Fergie tells Platini to leave European Cup alone

January 26, 2007

MANCHESTER, England, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson made clear his opposition on Friday to a plan from new UEFA president Michel Platini to cut the number of Champions League places for the bigger countries.

Platini, who beat incumbent Lennart Johansson in Friday's vote, would like to see the likes of England, Spain and Italy have only three clubs in the money-spinning competition - instead of four.

Signalling his support for the existing format, Ferguson told a news conference: 'It is a fantastic tournament.

'You are playing all the best teams. I don't really think there is really a lot needed to be done to it.'

As from switching from four to three teams, he said: 'The only way they can do that is to reduce the competition or involve other countries having one or two teams in.

'The way it is at the moment, with the top countries getting the top teams in, is a fantastic prospect every year.

'You think you can get one of the Italian or Spanish giants and from their perspective they can get one of the English giants. You are playing all the best teams.'

Ferguson added: 'In fairness, sometimes you can get groups which are not particularly great and therefore it really starts in February. But the way it is at the moment is okay.'

Opposition to any changes are bound to be voiced by English clubs, who are enjoying a good run in the competition. All four entrants - United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal - are through to this season's last 16, which starts next month.

A Premier League spokesman would not be drawn on any opposition from the English top-flight, saying: 'The election of a UEFA president is a matter for UEFA.

'We look forward to continuing to work with them and Mr. Platini on a wide range of issues.'

Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick congratulated Platini, telling the FA's website: 'His election marks an exciting new era for European football and we look forward to working with him over the coming years.'