Fergie slams Sutcliffe after attack on ticket prices
Sir Alex Ferguson has hit back at Gerry Sutcliffe's controversial outburst over Manchester United's season-ticket prices - and jokingly suggested the Red Devils-supporting sports minister might be better off going to watch rebel club FC United.
At a sports summit in London yesterday, Sutcliffe condemned United for ticket price rises of 13% this season, and also the widely-criticised `automatic cup scheme' which forces season-ticket holders to buy tickets for cup games whether they want to attend or not.
Sutcliffe also branded the reported £130,000-a-week pay packet of Chelsea skipper 'obscene', although it was the Bradford South MPs comments about United which drew Ferguson's ire.
'It is unfair and inaccurate,' said the Scot. 'If you want to talk about obscene, he should look at the prices they charge at Chelsea and Arsenal.
'He works in London, I am sure he knows where Chelsea and Arsenal play, so he must know about their ticket prices. They are almost double ours, so I do not understand why he is picking on Manchester United.'
When it was pointed out Sutcliffe was a United fan and might have been using the Old Trafford club as an example because he had already singled out Chelsea and Terry, Ferguson laughed: 'He is a United fan is he?
'He will not be coming back again. He can go and watch that mob United FC.'
Ferguson's comment might have been slightly tongue in cheek but, delivered in front on the full glare of the TV cameras, it could hardly be avoided.
The United manager famously got drawn into a debate on United's ticket prices - and Malcolm Glazer's controversial takeover - with irate fans and sympathisers of FC United, the club set up by those disenchanted with events at Old Trafford, at Budapest airport three years ago.
In that instance, his reported `go and watch Chelsea' jibe was a misrepresentation of a comment advising his accusers to see how much it cost to watch at top-flight game at Stamford Bridge.
This time, Ferguson was prodded into a response by a government minister who has since tried to reign back the bluntness of his comments.
However, even on the subject of player wages, Ferguson was not entirely happy.
'You have to put these things into perspective,' he said. 'There are some tennis players and golfers earning enormous amounts of money. Is that wrong?
'People tend to think that because they are individuals they deserve it. But football is the national game. Without question, it is the biggest sport in the world.
'It is very easy to say footballers get paid too much. In some cases, I would not argue with that.
'However, there are also some tennis players who get great sponsorship deals but never win a tournament.'