Prior to Manchester United’s 2-1 home defeat of Wolfsburg F.C. in the Champions League earlier today, paying customers at Old Trafford were greeted with programme notes from United manager Alex Ferguson (above), reassuring them they’d made a prudent investment. Portions of those notes were quoted and placed in proper context by the Guardian’s Fiver duo of Barry Glendenning and Rob Smythe, who helpfully characterize Fergie as “a traditionalist who has been in love with Europe’s premier club competition ever since he sneaked into Hampden for Real Madrid’s 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960.”

“I do not agree the preliminaries are meaningless and simply a money-making exercise,” he said, as a group of hired heavies lifted his new 98-inch plasma on to the wall brackets in the Dave and Paramount Comedy Channel room of his humble 302-up, 302-down abode. “The group system is a league. All sports competitions have a starting point that includes the minnows, from the FA Cup to Wimbledon in tennis, or the Open in golf.

“You can’t start with the FA Cup final, or Wimbledon final and cut out the competitive build-up. When you put it like that, it is nonsense of course. But that has not prevented a spate of recent criticism and accusations of the game exploiting the fans,” he continued, pouring a bottle of Cristal down the sink because one of his team of butlers had served it at 3.141 degrees centigrade rather than the requested 3.142. None of Ferg’s comments, of course, explain why – if it’s not about money – the competitive build-up could not be the early rounds of an unseeded knockout.