'Ridiculous' television scheduling could cost us the title, fears Ferguson
Manchester City's free European weeks prompt United manager to launch pre-emptive strike
Sir Alex Ferguson fears that Manchester United's challenge to wrest the Premier League title back from Manchester City in the second half of the season could be undermined by "ridiculous" television scheduling.
Having already acknowledged that City will benefit by having clear weeks instead of European games, he wants the TV companies to avoid scheduling United games for Saturday lunchtime kick-offs after an away game in Europe.
Assuming United progress past the first knockout stage of the Champions' League, they then immediately face weekend fixtures against City, Arsenal and Chelsea as well as a potential FA Cup semi-final. In one of the pre-emptive strikes of which he has become a master, United's manager said: "If you go back to the year we lost to Chelsea, we played away in Europe in midweek and then played a lunchtime game against Chelsea on the Saturday and they battered us. It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. The biggest disadvantage will be television, because the demand for United will never weaken, and if they get us playing lunchtime on a Saturday after European games it's ridiculous. We tried to stop that but they control it, absolutely control it."
Sky Sports and the Premier League declined to comment but are understood to dispute the notion that clubs have no say in scheduling. They say the process is that TV companies make their selection of dates and kick-off times, which are then passed to the clubs, who can argue against them if they feel strongly enough. There are often other considerations, such as the police wanting high-profile fixtures to be at lunchtime rather than later in the day. Sunday afternoons, which are Sky's favoured slot, are also impossible if one of the teams are playing in the Champions' League the following Tuesday.
Today's Manchester derby will be on Sky with a 1.30pm kick-off as City aim to cut United's three-point lead over them at the top of the table.
Yesterday, third-placed Chelsea, seeking a first League win under Rafa Benitez before heading to Japan for the Club World Cup, beat Sunderland 3-1 at the Stadium of Light.
Latest in Sport
Manchester United's best XI of the season so far: No place for Angel Di Maria or Juan Mata
Which player sells the most shirts in the Premier League?
WrestleMania 31 results: Seth Rollins stuns WWE as he cashes in Money in the Bank contract to claim title from Brock Lesnar
Chelsea's best XI of the season so far: Petr Cech has been better than Thibaut Courtois
Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Arsenal's Mesut Ozil and Manchester City's Jesus Navas are the three best attacking midfielders in Europe in 2015
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 4 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 5 A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans