Football: Fifa ruling upsets Hoddle's plans

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The perennial club versus country dispute will be aired again this summer when Alex Ferguson will refuse 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. The countries taking part are; the hosts France, Brazil, Italy and England. Ferguson has said he will not release his players while Liverpool's manager, Roy Evans, has described the event as "crazy".

Ferguson is already facing criticism in Wales because Ryan Giggs has yet to play in a friendly for his country, but so far he has managed to keep relations with England cordial.

United's Gary Neville and David Beckham played in England's last match, the World Cup qualifier against Italy at Wembley, while Gary Pallister, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt would come under consideration for the summer tournament.

The Football Association yesterday refused to enter the fray. "We don't want to get involved with that," a spokesman said.