Ferguson on the war path after Leeds debacle
Manchester United boss escapes FA rap but players face the axe as Vidic rocks the boat
It's all go for Sir Alex Ferguson in the New Year. After seeing Manchester United slump to a 1-0 defeat against Leeds at Old Trafford on Sunday – the first time United have exited the FA Cup at the third-round stage since 1984 – Ferguson fired off several broadsides.
He blasted referee Chris Foy for playing a mere five minutes of stoppage time in the second-half, claiming it was an "insult to the game". There were suggestions in some quarters that such overt criticism might incur the wrath of the FA, prompting them to invoke the suspended two-match touchline ban that was handed to Ferguson in October following his derogatory comments about whistle-blower Alan Wiley.
But the FA has announced it will be no taking further action against Ferguson, which leaves him clear to pursue his second target – his underperforming players. According to reports the furious Ferguson will make wholesale changes from the side that lost to Leeds for Wednesday night's Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
Gary Neville, Darron Gibson and Dimitar Berbatov are among seven players said to be facing the chop with Ferguson's assistant, Mike Phelan, admitting: "We will start to think a little bit differently with our selection for Wednesday. I don't think we did ourselves justice against Leeds in certain departments of the field. We had players out there who play for Manchester United and they did not perform as expected of them."
Reports suggest that Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra will be among the players brought in to give United a bit more backbone.
If Ferguson didn't have enough on his plate what with cup ties and possible bans, he's also having to deal with the allegedly demanding Nemanja Vidic. A report in the Times says that the 28-year-old Vidic, who was a late withdrawal from the United side that lost to Leeds, wants a wage increase to more than £100,000 a week and "Ferguson fears that the Serbia centre half is using the stand-off to engineer a move to Real Madrid".
Vidic earns a reported £70,000 a week at present and the Times says he's unable to renegotiate his contract until 2012 but "the player's head has been turned by soundings from Real". Madrid have made a habit of pinching players from under Ferguson's nose in recent years – among them Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy – and the Times says United would demand "at least £25 million". ·
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