The Football Association and Manchester United joined forces last night to rebut renewed claims that Sven Goran Eriksson was ready to walk out on England after the World Cup to join the champions. The FA referred to it as "a non-story", a United spokesman rather more bluntly as "rubbish". The allegations are made in a new book by the investigative journalist Michael Crick, The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson, in which it is asserted that the England coach was "within hours" of signing for United in February before Ferguson made his dramatic decision to abort plans to retire and stay on.
The spectre of Eriksson effectively giving notice only a year into a five-year contract was raised at the time, and rebutted by the FA, although many of us find it difficult to accept he will remain until the end of his term. Had Ferguson not backtracked on his original decision, it cannot have been inconceivable that Eriksson - who is said to crave a return to club management and is frustrated by the restrictions of coaching the national team - would have succeeded him.
The accusations, supported by what are only described as "highly ranked sources from United and the FA" suggest that Ferguson had considered a U-turn some time before he actually made it public. Unaware of this, the club were only "a day or two" from announcing his replacement, after which there would have been no going back for the United manager.
It was only a week ago that revelations about Eriksson's liaison with Ulrika Jonsson became front-page material and, whatever their veracity, these latest claims will be viewed as yet another unwelcome diversion for the …