- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LONDON (AP) - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has told an aide to ban an Associated Press sports writer after he asked a question about midfielder Ryan Giggs.

Ferguson was speaking at a news conference Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Barcelona when the AP’s Rob Harris asked him a question about Giggs, who was named in the British parliament on Monday as the soccer star at the center of a high-profile privacy case.

A judge granted an injunction preventing media from publishing allegations that the player had an affair with reality television contestant Imogen Thomas, but Giggs‘ name spread all over Twitter and other websites. On Monday, Member of Parliament John Hemming identified Giggs as the player embroiled in the case during a House of Commons debate.

At Tuesday’s news conference with Ferguson, Harris asked about the importance of 37-year-old Giggs to Manchester United. “The most experienced Champions League player in the team is obviously Ryan Giggs. How important is he for the team on Saturday?” Harris said.

“All of the players are important, every one of them,” Ferguson replied curtly.

Broadcaster Sky News later broadcast Ferguson’s whispered comments to a club media officer.

He was heard saying, “the guy that asked the question about Giggsy … at the press conference.”

She replies: “Which one?”

Ferguson responds: “Him that asked the question … who?”

The press officer replied: “Oh yeah, I’ll tell you later.”

Minutes later, Ferguson is heard to ask: “Is he coming on Friday?”

The press officer asks: “The guy with the laptop?”

Ferguson replies: “Aye. Then we’ll get him. Ban him on Friday.”

It was unclear which event on Friday Ferguson was referring to, although he is due to hold a news conference on the eve of Saturday’s game.

Ferguson has a famously prickly relationship with the British media. He has refused to speak to the BBC for several years after a program was broadcast about his son’s business activities and several individual journalists have been banned from attending Manchester United events.

Lou Ferrara, the AP’s Managing Editor for Sports, defended Harris.

Rob was doing his job as a journalist by asking a question,” Ferrara said. “Our expectation is that he’ll ask more questions, and be afforded the ability to do so, as he covers the world’s most popular sport.”

Giggs, who is married with two children, was absent from the club’s open training session on Tuesday, one of several United players who did not train in front of the media ahead of the final at London’s Wembley Stadium.

In suburban Manchester, police said that news photographers’ cars parked outside Giggs‘ home were deliberately damaged on Tuesday afternoon. Officers “discovered at least six cars had been vandalized after a group of offenders arrived in a Ford Transit van and attacked the vehicles,” police said in a statement.