Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday suggested that reports of problems over the negotiation of his new contract were the result of "mischief-making" in Ireland. Although he did not name names, it is well know that the United manager is currently in dispute with the Irish racehorse magnate, John Magnier.
The Old Trafford club's manager has spent the last two and a half months discussing an extended deal that would see him in control of first-team affairs until the summer of 2007 when he will be 65. However, reports yesterday suggested some directors and shareholders were putting pressure on the board to offer only a one-year rolling contract to replace his existing agreement, which expires in 18 months' time.
Magnier, United's biggest shareholder, is being sued by the United manager for a share of the stud rights in the group one racehorse, Rock of Gibraltar, which they jointly own.
"I spoke to David Gill [United's chief executive] this morning," Ferguson said. "There is a suggestion it came from Ireland. At the end of the day, there is no split on the board. To be honest, I think it is a bit of mischief-making. Look, it's not as if I'm begging anyone for a deal. It is a mutual thing. The board wants it done."
However, both parties acknowledge that there are benefits in a rolling contract because neither side wants a repetition of the lacklustre displays United encountered in the 2001-02 season when the date of Ferguson's departure had been announced.
"The club is very conscious of the problems that arose when I announced the date I was quitting," Ferguson said. "We have not decided exactly how we are going to construct the contract. It isn't an important issue but we are tossing around which is the best way to do this. There are some merits in rolling contracts and some in fixed ones."