Football: Ferguson relies on `skeleton squad'

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MANCHESTER UNITED will rely on what Sir Alex Ferguson called a "skeleton squad" to win the World Club Cup in Tokyo tomorrow against Palmeiras of Brazil.

Andy Cole had been left behind with a back injury, but the United manager said his 18-strong squad was sufficient to make United the first English club to win the annual Europe-South America challenge since it was first held in 1960.

"I've brought a skeleton squad because I didn't think it was wise to subject a lot of the players to the journey," Ferguson said.

Immigration officers are investigating the use of false passports to allow foreigners to play in the United Kingdom after it was confirmed that the passport used by one Premiership player was a forgery.

Derby County's pounds 2.5m Argentinian, Esteban Fuertes, was recently refused re-entry to Britain after immigration officers discovered that his Italian passport was a forgery. A Home Office spokesman refused to comment on whether allegations against two other un-named players were being investigated.

It is feared that foreign players are acquiring bogus passports when they cannot meet the legal criteria to qualify for a British work permit, and Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, has called for the Football Association to investigate, saying: "The case smacks of an underworld trade in passports and it may be the tip of the iceberg."

Robert Taylor, Manchester City's proposed new signing, wants to be a target for the Scotland coach, Craig Brown.

The striker, who had scored 18 goals for Gillingham this season before City agreed a pounds 1.6m fee for his services on Friday, and who watched City pay on Saturday, said: "My mum is from Cumnock in Ayrshire, so I definitely qualify. I would love to play for Scotland if I was asked. Some of my cousins know Billy Dodds and Craig Burley, who come from Cumnock too. Who knows, I might get to play beside them one day."

MANCHESTER UNITED SQUAD (v Palmeiras, Tokyo, tomorrow): Taibi, Bosnich; Irwin, Stam, G Neville, P Neville, Silvestre, Wallwork, Higginbotham; Keane, Scholes, Butt, Beckham, Fortune; Sheringham, Yorke, Solskjaer, Giggs.