Belfast Telegraph

TV is a turn-off for Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson

By Tim Rich

Sir Alex Ferguson has accused television companies of enslaving English football and argued that Premier League clubs should be given a bigger slice of revenue from overseas sales.

When Manchester United face Norwich City on Saturday it will be the first time this season when the traditional 3pm kick-off time has not been moved to accommodate TV.

And, although clubs like United earn about £4.3m each time their games are broadcast live, Ferguson believes television now has too much power over the fixture list.

The United manager said: "When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price.

"Television is God at the moment.

"It can show itself quite clearly because when you see the fixture lists come out, they can pick and choose whenever they want the top teams on television.

"You get some ridiculous situations sometimes when you are playing on a Wednesday night in Europe and then at lunchtime the following Saturday.

"You ask any manager if they would pick that themselves and the answer would be: 'No chance'."

Unlike neighbours Manchester City, who have been drawn to play away after every one of their Champions League group games, United have been kindly treated by the Premier League's fixture list this season.

Every one of their matches after a Champions League tie will be staged at Old Trafford.

However, Ferguson argued that the clubs should receive more than the £17m they are awarded annually from the sale of the League's overseas rights which is currently the most lucrative in world football.

"The Premier League sells their product to over 200 countries around the world," Ferguson said. "And when you think of that, I don't think we get enough money."

Some would argue that United have been the principal beneficiaries of a deal that in February 2009 saw Sky pay an estimated £1.6bn for the right to show three seasons of football.

United will resume their European campaign at home to Basle tonight - when they will be without leading strikers Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez due to injury.

Ferguson confirmed that Rooney would miss the match with a hamstring injury and said that it was difficult to know when the England striker would be back in action.

"He's not playing tomorrow," said the United boss.

"It's difficult to assess with hamstrings but we hope we have him back quickly.

"He did a bit of jogging this morning but that's all."

Ferguson also said that Hernandez's dead leg would keep him out against Basle but that the Mexican should be back for when Norwich visit on Saturday.

Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov are likely to lead the attack against the Swiss club, though the fit-again Danny Welbeck could also feature - with Rio Ferdinand partnering Phil Jones in central defence. Basle won their opening fixture in Group C 2-1 against Romanian side Otelul Galati and Ferguson said United would respect their opponents tonight.

He added: "We played Basle a few years ago and they have always been the premier team in Switzerland.

"Switzerland have started to produce good young players - in fact they got to final of the European Under-21s this year.

"The national team has always been reasonably good and always seemed to represent themselves quite well and of course the Basle team have good experience of being in Europe quite a few times so we will respect that."

Nemanja Vidic is also missing for United - Ferguson hopes he will have recovered from his calf injury by the time the international break is over - while Northern Ireland international Jonny Evans (ankle) and Chris Smalling (groin) are also missing.

Antonio Valencia is likely to again be pressed into service as an emergency right-back with Rafael's injury set to keep him out for the long-term.

Ashley Young is expected to make his Champions League debut tonight, and the England winger admitted it would be the fulfillment of a dream.

Young said: "I'm very excited by it. Coming to a club like Manchester United and playing in these big competitions is any boy's dream.

"I'm really looking forward to being able to say I have played in the Champions League. I have been delighted with the performances I have put in so far but the matches are coming thick and fast and you have to be on your toes and ready every time you pull on the shirt."

Belfast Telegraph


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