England turn to Crouch as Ferguson wins the day

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson has won his battle with the Football Association to keep Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand out of England's post-season mini-tour to America in a move that will force Sven Goran Eriksson to put his faith in players like Michael Carrick and Peter Crouch.

The FA is confident that the tour, which takes in two games in New Jersey and Chicago, will still be a success but the Manchester United duo are the latest in a line of players that includes Frank Lampard, John Terry and Steven Gerrard to pull out of the trip.

The FA will be mindful of criticism that Ferguson, United's manager, endured last summer when he took a severely depleted United team to America following a successful tour the previous summer when the entire first-team squad was present. After a weakened United team was booed during a game in Chicago against Bayern Munich, the club took flew out Ruud van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes who were originally intended to be rested.

Although Eriksson, the England coach, has won his battle to persuade Real Madrid's David Beckham and Michael Owen - as well as Owen Hargreaves of Munich - to join up for the second game against Colombia on 31 May he is also without Jamie Carragher, Paul Robinson, Kieron Dyer and Nicky Butt.

Their absence means that Tottenham's Carrick, who Eriksson has picked before for England, as well as the uncapped Southampton striker Crouch, should get their chance. The FA are also delighted that the Manchester City manager, Stuart Pearce, has allowed right-winger Shaun Wright-Phillips to join the party .

Ferguson is understood to be keen to protect Rooney who has just completed his first season with United and Ferdinand is suffering from a knee injury which needs treatment. With Sol Campbell just returning from injury, the Arsenal centre-back, as well as team-mate Ashley Cole, should be in the squad for both games - including the first match against the USA on 28 May.

The England Under-21 goalkeeper Scott Carson will be considered as an option but he will be able to join up only after Liverpool's Champions' League final against Milan on 25 May. The other goalkeepers will be David James and Norwich's Robert Green.

There should be another call-up for Crystal Palacestriker Andrew Johnson which would restrict Emile Heskey's chance of making the tour. The rest of the England party is like to be: Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, Wes Brown, Matthew Upson, Jermaine Jenas, Alan Smith, Joe Cole, Stewart Downing and Jermaine Defoe.

Adrian Bevington, the Football Association's director of communications, said that the tour would give Eriksson a last chance to look at contenders for his World Cup squad next year.

"Since announcing plans for the tour, we have always made it clear that we will take the strongest team available," he said. "A number of senior players have already given their support to the tour, while David Beckham and Michael Owen will be joining for the game in New Jersey following the end of the Spanish season."

He added: "Clearly there is a commercial element to the trip and like any major football team - international or club who accept these invitations - the FA will be paid for doing so. But it should be made clear that we are a not-for-profit-making organisation, so every penny of profit generated from the tour will be re-invested back into all levels of the game in this country.

"However, there are no commercial clauses stipulating any particular player will be available to play."

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