Football: United face fight to miss Coca-Cola Cup: League to protect their knock-out trophy

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED were yesterday assured of the Premier League's support should they carry out a threat to withdraw from next season's Coca-Cola Cup. The newly crowned champions want to concentrate their efforts on winning the European Cup and a third successive Premiership title.

They can expect fierce resistance, however, from the Football League and the possiblity of legal action should they

attempt to pull out of what is now the League's only major competition since losing its top division with the advent of the FA Premiership two seasons ago.

Martin Edwards, the United chairman, will seek to resolve the situation amicably but

admitted: 'We do have a problem and it's down on my agenda for the Premiership summer meeting. It's a Football League competition and they won't want us to pull out.'

A Football League spokesman confirmed as much. 'We have a legally binding agreement and there is no question of any club pulling out. It just cannot happen.'

However, the Premier League is sympathetic to United's plight, accepting that it is unrealistic to expect a club to make a serious attempt to win the three domestic trophies on offer while at the same time challenging for the European Cup with its new

demanding league format.'

Rick Parry, the League's chief executive, who believes that the League Cup final should be staged earlier in the season, said: 'All I can say is that we have to look after the interests of our member clubs and we would be very sympathetic to United if they

decided they couldn't continue in the Coca-Cola Cup.'

Heavy involvement in the European Cup will be guaranteed next season if, as expected, United are named as one of the eight seeds who automatically qualify for the league stage, which involves six matches prior to the semi-final and final.

Newcastle United are one club who intend to lighten United's load, given half a chance. Kevin Keegan, upon accepting the title, Director of Football, and a new 10-year contract, said: 'The message from Newcastle today is that we want to challenge Manchester United. We now have at coaching and playing level

everything in place to give them a run for their money.'

The Wimbledon style has never been Terry Venables's but that has not stopped the England manager including three of their players - Dean Holdsworth, John Scales and Warren Barton - in his squad for the B game against Northern Ireland at Hillsborough next Tuesday.

Sheffield United are to ask Mike Smith, the Wales manager, to leave Nathan Blake and Glyn Hodges out of a 27- strong squad for a friendly away to Estonia on 23 May in order that they can go on a club tour of Australia. The former Wales manager, Terry Yorath, is to apply for the Middlesbrough vacancy.

Duncan Ferguson, the Rangers and Scotland player, has been charged with assault following an alleged incident in a match with Raith Rovers at Ibrox on 16 April.

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