Ferguson hits out at Premier League

Sir Alex Ferguson has hit out at the English Premier League for going public with plans to hold competitive matches overseas before they had fully consulted managers and players.

The Manchester United boss, arguably the most influential voice in the English game, refused to divulge whether he was for or against a plan which could result in United playing an extra match each season in venues as far afield as Bangkok, Beijing or Boston.

But he made it clear he was furious that the initiative, approved in principle by Premier League club chairmen on Thursday, had been made public.

"What disappoints me is that (Man Utd chief executive) David Gill phoned me yesterday and said 'keep this quiet, we are going to discuss it.' Then it is all over the papers this morning. They can't keep their mouths shut down there."

The Scot added: "If they are going to do these things they should have held discussions with managers and players before coming out with all this stuff and making an issue of it.

"What happens is you come to me and players for our comments and that should not be the case. It should be discussed internally by the clubs before we come to the position we are in today. Until I speak to David Gill and see more about it, there is nothing I can say about it."

If they go ahead, the overseas matches will not start until January 2011 and Ferguson light-heartedly suggested that he may have retired by then in any case. "I will not be here by that time I hope," he smiled. "I don't fancy a flight to Bombay or Sumatra or wherever."

Ferguson was, however, pleased by one announcement to emerge from the Premier League on Thursday: the proposal to increase the number of substitutes allowed to sit on the bench to seven from the current five although, as per current regulations, only three will be allowed to be used.

"I'm delighted with that," said Ferguson. "I have been saying for years that it should be 11, really. Most clubs are carrying squads of 22 or 23 players, at least, so it helps us in the sense that you look at us last week and we went down to Tottenham Hotspur leaving fit players sitting in the stands. So, it helps us in that way, though I still think it should be 11."

Ferguson was speaking at the end of an eventful week for the sport in England, which also featured Fabio Capello's first game in charge of the national team, the 2-1 friendly victory over Switzerland at Wembley on Wednesday.

"I watched most of the game," said Ferguson. "And I think in the first half there was a bit of nervousness about the team, which is natural with a new coach there.

"I think the important thing was to get a result and, from what I can gather, they played much better in the second half. That's a good start for Fabio, he won't be disappointed with that."