Sven Goran Eriksson has expressed his disappointment that he may have to do without the Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes for the three games that will decide whether England qualify for the European Championship finals.
United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is expected to renew the tensions between club and country this afternoon by using Scholes in the Premiership match at Southampton, then telling Eriksson that he will have a hernia operation instead of joining the England squad for their double-header against Macedonia and Liechtenstein over the next 11 days. There would be no guarantee of Scholes being fit for the decisive game away to Turkey on 11 October, but he would be ready for United's two Champions' League ties against Rangers.
Ferguson is understood to be angry that Scholes played for an hour of the friendly against Croatia two weeks ago, in which Nicky Butt suffered an ankle injury. The abrasive Scot, who has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association after being sent from the dug-out at Newcastle last Saturday, claimed that Scholes returned to the club "in a real state" with his hernia.
But Ferguson's case is weakened by the fact that Scholes played the whole game against Newcastle three days later. "I'll be disappointed if we don't have Paul Scholes, it's not easy to find another one of him," Eriksson said, adding that he could insist on the player reporting for examination by an England doctor. That would risk further damage to relations with Ferguson.
Any supporters who travel to Mace-donia against the Football Association's wishes were told yesterday that their safety cannot be guaranteed, and that they risk being banned from all future England games. After a final warning about crowd trouble from Uefa, the FA decided to take no tickets for supporters or players' families for the games in Skopje on Saturday and in Istanbul. Eriksson, who cannot remember a match with no fans of his team present, said: "It is sad, but for security reasons this is the best way to do it."
Makelele makes it 11
Claude Makelele, the French midfielder, will make it 11 high-profile signings for Chelsea since Roman Abramovich took control, assuming his medical does not prevent him moving from Real Madrid and taking Chelsea's late-summer spending above £100m. Another Real midfielder, Steve McManaman, yesterday completed his move to Manchester City. The goalkeeper Neil Sullivan has joined Chelsea on a free transfer from Tottenham, while the midfielder Boudewijn Zenden headed out of Stamford Bridge to Middlesbrough on loan until June.
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