Football: That was the weekend that was

Fergie finds space to help out Birtles
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With his mind on their Champions' League quarter-final in Monaco next week, Alex Ferguson admits he could have done without the extra demands of an FA Cup replay at Barnsley on Wednesday.

But an increasingly crowded fixture list has not stopped the Manchester United manager agreeing to fit in another match on Thursday as a favour to a former Old Trafford star.

United will send a team of sorts to play the Dr Martens League side Gresley Rovers, who have fallen on such hard times this season that they have been unable to pay staff and players for 11 weeks. Their manager is the one-time United centre forward Garry Birtles.

Gresley eased their relegation worries with a 2-0 victory over Merthyr Tydfil in the Premier Division on Saturday - but of far greater concern is the result of Thursday's match, at nearby Burton Albion's Eton Park ground, which could raise up to pounds 40,000 for the club.

"It is a matter of saving Gresley Rovers," Birtles said. The Albion ground holds 4,800 and with tickets priced at pounds 10 for adults and pounds 5 for concessions, a decent turn-out would enable the struggling club to survive, at least in the short term.

There will be no shortage of attractions. After many long evenings on the end of a telephone, Birtles has managed to assemble a star-studded cast including Bryan Robson, Viv Anderson, Tony Woodcock, Neil Webb and Danny Wilson to take part. Woodcock, his former team-mate from his Nottingham Forest days, is flying in from Germany.

"I can only say thank you to everyone who is giving up his time to help Gresley when we need it most," Birtles said. "And Alex Ferguson has been brilliant to send a team, especially with their schedule of games."