Unveiled by manager Sir Alex Ferguson and chief executive Peter Kenyon in a glittering ceremony at the club’s Old Trafford Megastore, the new list is intended to phase out old favourites including “our away kit rendered the players invisible to the naked eye”, “the referee only played eight minutes of injury time when there were 8.3 on my stopwatch”, “the hot sun in Brazil made us feel sleepy” and even the recent crowd-pleaser “we didn’t win anything this May because we went to Singapore last July”.
The excuses, to be trotted out at various stages during the new campaign, are as follows:
* The grass was too crinkly.
* Our half time drinks had been laced with the date-rape drug Rohypnol.
* Traditionally, we never play well in Premiership matches against West Bromwich Albion.
* Stephen Byers came up with our tactics.
* David Beckham has been replaced by his evil twin brother.
* We’re suffering the effects of 18 long years of Tory under-funding in our midfield.
* The wind in the first half blew Paul Scholes’ eyes out.
* Our preparations were disrupted when Count Dooku tried to assassinate Ronnie Wallwork.
* The ball was too sharp.
* Wes Brown inadvertently swapped legs with a little Malaysian girl he met on holiday.
* The dog ate my tactical masterplan after I’d spilled coffee all over it and left it on the bus.
* How do you expect us to play well on this, the ninth anniversary of the death of Fantasy Island’s Hervé Villechaize?
* Arsenal kept looking at us funny.
* The rain in the second half tasted of ****.
* When the linesman’s back was turned, Martin Keown stuck Gary Neville’s face in a deep-fat fryer, like that Lisa Faulkner in Spooks.
* We’re all feeling Angus Deayton’s pain right now.
* The referee wouldn’t stop undressing Fabien Barthez with his eyes.
* It was Dwight Yorke’s fault.
Other excuses like “the players aren’t trying in a desperate bid to get rid of Victor McMeldrew before 2005”, “all our recent buys have been rubbish” and “Phil Neville” are believed to have been rejected at the last minute by a senior Old Trafford figure with a strong Govan accent.
Claiming that “customers of our brand will be impacted positively by the blue-sky thinking we’re bringing to the party”, Kenyon added that in his view the creative team behind the excuses had “stepped up to the plate and hit a slam dunk the whole nine yards out of the ballpark.”
For the first time, the chief executive also announced, the excuses will carry a ‘sell by’ date and will be totally reversible. Hence, the excuse “our players were tired after playing in the World Cup” would become the explanation “our players were inspired after playing in the World Cup” should silverware be won.
Asked whether he thought the new crop of excuses was a bit lame, Ferguson responded: “On you go. I'm no f***ing talking to you. They’re f***ing great excuses. Yous are f***ing idiots."
At a simultaneous ceremony in Saipan, Mick McCarthy unveiled the Republic of Ireland’s excuses for not doing very well in the World Cup. This consisted of a large arrow pointing to a mugshot of Roy Keane, upon which Packie Bonner appeared to have drawn devil horns and a p####.