The temperature was down to -13 degrees Celsius at Manchester United's ice-bound training ground yesterday but Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that relations between the club and their American owners remain warm.
As the big freeze has restricted Ferguson's players to just two days training in the wake of their FA Cup defeat by Leeds last weekend, attention has once more turned to the chilling subject of United's finances as the Glazer family seek new ways to ease the burden of the crippling interest payments on their £699million debt.
Yesterday, however, Ferguson was bullish as he insisted that hedoes have cash to spend in the transfer market and even took someresponsibility for the question marks that continue to hover over theclub's financial situation.
Ferguson said: 'Their (the supporters) concerns are down to thefact that I haven't moved in the transfer market, but that's nothing todo with the Glazers or with (chief executive) David Gill. It's simplybecause I am not going to pay £50m for a striker who is not worth it.That is the kind of money they are talking about for the best strikerswho are around.
'I don't have any concerns about the financial situation. There isabsolutely no issue at all with the club's finances. I have no issue atall. I am really confident about that.
'I could easily have spent the money from the Ronaldo transfer but I didn't want to do it because I couldn't see any value in he market. I can spend the money - it is there. There has been talk about a bond issue and I think that's a good thing for the club. I think anything that helps with the repayment of the debt is a good thing.
'There is debt there but it has never interrupted my plans for the team - at any stage. No. Believe me there is no impact.'
With neighbours Manchester City parading their new signing Patrick Vieira just down the road yesterday and other clubs looking to reinforce their squads over the next few weeks, United's refusal to get involved seems a little peculiar.
Ferguson's logic is built on two concepts. The first is value for money and the second is that it is difficult to buy the right players in January.
While New Year signings such as Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Andy Cole suggest it is possible to negotiate the minefield, others, such as Diego Forlan and Louis Saha, give his philosophy some credence.
Short of options: With Berbatov and Owen contributing only occasionally to United's goal tally this season, much is asked of Rooney
Nevertheless, Ferguson knows his strategy comes with risks attached. With Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov contributing only occasionally to United's goal tally this season, much is asked of Wayne Rooney. Will United have a problem in the weeks and months to come if their talisman succumbs to injury?
Ferguson replied: 'Yes, that is a possibility. We have brought the boy (Mame Biram) Diouf in - and we're looking to involve him at Birmingham - and I think it's a good time to do it. It's true that we don't have great options if Rooney was to get injured, in the sense that we don't have top quality like Ronaldo, who could play anywhere, of course. But, still, we're not too bad. And I think everyone is missing the point, anyway, because the most important thing for this club is to get our centre-backs fit again.'
With Vidic expected to be missing for 10 days with a nerve problem and Rio Ferdinand still a fortnight away from a return to action, United continue to make do and mend in defence. Wes Brown and Jonny Evans will play at St Andrew's tonight.
Nevertheless, the fact that the 22-year-old Senegal striker Diouf will feature also does point to United being a little light in attack. With young forwards Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck taking a little longer than expected to develop, Ferguson finds himself some way from having the roster of four top class strikers that he often likes to talk about.
Tonight in the West Midlands United face a rejuvenated Birmingham side managed by Ferguson's former Aberdeen defender Alex McLeish. 'Alex has done a brilliant job, absolutely wonderful,' said Ferguson. 'I think the change of owner has been a good thing for them.
'The old regime were set in their ways about financing the team.
'There never seemed to be any great financial support in the sense of understanding how big Birmingham could be.
'Over the next two or three years you will find it will be a different Birmingham. They are on the way up. They have a very progressive young manager. Alex has always been ambitious. He is intelligent.
'I have just read they are trying to buy one or two players for a considerable amount of money. It is the first time I can remember Birmingham doing that.'
The irony of tonight's opponents maybe having more money to spend than the Barclays Premier League champions was not lost on those who sat with Ferguson yesterday.
As ever, Ferguson remains confident he is on the right path. Despite evidence to the contrary, he sees no slippery slope.
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Explore more:People:Rio Ferdinand, Danny Welbeck, Federico Macheda, David Gill, Michael Owen, Patrice Evra, Dimitar Berbatov, Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha, WES BROWN, Alex McLeish, Nemanja Vidic, Andy Cole, Patrick VieiraPlaces:Birmingham, Aberdeen