Farmers can teach Ferguson a lesson

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It may lead the way when it comes to money, but what is considered progressive in football is often old hat in other professions. Take "rotation" for example. Before modern fertilisers stank the place out, farmers had been using it for hundreds of years to stop their soil from degrading.

Typically, a field with an arable crop (say wheat) would for one year have a leguminous one (peas or alfalfa) the next, followed by a fallow period to allow nitrate levels, the soil's energy, to recover. Sir Alex Ferguson is using the same principle with his multi-million pound players at Manchester United, but without the same success.

Last Saturday, only three of the side that started against Deportivo La Coruña a few days earlier played against Bolton, a team currently out-punching their weight in the Premiership. The result was a confused, ragged performance by United, which resulted in another home defeat.

As many an old farmer will tell you, the secret to rotation is patience, something Fergie, desperate to win another European title in his last season as manager, doesn't appear to have. Just as plants need time to take root, footballers need more than the odd game in a month to bed in.

Fatigue may have cost United European glory in the past, but freshness is proving to be as deadly as potato blight. Any more slip-ups and the tabloids will be seeing which of their veg-heads best fits Fergie's increasingly apoplectic expression.