Cole profits from odd striking partnership

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The Independent Football

Morecambe and Wise never socialised outside the studios, Garfunkel kept telling himself he had been "screwed" by Simon and, yes, Cole and Sheringham still aren't speaking.

Morecambe and Wise never socialised outside the studios, Garfunkel kept telling himself he had been "screwed" by Simon and, yes, Cole and Sheringham still aren't speaking.

The common denominator with each of these partnerships is that, in the public eye, they were perfect counterpoints to one another, as anastonished Old Trafford witnessed on Wednesday night.

An Anderlecht side that had successfully set its stall out for a goalless draw against Porto (admittedly without Mario Jardel) in the Estadio das Antas found itself utterly overwhelmed at Old Trafford.

"The partnership is going well with Teddy," said Cole. "Although we are still not talking yet. However, I have said it before, when you are on the park, you play for your club. Whatever differences people have, you can't worry about them when you are out there playing for Manchester United."

When Anderlecht were routed 10-0 in United's first European Cup tie in 1956, the Manchester Guardian recorded that they produced a performance "that would shock the chancelleries of Europe." There is nothing United can do now, especially against opposition that has spent the last five years attempting to qualify for the Champions' League, that European football would find surprising.

Cole's form in the European Cup over recent seasons has been against clubs stronger than most of the national sides Kevin Keegan will face in qualification for the World Cup; even Anderlecht would reckon to beat Finland. His failure to find the net in his limited appearances for England remains one of the great enigmas.

He would love to play at Wembley against Germany next month, although a partnership with Michael Owen would not be a natural one. As he said: "It is more important for me to be a regular at Old Trafford." That might sound churlish but, in four games here, Cole has played in front of more than a quarter of a million people in matches which United have won collectively 16-1. Club football may be a substitute for the international game but at Old Trafford it is not a poor one.

It could just be that Cole's time is now. Even though he joked he was "getting on a bit", he might find that, unlike Alan Shearer, he is at his mosteffective as he approaches his 30th birthday.

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