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Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 16:58 GMT
Ferguson attacks academy system
Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson says the United academy cost 4m
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has attacked the Football Association's academy system, claiming it is "falling apart".

Some club managers have been accused of harming the national side by not fielding enough homegrown players.

But Ferguson said: "The problem is the system. Something must be done because it is in danger of falling apart.

"There are countless flaws. Some are not even being run properly now because clubs are just not able to afford it."

Ferguson says the "travelling time rule", which restricts clubs to taking in players who live within an hour or 90 minutes drive of their academy centre depending on their age, is one of the problems.

"It costs us around 4m to run our academy yet because there is a restriction in travel Manchester United and particularly Arsenal have to look worldwide in order to get the best young players into the club.

The recommendation of having four or five British-produced players in your team is a sensible one

Sir Alex Ferguson

"When the academies were set up, Howard Wilkinson said England would win the World Cup within 10 years. Well, they have been going eight now and I can't see it."

Ferguson insisted that a lack of talent in England was not the problem.

"You can find talent," he said.

"There are very few natural footballers in the world. Most are produced by practice and you can see that in what the Brazilians do, or lads like Cristiano Ronaldo, who continues to practise long after training has finished.

"We have to pay more attention to the issue of homegrown players.

"There have been a number of theories flying about but the recommendation of having four or five British-produced players in your team is a sensible one."

Uefa has already implemented a rule which will see clubs include a minimum number of eight homegrown players in their squads by the 2008-09 campaign.

606 DEBATE: Do you agree with Ferguson's views?

Meanwhile, Ferguson has also revealed that United have banned an agent from their training complex for 'tapping up' young academy prospects.

Responding to comments by captain Gary Neville that players do not need agents, Ferguson said: "There are good and bad agents.

"We had a situation just recently of an agent coming to our academy and tapping up young players of 11, 12.

"We barred him, so he started to wait outside stopping the parents' cars."

Ferguson agreed with Neville that agents are taking too much money out of the game, but the United boss still sees a role for them.

"Providing agents are professional and responsible, there is nothing wrong with players going to them for advice," said Ferguson.

"The thing that should be investigated is the payments that are made.

"It is obvious they are taking a lot of money out of football, so much so that they are now able to 'buy' players.

"That is a really dangerous area to go into, because then the agents can control the markets.

"But if they are paid the same rates as lawyers and accountants and have a responsible attitude towards the industry, there is nothing wrong with that."

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