Ferguson's fine for party-goer Barthez

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The Independent Football

Fabien Barthez has been fined £40,000 – a week's wages – for angering his Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, by being spotted at a London night-club.

The French goalkeeper fell foul of his manager after staying up until 3am last Thursday before dashing back to training overnight. Ferguson was upset by the publicity and Barthez's behaviour.

Officially, Barthez did not break the club rule, which forbids players staying out 48 hours before a game, but Ferguson is particularly furious because he has been lenient with Barthez all season, letting him go home to France on several occasions. The United manager has also fined Dwight Yorke in the past for similar behaviour.

However, Ferguson stopped short of the maximum two-week penalty allowed, because Barthez's case was a grey area. Barthez was back in United's goal against Sunderland on Saturday and will not have harmed his long-term prospects. But Ferguson's actions can be seen as a statement that his reign will be as strict as it ever was.

Indeed, negotiations continued yesterday on the deal that will keep Ferguson as United manager. Yesterday he revealed his change of heart was a consequence of discussions with his family over Christmas.

"It was really [his wife] Cathy's idea," Ferguson said. "If she hadn't come up with it and the boys [his three sons] hadn't given full support, I would not have considered a change of mind. But I do have to confess that maybe it was an idea I was hoping deep down she would come up with."

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