Last updated : 29 January 2004 By Editor
‘Sir Alex Ferguson will know who the other two British
managers are with deals like the one he completed yesterday.
The puzzle, however, is why Ferguson, at 62 and in his pomp,
would agree to a one-year rolling contract.

‘In the case of Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle United, it is
clear why a one-year rolling contract makes sense. At 70, it
means he can walk away from the job whenever he likes or the
St James' Park board can get rid of him at the cost of just
a year's salary. In any case, Robson may be esteemed but
even he does not bring the weight of Ferguson's 17 trophies
to the negotiating table.

‘The other manager is Martin O'Neill at Celtic who, like
Robson, has not achieved anything like the success that
Ferguson has. At 51, though, he is still relatively young
and, as a potential future Liverpool or United manager, the
Irishman's rolling contract means that he can leave one day
for the Premiership without forcing his new club to pay
prohibitive compensation for his services.

‘The official line from United is that Ferguson feels that
his one-year rolling contract offers him the chance to stay
competitive, but there cannot be many employees of 17 years,
especially those as successful as him, who would settle for
just one year's severance pay. It might well keep the
football world guessing at his retirement, but even on a
fixed-term contract he could have walked away at any point.

‘A source at Old Trafford said last night: "He understands
the club's decision that they could not afford to be paying
up on three years of a contract if he was to go. It makes
good business sense for the club. Alex has managed them for
the last 17 years and is a wealthy man - this gives
flexibility to both sides."

‘Someone has made it clear to Ferguson that the rolling deal
really is the best he could have hoped for now that he is up
against an adversary in court who owns more than a quarter
of the United plc board. How they persuaded him to accept
that course of events is a story that might only unravel
when the battle with Magnier for the Rock Of Gibraltar's
stud fees finally ends in settlement or Dublin's High Court.

‘Even as recently as September, when Ferguson first revealed
that he was discussing a new contract, the Scot mentioned
the possibility of "two or three years" extended to his
current deal that runs out in June next year. He is
understood to have been offered a four-year deal worth £5
million annually and backdated a year for a total £25
million package by former chief executive Peter Kenyon.’