Football: Flowers to have operation

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The Independent Online
THE World Cup paths of Paul Scholes and Tim Flowers took contrasting turns yesterday, with the Manchester United midfielder escaping the surgeon's knife, while the Blackburn keeper had an exploratory operation.

Scholes, his club and England were relieved to find that his knee trouble was simply down to overuse which has responded to a less hectic schedule now United are out of the Champions' League.

However, Flowers, who should have been facing his England colleague in Monday's Premiership match at Ewood Park, may have to accept that his chances of playing in the World Cup finals in nine weeks' time are slim. His damaged shoulder was the subject of keyhole surgery yesterday and the full extent of the injury should be known within the next few days.

Alex Ferguson, the United manager, confirmed that Scholes will not now need an operation at the end of the season. "The one game a week is helping and there's no great strain on him now as compared to the period when he was playing with the injury," Ferguson said. "That run of Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday just caught up with him."

United's other casualties - Peter Schmeichel (hamstring), Gary Pallister (back), Ryan Giggs (hamstring) and Nicky Butt (calf) - are all back in training and in contention for the trip to Blackburn. Teddy Sheringham is also available after a one-match ban.

The transfer of Georgi Kinkladze rests on the outcome of haggling between Manchester City and Ajax. City want pounds 5.5m, while the Dutch side see the Georgian - valued at pounds 10m a year ago - as more of a pounds 3m player.

Bargain hunters should stay clear of Aston Villa, who have have placed a pounds 4.5m price tag on the striker Savo Milosevic. "We've just written off pounds 3m in selling Sasa Curcic [to Crystal Palace] and we don't intend to give Savo away," John Gregory, the Villa manager, said.

Colin Todd looks certain to be in trouble with the Football Association after criticising Premiership referees on a radio programme. "Referees have got to be fair and they have got to be honest, and I don't think a lot of them are at this moment in time," the Bolton manager said.

The Portsmouth chairman Martin Gregory has abandoned plans to sell the club to the American property developer Vince Wolanin and rock star Brian Howe, and announced he will invest pounds 10m into the First Division club himself. Gregory now intends to buy land adjacent to Fratton Park and build a new 30,000 all-seater stadium.

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