ALEX FERGUSON is on a one-man crusade to stop soccer descending into anarchy.
The Manchester United boss believes he is fighting for every club in the Premier League — and throughout the soccer world — by refusing to let Real Madrid take Cristiano Ronaldo.
Fergie will be horrified that FIFA chief Sepp Blatter reckons Ronaldo should be allowed to leave when he chooses and has claimed keeping him at Old Trafford is akin to slavery.
For Fergie, it is not a question of money — however many noughts the Spanish giants throw at United.
Instead, it has become a point of principle — and a scrap he does not intend losing.
The battle-hardened Scot believes that allowing players to cut and run as soon as they want a change would open the floodgates to footballing anarchy.
Only yesterday Frank Lampard, aged 30 and approaching the twilight days of his career, rejected a four-year deal worth Â£140,000 a week at Chelsea.
Team-mate Didier Drogba has spent all summer insisting he wants out, while Emmanuel Adebayor is adamant he will quit Arsenal and also head for Italy.
Chelsea chief exec Peter Kenyon is hardly flavour of the month at Old Trafford, after leaving them for the West London glamour boys.
But he and Fergie have become the unlikeliest of allies with matching views about holding players to contracts.
Kenyon has even claimed Chelsea will keep Lamps for another season and let him leave on a free in 12 months, rather than bowing to his demands now.
It is the same story as far as Ferguson is concerned over Ronaldo — and no amount of money will change that.
Ferguson is convinced he will not yield and an Old Trafford insider revealed: “It has become a point of principle, not money.
“As far as the club are concerned the size of any offer from Real Madrid is totally irrelevant.
"It isn’t a question of seeing how much United can get for Cristiano, it is more a case of the repercussions if he was sold.
“There is a genuine fear of where would it all stop if a player is allowed to go as soon as he decides he wants away.”
Yet Fergie’s views do not exactly win him unanimous support from across the footballing world.
FIFA chief Blatter believes holding players to their contract is modern-day slavery.
Fergie, on the other hand, is well aware of the knock-on effect. He reckons bowing to player power is merely laying down the red carpet to any disgruntled star demanding a move as soon as the going gets tough.
And if Blatter got his way — with players allowed to leave on a whim — what would happen when the boot is on the other foot?
Would they allow clubs to cancel contracts if they felt a player wasn’t coming up to scratch?
Clearly not — and Ferguson has suddenly become the torch bearer for every club, from top to bottom.
His stance is that Ronaldo is under contract at Old Trafford and if his employers say he is staying put then that is exactly what he will do.
Cynics may point to the fact that Real have twice before raided United for top names — Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Beckham.
The difference then, though, is that they left with Fergie’s blessing. They left as men who, in the Scot’s eyes, had served their purpose of taking United to a new level.
With Ronaldo the story is totally different — as he is at the peak of his powers, rather than already heading down the other side of the hill.
Fergie is not accustomed to coming off second-best. This time, though, victory could see him held up as custodian of all that is good in the game and defender of the faith.
PAUL PARKER has labelled Blatter ‘disgraceful’ for saying Ronaldo should be allowed to walk out on United.
And the former England defender reckons it is time for the FIFA president to stand down and make way for a younger man with a football background.
Blatter reckons Ron should be able to quit United, even though the player has four years left of his contract to run.
Parker said: “What Blatter is saying is players can join a new club every year, whatever their contract situation.
“That is a disgraceful statement for the president of FIFA to make.
“Players already have so much freedom and power. Why should they be allowed to walk out on a five-year deal after just 12 months? It isn’t right.
“His ridiculous idea could ruin the game. How are clubs supposed to budget if their players could walk out at any time?
“I reckon they would have to put up ticket prices to allow for this and that could drive fans away.
“But it isn’t the first time Blatter has come out with some daft statement.
“His comments show he really hasn’t got any idea about football.
“It’s time FIFA followed UEFA’S lead and appointed a visionary from a football background.”