By Nick Harris
SJA Internet Sports Writer of the Year
25 April 2011
Sir Alex Ferguson has reiterated that Manchester United can compete with the biggest-spending teams in the word, and while he said United are as ‘sensible’ as possible with transfer fees and wages he added: “When we go for a player, we generally get him.”
In an interview today on American radio – where sportingintelligence’s Global Salaries Survey 2011 (GSSS) was one topic of discussion for the United manager, Ferguson revealed:
- The best paid player at United when he took over as manager in 1986 earned £115,000 per year, and that he never envisaged weekly pay packets at United of $100,000 or more, as is the case now..
- He believes Arsenal’s title challenge is effectively over, with Chelsea the only side left with a chance of catching United.
- He would like a winter break introduced in English football, for two weeks in early January each year, to let players recover physically, and “freshen everyone up mentally”.
- He acknowledges some of United’s away form has “not been convincing at times” this season, but that “absolutely superb” home form and the determination of his players has been key to moving to the brink of the title..
Ferguson is in Germany ahead of United’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Schalke on Tuesday, and was speaking live via a phone interview with Giorgio Chinaglia and Charlie Stillitano, hosts of The Football Show on SiriusXM. Ferguson is a regular guest on the show. (And I was also invited on today’s show to discuss the GSSS 2011).
The report reveals, among other things, that Barcelona and Real Madrid have overtaken the New York Yankees at the best paid teams in global sport, by average first-team salary, and that the NBA has the highest average pay levels overall.
Manchester United’s first-team players earned an average of £61,373 each per week ($98,000) in 2009-10, according to the GSSS, putting them in No16 place (of 272 teams in 14 leagues considered) behind Barca, Real, the Yankees, the NBA’s LA Lakers and 11 other teams in various sports.
Asked if he would ever have imagined the average weekly salary at United reaching $98,000 per week, Ferguson said: “It would have been hard to imagine that. If you go back to when I started [at United], the highest salary at United in 1986 was around £115,000 a year, and you see how it’s rocketed into the figures that you’re talking about for Real Madrid players and Barcelona players.
“I don’t know how it [wage inflation] can stop. When people are demanding success the way they do today, you’ve got a lot of wealthy owners in the game. Television is pouring a lot of money in. I just don’t know how it’s going to stop.”
On United’s spending, he said: “David Gill and myself, we try to be as sensible as we can. Also we have to be competitive. And I think we are competitive in the modern-day terms and we can be proud of that. We still retain all the top players. When we go for a player, we generally get him. I think we can be pleased with that part.”
Chinaglia then asked Ferguson about the title race, saying: “Arsenal is out of it now. The only threat now is Chelsea. Do you agree with me?”
Ferguson replied: “If you go back a few weeks ago when I was speaking on your programme, I did say they [Chelsea] were the big threat. I maintained they would be the threat at the end of the day. And I’m not far wrong!”
Ferguson said he was happy with the season so far and United’s current position. “I’m happy we’ve got the experience and staff to cope with the pressure.” he said. “There’s a thing that’s been going around that we haven’t played that well this season. And I could say I agree with that in part in that some of our away form has not been convincing at times.
“But our home form has been absolutely superb. We’ve only dropped two points at home, and we’ve two home games left. Our home record has really got us where we are just now.”
United have won 16 of their 17 Premier League games at Old Trafford so far, drawing the other, for 49 points from a possible 51. Chelsea have 41 points from 17 games at home, Liverpool have 37 from 17, Bolton 35 from 17 and Arsenal 34 from 17.
Ferguson added that United’s away form has hardly been poor. United have won 24 points from 17 away games, bettered so far this season only by Chelsea (26 points away) and Arsenal (30 away points).
He also described the “massive challenge” of working with fundamentally the same group of core players for several years.
“When you have the same team for four years, it’s a massive challenge in the fourth year. Last year was our fourth year [with the same core players] and we failed by a point to Chelsea. This year we’ve had to think how to resurrect our position again. And in fairness the lads have shown a fantastic determination and it’s that determination and will on Saturday, for instance, that got us through.”
Chinaglia raised the subject of a winter break, saying: “I think the Premiership should think about having two weeks from 1 January to 15 January. What do you think about that idea?”
Ferguson replied: “I totally agree with you. I’ve been saying this for years. I’ve been saying it since I came down to England. Not just necessarily for the players, to give them a rest, it’s to get rid of all the small injuries they carry. It’s to freshen everyone up mentally, even my staff, they can do with that break in January.
“Somehow they [the powers that be] just will not listen to all the people in the game, the people who really matter: supporters, players, staff, coaches. They just don’t listen. And I think therefore you’ve got to think that maybe TV gets maybe just too much power.”