchester City in the FA Cup third-round win last Sunday.
There are suggestions that Morrison, who has been limited to two Carling Cup appearances this season, may have been dropped from the senior squad to train with United's reserves, leaving him with the feeling that he is unwanted at the club.
Ferguson said that Morrison, who is out of contract this summer, was asking for too high a salary.
"His agent has been working hard to get him another club," the manager said yesterday. "We've offered him terms which he has refused, so that is where it is.
"We've rejected an offer from Newcastle and it is now down to how that progresses."
Asked if Morrison, in whom United have invested much time and effort to resolve a chaotic off-field life, could still have a future at Old Trafford, the manager replied: "His demands are unrealistic as far as we are concerned."
Morrison, acclaimed by some as the best young player to emerge from United's youth ranks since Scholes, has endured a troubled recent past, narrowly avoiding a prison sentence last year after pleading guilty to two charges of witness intimidation.
The attacking midfielder even took the unusual step of tweeting Rio Ferdinand yesterday to urge his Old Trafford team-mate to deny internet rumours that he had stolen his watch.
"Whoever saying you nicked a watch from training that was mine is talking rubbish... see you at training monday," Ferdinand responded.
Ferguson, meanwhile, has said in an extensive interview that he fears players are unprepared for celebrity culture in its 21st century form.
"They are almost like film celebrities rather than football players," he told Yahoo. "You hope that, by having long enough time with your players, you can make them understand how fragile that celebrity status can be in terms of one minute you're a star and the next minute you're not.
"Dealing with success is a bit more difficult today for young people because of television and the headlines they can get, so you work with them to keep their feet on the ground. I tell them all to go back to their mother as the same person they were when they arrived."
Ferguson revealed that he kept the decision to bring 37-year-old Scholes out of retirement from his players "simply because of the impact value" he knew it would deliver against City.
"We did not let any of the players know," Ferguson said. "We are going away from home in a very difficult FA Cup tie and, when the 5,000 fans in the away end of the ground knew he was on the team sheet, they were fantastic. The response was great."
He continued: "One or two people have been negative about Paul's return. They're making out it's been a regressive step for Manchester United. How can it be regressive? You're getting a player for nothing who's been part of the club for 20-odd years."
United can move level with Manchester City today at the top of the Premier League by claiming three points against Bolton at Old Trafford.
But, having lost against bottom club Blackburn two weeks ago, Ferguson insists his players must not underestimate the visitors.
"When you play against a team down at the bottom of the table, as we experienced against Blackburn, you've got to address it properly," Ferguson said.
"We went into the Blackburn game with respect for them, but it wasn't a great performance. We need a good performance because Bolton will be battling for everything.
"That is the one thing you are guaranteed from these teams down at the bottom -- they will fight for their existence. That's what we expect from Bolton, but hopefully we will get the show on the road properly."
Ferguson claimed that he has no concerns about playing Patrice Evra against Liverpool in the FA Cup at Anfield on January 28 despite the furore surrounding the full-back on Merseyside following his accusations of racist abuse against Luis Suarez.
Ferguson also confirmed that Evra had been elevated to the captaincy following the season-ending knee injury suffered by Nemanja Vidic.
He added: "Patrice is a very popular player with a good personality and you have to have a good personality to be a captain of a club like ours. Rio would have been the captain if he didn't have that inconsistency because of injuries."
(© Independent News Service)