Football: Ferguson refuses to release players

The perennial club versus country dispute will be aired again this summer when Alex Ferguson refuses to release his Manchester United players for England duty.

England's coach, Glenn Hoddle, will need his powers of persuasion to prevent the international tournament in France descending into no more than a run out for his reserves.

Fifa, the world governing body, confirmed yesterday that English club managers will be free to withdraw their players from the tournament, which begins on 3 June and is classified as a series of friendly matches. As such club managers have the right to refuse to release their players. Ferguson has said he will exercise that right while Liverpool's manager Roy Evans has described the event as "crazy".

England are due to meet Brazil, Italy and the host country over 10 days in June but Ferguson has already said his players will not be available.

Ferguson said: "This summer will be a rest for Manchester United players. Some of them will be playing in World Cup qualifiers on 8 June. We can't do anything about that but we can about the others.

"Over the last few years we've played an average of 50 games and this season will be no different. Then there are internationals and friendly internationals. It's such a strain and with young players it can't be done."

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