Sir Alex Ferguson wants to buy an experienced defender, probably a full back, during the January transfer window. He knows it, we know it and now so do the Glazers after the usually reticent Old Trafford boss spoke at length about the latest injury setback suffered by Manchester United club captain Gary Neville.
Ferguson’s comments at Friday’s pre-match press conference weren’t aimed at informing the supporters, or even at the inquiring press, but they will decipher the message coded within — it’s time to look outside the club for help again.
And the media will again unwittingly act as Ferguson’s agents as he cranks up some pressure on his much-maligned superiors to fork out another significant sum from next season’s transfer kitty in pursuit of his dream — a second Champions League title.
Neville is seven months down the line from an ankle ligament injury and still yet to make it back on the first team selection radar — an aborted 56 minutes for the Manchester United reserves against Stockport aside — he has not been involved in any competitive football.
The void has been filled amply by a resurgent Wes Brown, but with cover needed elsewhere across the back four and a couple of interesting names likely to be available next month — Ferguson has decided it is time to make the kind of waves that will lap at the Glazer’s Florida beachfront home.
Meanwhile, France right-back Willy Sagnol, at 30 a veteran of Bayern Munich’s 2001 champion side, is creating a storm of his own in Bayern Munich in an obvious play to get back into a top club capable of lifting the European Cup.
Actually, he just wants a game, but has been at loggerheads with Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld over his form, fitness and functionality in the Bundesliga table-toppers and Uefa Cup favourites.
Now Manchester United are sniffing, as they did last season when cordial relations between the two European heavyweights were strained as far as ever in the bitter wrangle over Owen Hargreaves, which has failed to heal properly in some quarters.
But not at managerial level where Ferguson and the wily German coach enjoy a close professional relationship which dates back to 1997 when Hitzfeld’s Borussia Dortmund survived a Champions League semi-final second leg blitz to reach and ultimately win European club football’s biggest showpiece final.
There can be no doubt that Sir Alex has spoken to the Bayern coach about the Sagnol situation and weighed up the pros and cons of forcing another unwelcome bid on Bayern Munich.
This season, however, the two giants are not destined to meet at any point in Europe, which makes such informal transfer talks easier for Bayern to stomach. They could even portray Sagnol’s exit as the disposal of a has-bean, impossible to spin in Hargreaves’ departure which left the Germans feeling inferior to the Manchester United millionaire’s club.
So, Ferguson makes the first move, the press will pick up the scent and keep it on the agenda until the money men get down to brass tacks and ponder a transfer plunge. Bayern sit and wait while Sagnol must knuckle down if he is to avoid being sacrificed on the altar of Bavarian pride and made to rot in the reserves. It’s early days yet in another Old Trafford transfer saga.