In Part 1 of 4 previewing the Champions League final, Soccer 365’s football journalist Jerrad Peters answers the question on everyone’s mind; how will the recently exposed affair rumors surrounding Ryan Giggs play on Sir Alex Ferguson’s mind?
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by Jerrad Peters Sir Alex Ferguson was brusque when asked about a certain player at his Tuesday press conference. The Manchester United manager, answering questions ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley, refused to speak directly about the player in question—a player who, as everyone knew but couldn’t name publicly before Monday, had engaged in an extramarital affair with former Big Brother starlet Imogen Thomas. That player,Austin Collie Jersey, whose face was splashed all over the front pages on Tuesday, was, of course, Ryan Giggs, and the questioner—AP reporter Rob Harris—asked Ferguson how important the Welshman was to his Saturday plans. No doubt it was a question on the minds of many, and Ferguson’s reaction revealed just how seriously he is taking the situation. In footage later released by Sky News, Ferguson can be heard whispering to his media officer about Harris, instructing her to ban him from the Friday press conference in London,Justin Tuck Jersey. Now, while the manager has always had something of a testy relationship with the media, this was extreme, even for him. And while he may not succeed in getting Harris banned, his reaction is enough of an indicator that he has been thrust into a very delicate situation. The media circus around Giggs and the club as a whole—not to mention the legal distractions sure to occupy the player during the week—will undoubtedly be a major, and potentially crippling, disruption to Ferguson’s preparations. It was already going do be a tough enough task, beating Barcelona. But now there is a very fundamental question about team selection, and it’s a problem Ferguson never thought would be hanging over his head this close to Saturday. Does Ryan Giggs start the Champions League final? As of Sunday, the answer was unequivocally “yes.” Sure, Giggs’ name was already at the fingertips of the 75,000 Twitter users he was attempting to sue for violating his privacy injunction. But allegations in the social media realm are one thing; seeing yourself—or your husband, in Stacey Cooke’s case—in the papers and on the newscasts is another altogether,Rashard Mendenhall Steelers Jersey. Now, instead of riding out the storm long enough to patch things over with his wife, Giggs will find himself battling on several fronts. With one hand he’ll be trying to uphold his gag order in the High Court; with the other he’ll be attempting to keep the press at bay. All the while he’ll be fighting to save his marriage. He reportedly confessed to his wife more than a fortnight ago, and when she accompanied him to the United awards gala last Thursday, the pair behaved as if nothing was awry. Maybe it was appearances, but maybe they had actually begun the process of forgiveness and reconciliation. Needless to say, it will be a much more difficult process now that everything has come out. It’s a lot to think about, this mess Giggs has created for himself. And it will, without question, consume much of his attention and energy over the next few weeks and months. Ferguson will be mindful of all this, and he’ll no doubt take it into consideration when he mulls over his starting lineup throughout the week. What he’ll be weighing is Giggs’ maximum usefulness, given the circumstances, against the fitness of Darren Fletcher, the reliability of Nani and the pace of Paul Scholes. Fletcher, who has struggled with illness for nearly three months,Chad Clifton Jersey, made his first starting appearance since March against Blackpool on Sunday and looked nothing like his old, tenacious self. Nani, who has been relegated to bench duty since the returns of Park Ji Sung and Antonio Valencia, is an option on the left flank, although the move would require Park to slot into the middle, where he is less effective. And Scholes, despite his passing ability, would surely find himself trailing the play much of the night, which for him implies a sending off. But is Giggs a better option than any of these three? Can a player, even of Giggs’ talent and pedigree, be constructive to a squad? Can he prepare properly, given the mental and emotional duress he’ll obviously be dealing with in the run-up to the match,James Harrison Steelers Jersey? All of these questions will be playing in Ferguson’s mind between now and Saturday. If he were certain he’d have the player who ran the show against Chelsea and Schalke, there wouldn’t be a doubt in his mind,Will Clark Jersey. But there is no such certainty, no reason for confidence. There are only questions, only anxieties. From here, it’s up to Ferguson. He’ll decide Giggs’ fate. That’s what happens in matters of deceit and dishonesty. You lose control. Jerrad Peters is a soccer columnist and the author of We Call it Soccer: Understanding the World’s Most Popular Sport