It was hardly the most diplomatic retort on the eve of a visit to the Emirates, but Sir Alex Ferguson described Arsenal and Chelsea's ticket prices as "obscene" yesterday, in response to claims by the sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, that Manchester United were pricing out "ordinary fans."
United have increased the cost of season tickets in some sections of Old Trafford by about 13 per cent, this season, while Chelsea and Arsenal have frozen theirs, but Sir Alex provided a withering rebuttal to the minister's comments about prices, in which United seemed to be singled out.
"What I do object to is the sports minister coming out with this stuff about ticket prices and singling out Manchester United," Ferguson said.
"I thought that was unfair and inaccurate because as we all know the prices at Arsenal and Chelsea are absolutely obscene if you want to talk about obscene. They are almost double our prices."
The average season ticket price is actually £1,355 at Arsenal and £900 at Chelsea, while United's most expensive is £836.
Sir Alex, famous for the debate on ticket prices he was drawn into at an airport in Budapest three years ago, suggested Sutcliffe, a Manchester United fan, worked close enough to the London clubs to know their ticket prices.
Sir Alex and his opposite number at Manchester City, Sven Goran Eriksson, both also dismissed suggestions by the minister that footballers were too highly paid. "First of all you have to put things in perspective," Ferguson said. "There are some tennis players and golfers earning enormous amounts of money. Is that wrong?
"Because it's an individual, you'll say he deserves to be paid the best because he's playing in tournaments creating a lot of money and a lot of interest with television and sponsorship.
"I would agree that in some cases there are some of them [footballers] who are paid too much, but I'm sure there are one or two tennis players getting great sponsorship deals who can't win a tournament," he added.
Eriksson was diplomatic, saying: "I think you have to see a footballer like an artist – someone who moves you. Those who play the sport earn big money [for] a short time."
The minister's comments may make his next trip to Old Trafford less than comfortable. Told of his football allegiances, Sir Alex suggested he should go to watch the breakaway club FC United instead. He quipped: "He's a United fan? He'll not be coming back again."Reuse content