Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Alastair Campbell to help out Fergie"

With Alastair Campbell pathetically trying to claim that the Hutton inquiry exonerated him, his alleged pal Sir Alex Ferguson is embroiled in his own scandal.

When Manchester United lost their spin-doctor to Prince Charles, "friends" of Campbell put it about that he was in the frame for the job. The "friends" were, of course, Campbell himself. The fact that the Premiership champions have to account to their shareholders meant that there was more chance of Britain landing a man on Mars than United appointing someone with such a shady past. The job went to Richard Caborn's much-respected spin-doctor instead, and he now has to cope with the inquiry into Fergie's dealings in the transfer market.

I very much doubt if Ferguson is looking to Campbell for help. Perhaps the reason people write about their "close" relationship is because they are such similar characters. Embellishing the truth seems to be second nature to both of them. Ferguson claims to have been heavily involved in a Clydeside apprentice strike as a youth, but the factory convener, whom I knew well, had no recollection of this. His father may have been a Clydeside red, but Sir Alex certainly wasn't. Campbell's "tall stories" would fill this magazine.

It is Ferguson and Campbell's dealings with the media that make them so alike. For a full account of Fergie's media bullying tactics, read Michael Crick's biography of the great man. Hacks are told what questions they can ask and anyone who disobeys is banished. One sports editor told me Man United hadn't spoken to his paper for two years because they didn't like an article. Sound familiar?