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Saturday 16 December 2017

Brave Sir Alex can't join Knights on their quest

IF THERE is one certainty about the Red Knights and what now looks like a serious attempt to take Manchester United away from the Glazer family, it's that Old Trafford fans can rely on Alex Ferguson to look after their interests.

Ferguson went public over the weekend and dismissed any link with the Red Knights group -- which he had to do. He's friendly with a number of the main men in the consortium, but, ultimately, he works for the Glazers.

No matter what happens over the coming weeks and months, Ferguson will be absolutely pivotal and the one man who can do no wrong.

Ferguson can sit back and watch, happy in the knowledge that nobody will be looking for his head throughout the process, no matter which way it pans out.

The Red Knights need Ferguson to back their cause, but he can't and won't do it in public -- nor should he. As a certified legend and part of the furniture, he doesn't need to get involved until he's asking for a cheque to buy players.



Difficulty

Obviously, there is a current financial difficulty and the fact that Ferguson has not been able to spend the cash United received for selling Ronaldo to Real Madrid will weigh heavily on him, I've no doubt about that.

Presumably, a new owner and particularly a group with such clear feelings about Manchester United, and a motivation to make the club bigger and better, would make new funds available as part of a takeover -- a move which would be welcomed by the fans and the long-serving manager.

Perhaps the Glazers will see this coming and do the same. All in all, it's a win-win situation for Ferguson and if they're honest, the fans too.

Part of the Red Knights' mission statement is to return Manchester United, or some part of it, to the fans. I'm not entirely sure how they intend to do this but Barcelona has been mentioned as a model.

In Liverpool, John Aldridge and a few of the lads have been trying to do the same but, again, I'm not sure how this is supposed to work.

There are many fans who believe passionately that Liverpool Football Club is a sacred thing, something which is being abused and diluted by its American ownership.

There are other Liverpool fans who want what's best for the club, but that includes tolerating American owners -- providing they stump up the cash needed to pay for the highest-quality players in the game.

I'm sure it's the same with Manchester United, which has such a huge worldwide fan base, but most fans cannot have the same close connection with the streets around Old Trafford which only locals can have.

I completely understand why supporters' groups are becoming more organised and vocal and want to intervene when they see their club being run badly. Shamrock Rovers is alive today because fans took the initiative and won.

But it's a rare enough thing in football. Look back at the names involved in the foundation of the game in England and they're all still there. Perhaps some changed their names or are owned by different companies but they are essentially the same clubs.

For well over 100 years, clubs had owners and the fans simply paid their money at the turnstiles and supported the players.

Maybe that's about to change. Maybe the fans will become more involved in the running of big clubs, but I doubt it. It's hard enough to run a big organisation such as Liverpool or Manchester United without doing it by committee.

I look at Arsenal and see a club with serious debts, but manageable ones, and that's the way football has always worked.

Arsene Wenger goes into tomorrow's Champions League game against Porto safe in the knowledge that his way is looking more and more like the right way.

Every time we tried to write him off this season, he bounced back and he's now sitting in a really strong position.

He seems to have performed a loaves and fishes act, offloading expensive former stars, letting lads with excessive wage demands leave and promoting from within -- yet still ending up with a competitive squad.

I still don't believe that his squad is strong enough to win the Champions League or the Premier League and I'm sticking with Chelsea as my favourite for both, but Wenger must be given great credit for holding to his beliefs and standing by his young squad.

He is also enjoying an ultra-stable environment behind the scenes at the Emirates Stadium and while Arsenal are still involved in a meaningful way in the most important competitions, the cash registers will continue to hum and the club's financial strength will grow.

It's a slower route to trophies than that favoured at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge but it worked at Anfield once upon a time -- and for Ferguson too.

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