Ferguson rues agents 'making life difficult' but relishes key win

After a week that saw him succeed in keeping Manchester United's most valuable remaining asset at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson commented that dealing with agents like Wayne Rooney's representative, Paul Stretford, was "making life difficult".

Although he did not name Stretford, the man who negotiated a contract worth £10m a year for his client, it was clear to whom the Manchester United manager was referring in the aftermath of his first away win of the season.

"It is always tough at United," he said. "There are always issues to deal with. When your top players come towards the end of their contracts you have to do something to get them a new one. They are all the same."

And Stretford has proved either particularly awkward or particularly effective, depending on which side of the negotiating table you are seated, although United's two games without Rooney have produced two victories.

If the Champions League win over Bursaspor on Wednesday was expected, this was a far harder proposition.

"Stoke is one of the hardest places to come in the league," Ferguson said. "Both our central defenders will have sore heads tonight. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were fantastic, really fantastic, and Stoke did not make many chances until they got the goal. But, when they scored with less than 10 minutes left, you are concerned. You think to yourself: 'Not again'. But this has been the kind of winner Manchester United have scored over the years – a late goal met with incredible enthusiasm by the fans.

"They never gave in and this is a quality the club has always had. We have some important games between now and Christmas time and we have to make our mark in the league now."

That Hernandez was the man who turned the match was a cause of deep satisfaction for Ferguson, whose chief scout, Jim Lawlor, spent three weeks in Mexico analysing his potential. "He has a great attitude and a wonderful demeanour about life," said Ferguson. "He has beautiful manners."

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