Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fergie hasn't heard of Karl

Source: Red Issue message board (requires registration)

ok, we have asked five hacks who were there today for their on-the-record views - including the guy who asked the FCUM question - and this is the summary.

the hacks had been asking fergie for his views on various non-MUFC teams/issues, including Spurs, Chelsea etc etc.

"last question" was called and Stuart Mathieson of the M.E.N., who was sat near the front, piped up. Now he had been *instructed* by his superiors at MEN Sport to ask about the main story of their morning edition, which had been FCUM's promotion.

that story, mainly via the pic of the team celebrating, filled half of the back page. it was the first time since the start of the season that FCUM had been deemed worthy of a 'lead story'.

Mathieson, who is not a boat-rocker or trouble-maker and who, as a City fan, has no especial affinity for FCUM, did not ask the Q in order to get Fergie going or to cause aggro: his superiors wanted the Q put.

Mathieson, in light of the last few minutes' of people asking for the boss's views on how other teams were doing, asked Fergie for his views on "Karl Marginson leading FC United to promotion."

all 5 witnesses agree that Fergie said *something like* 'who? who?' OR 'who's that? who?'

all agree that the word 'who?' was in the response: witnesses vary on what that meant [see below]

after the question was repeated, all 5 agree that Fergie visibly angered, went bright red and replied sharply "you must be joking" and then left the room hastily.

now then: two hacks described his departure as 'storming off' and 3 said he just exited as fast as possible. All 5 do agree, however, that he was clearly very angry and that Mathieson had obviously pissed him off by asking the question. but it was the end of the press gig so although he was pissed off, it wasn't like he actually cut it short or owt. it might have looked like he was 'storming out' cos he was pretty annoyed and bright red but he would say he was on his way out in any event.

as for what he said, you will have to make your own interpretation as to what he meant by either of his replies. the latter reply could just be seen as simply a statement of his view that he shouldn't be expected to comment at all. some might argue that since he was commenting about other teams for the previous 5 minutes, it wouldn't be out of order for him to be asked by the local media rep about the local media's main story of the day. obviously that's what the MEN must have felt. others will say it was too provocative, given the obvious political sensibilities.

of the 5 hacks questioned, three - *including Stuart Mathieson* - felt that Fergie was partly thrown by the FCUM question and Karl's name and was either playing for time or asking for the question to be put in more clarified form. Two, however, felt it was more a 'who's he? who are they?' response, an affectation to pretend he didn't know to whom the questioner was referring. all agree, however, that 'hairdryer red' was Fergie's facial setting when he was asked it a second time.

as soon as Fergie 'stormed out'/exited sharply, a Man Utd official went straight over to Mathieson and made a remark about the MEN apparently becoming the official FCUM newspaper - presumably a reference to the back page that morning.
A couple of sources told us that the OT Marketing & Commercial Department suits had been "fuming" to them all morning about the press coverage of FCUM today and it might appear to some that a collective mindset had set in at OT over the coverage. The official then rather alarmingly said - and these quotes have *not* been supplied by Stuart Mathieson but by another journalist in the best position to know:

MUFC: "Has the M.E.N. got a press pass for FCUM games, then?"

MEN: "Yes, just as we have for Bury, Rochdale, Macc Town and all the other teams at that level who have enough fans to justify coverage in their local paper."

MUFC: "Well, maybe you won't be needing two M.E.N. passes for Old Trafford next season, then."

Another M.E.N. reporter told us: "That sounds like a threat to me. I just hope the management here have the balls to call their bluff."

A Sunday newspaper journalist who witnessed the exchange commented: "It's a disgrace. United seem to be threatening to blackmail the M.E.N. into choking off their coverage of FCUM or else. I can't believe they are even getting involved with this - they are ten divisions above them, aren't they?"

Marginson and FC United refused even to comment when hacks called about this and RI's understanding is that they have no wish to cause any argy-bargy over this.

Two mildly comic post-scripts. If there's one thing for sure, no matter how you interpret Fergie's comments, he knows who Karl M is: it was Fergie who personally sent scouts to watch the young Marginson play for Ashton in 1989 when he was an upcoming player. And on the forecourt today, as the hacks left, were a Korean TV crew who United's press office have been helping film a primetime special on Park and the Club. One asked where they'd been filming last night: "ah, we went to FC United - it was fun, lots of footage!" Oh dear...