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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 05:06 GMT
The back pages
HEADLINES
Daily Mirror: Fergie's signing his own death warrant: it's war if United OK new contract
Daily Mail: United chiefs will fight for Fergie deal
Daily Express: Power Play: Magnier turns up heat on Ferguson and United board
Daily Star: Cobblers to you: Fergie aces spark fight
The Guardian: Will world's biggest club founder on the Rock of Gibraltar?
The Daily Telegraph: United seek go-between to end internal fighting
The Independent: Feud casts shadow over Ferguson's future
The Times: Old Trafford unite behind Ferguson
The Sun: Rocked: Fergie faces push as rival plans a crisis summit at Old Trafford
Financial Times: Man Utd tycoons threaten showdown in row over transfers and Ferguson deal

Monday's newspapers are united in the belief that Sir Alex Ferguson's position at Manchester United is under threat as his legal battle with John Magnier escalates.

Ferguson's decision to take Magnier - a 25.49% shareholder in the club - to court over the stud rights to a racehorse could be one conflict too many, according to the Daily Mirror.

It says Ferguson is effectively "signing his own death warrant" if he continues his contract negotiations in defiance of Magnier's calls for them to be suspended while allegations of shady transfer dealings are investigated.

And there seems to be a certain element of schadenfreude in some of its coverage of Ferguson's troubles.

"Ferguson has got away with [bullying] because he has picked on soft targets like players and journalists...," it says. "This time Ferguson has picked the wrong enemy..."

The Independent, meanwhile, describes the conflict between Ferguson and Magnier as "a bloody, bare-knuckle brawl which threatens the future of the most successful manager in British football."

And The Sun is no less dramatic in its assessment, viewing the situation as United's "biggest crisis since the collapse of the club following the retirement of Matt Busby back in 1971."

But Ferguson is not without his supporters at Old Trafford, according to the Daily Mail.

It reports United chairman Sir Roy Gardner and chief executive David Gill are prepared to risk their own futures at the club by backing Ferguson's hopes for a two-year deal.

The paper envisages a scenario where McManus and Magnier call an EGM and put forward a vote of no confidence in the plc board and Ferguson.

The Times agrees, expecting Ferguson to sign a new deal this week.

But it warns that "the war may only be just beginning."

The Daily Telegraph believes Old Trafford officials are attempting to set up behind-the-scenes talks with Magnier and McManus, with a third-party mediator.

Bizarrely, it suggests Tony Blair's former press secretary Alistair Campbell as one potential middle man.

The Guardian ruminates on the "end-of-empire feeling" of the crisis at Old Trafford, suggesting that "Ferguson's instinct for a fight [has taken] him into the biggest battle of his career."




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The gossip column
26 Jan 04  |  Football



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