Sir Alex Ferguson launched British football's strongest attack yesterday on the French clubs who have accused the Premier League of "trafficking" young players, insisting that the accusation was "aimed at us by some frustrated director at a French club" and that "he is now going to have to retract".
The director in question is Le Havre's Jean-Pierre Louvel, who has led claims that Paul Pogba – the midfielder who has cast United into the same controversy which Gaël Kakuta has caused Chelsea – was unfairly procured. United's chief executive, David Gill, could not have been clearer in his response to claims that United offered illegal inducements both to the player and his parents – the Ligue 2 side have been warned they face court proceedings if they repeat that suggestion. But Ferguson said that notion was impossible for professionals like himself.
"There has never ever been a case of paying parents," Ferguson said. "It would be crazy to even contemplate that – because it would be the biggest headache you could ever have."
Ferguson clearly believes that United have been dragged into the controversy because of a general desire to do them down. "They are always going to bring Manchester United into it because we are the biggest club – but they do it without any foundation or knowledge about the situation whatsoever. And, of course, there's been a lot of jumping on the bandwagon."
It is the Pogba case rather than that of the former 16-year-old Italian defender Michele Fornasier which poses a potential difficulty for United, since French clubs tie their youngsters to pre-contractual agreements before the age of 16 and Italian clubs do not. But Ferguson's view reflects that of Arsène Wenger in that he believes talented young players will always want to leave smaller clubs for one like United. "You can't stop a boy, once he has left school, moving from his country. So, that's not an issue. You can't take a boy from Brazil until he's 18, unless he has a European passport.
"We have always been good at producing youth. We are good at it and, obviously, it rankles with a lot of people. But we can only do our job.
"You have to ask what would a boy's best chance of being to get to the top. Would it be at Torquay, or somewhere like that, or at big clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea. Who has produced more players for their countries than Manchester United?"
It has long been Ferguson's belief that the Academy system which prevents a club signing a young player who does not live within 30 miles of a club is fundamentally wrong, allowing United to bring a player from overseas but not from the other end of the M6. "We can't scout a boy on the south coast of England or the North East or anywhere in the east of England," he said yesterday. "Yet you can bring a boy from Brazil. It seems ludicrous. We have said from the day the system started there is no doubt there is a weakness in that respect."
Ferguson, who is likely to be missing Rio Ferdinand for tomorrow's visit to Tottenham Hotspur despite the player's belief he would be ready for the Premier League match, did not engage on the wider debate about whether Uefa's Michel Platini or Fifa's Sepp Blatter may actually be attacking the monied British clubs. "I don't know, I can't answer that," he said. And he said he had no view on Platini's proposals for an international ban on the transfer of players under 18, which would have prevented United signing the promising Da Silva twins.Reuse content