Football; Kanu is ready for United baptism

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The Independent Online
MARC OVERMARS last night backed the Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu to handle the pressure of making his Premiership debut against Arsenal's main title rivals Manchester United tonight.

Overmars and Kanu were the men involved in Arsenal's controversial FA Cup fifth-round "winning' goal" against Sheffield United on Saturday. Although both players have apologised for breaking the unwritten law of sportsmanship in combining to score Arsenal's second goal against the Blades, they can expect a rough reception from the Old Trafford crowd.

"It will not be a problem," Overmars said. "Kanu and I both know we did not mean to do something wrong. It was purely a reflex reaction and it took about 20 seconds to realise what had happened."

Overmars believes Kanu, who looks set to replace the suspended Dennis Bergkamp in possibly the most defining match of the title campaign so far, will be a handful for United - who include Jaap Stam, the Arsenal winger's Netherlands team-mate. "I played for two years in Holland with Kanu for Ajax and he is a big, big talent," said Overmars. "People over here who perhaps do not know too much about him will soon see how good he is."

Though Emmanuel Petit is suspended, the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, has his captain, Tony Adams, and full-back Lee Dixon back from the head injuries they sustained in England's defeat against France last week, but Martin Keown is still out with hamstring trouble. Stephen Hughes looks set to deputise for Petit after Remi Garde damaged an ankle in Saturday's Cup tie.

The Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, has ruled Ryan Giggs out of his plans even though he is nearing full recovery from his hamstring injury. Denis Irwin is Ferguson's biggest concern. The Republic of Ireland full-back has a groin injury so Philip Neville is standing by. Roy Keane and Paul Scholes have given United a boost as they return to the squad after each serving a one-match ban.

Meanwhile, United have signed 17-year-old Bojand Jordic on a four-year contract after the Swedish youngster was spotted playing for Bromma-Pojakarna, a lower-league side from the Stockholm area.

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