Football: Kanchelskis keeps on running

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Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Wimbledon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

WHEN the Football Association gets round to conducting an inquiry into the shortcomings of English football it should call evidence from the two sides on show at Old Trafford yesterday. Alternatively, to save unnecessary verbiage it could watch a video of the match.

The contrast in styles and approach was as plain as the nose on Eric Cantona's face. It is not that all the good things came from Manchester United and all the bad ones from Wimbledon. They did not. But most of the flair and touch belonged to the champions and runaway Premiership leaders, while their visitors, the last away victors on the ground 13 months ago, depended on those stalwart qualities of tenacity and cussedness.

This was at least football you could show to your children and demonstrated that being cast adrift on a tide of domesticity has not made everyone terminally depressed. United were at their best as the proceedings went on. Perhaps many of their contingent were still thinking of the adventures that they will miss in the United States next summer.

As their manager, Alex Ferguson, said afterwards: 'The players had many different disappointments in the week and they did extremely well to get over them. All of them showed real commitment.'

From Denmark, Wales, France and of course England they came, the lads who will not be going to the World Cup although one of the Welsh non- representatives, Ryan Giggs, was on the substitutes' bench. The young genius, it is said, is temporarily showing less of the Welsh dragon in his play than the lounge lizard. Although there were sporadic calls for his introduction United looked barely poorer without him - which is not to say that leaving him out is to be recommended as a long-term experiment.

They were also without Roy Keane yesterday, the victim of a slight groin strain, for which he may have been grateful after his exertions on behalf of Ireland on Wednesday night.

United's attacks were largely down the flanks, Lee Sharpe down the left, and Andrei Kanchelskis, one who will be going to the World Cup, down the right. Kanchelskis was frequently in full flow and delightful it was too, except if you were the Wimbledon left-back.

It was appropriate that Sharpe and Kanchelskis should combine to ensure United took the lead in the 53rd minute. A short corner, a swift cross and Gary Pallister, unmarked at the far post, completed the job.

That might have been that but it forced Wimbledon not only to be spirited but adventurous. They claim, with some justification, that their reputation is ill-deserved and that, as with other long-term recidivists, trumped up charges are occasionally levelled against them to clear the books of a few.

John Fashanu put them back in the contest after Dean Holdsworth's looping cross. But United have tenacity, too, and they regained the lead with a wonderful flourish.

Cantona's clever cross was met unswervingly by Hughes who volleyed it crushingly into the net. Kanchelskis fittingly rounded matters off. He turned Brian McAllister, not for the first time, and gave Hans Segers no opportunity with his left- foot finish. If United were dancing on the grave of English football by now, that was a lovely pirouette.