Door left open for United in FA Cup

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The Independent Football

The Football Association will keep their options open right up until the weekend deadline before deciding on the FA Cup draw format.

The Football Association will keep their options open right up until the weekend deadline before deciding on the FA Cup draw format.

Manchester United have until Saturday evening's second round draw to decide on their participation in this season's competition.

The FA will then select one of several options to allow the Cup to continue without interruption.

"We have a number of options in mind as to how the draw will take place depending on whether Manchester United are in the FA Cup this year or not," FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said.

"Clearly, we have set a deadline of this weekend and we will await a final decision before announcing the plans."

But Minister of Sport, Kate Hoey, has denied any involvement in a negotiated deal to bring United back into the competition.

"We haven't been involved with any negotiations since the offer was made by the FA," a spokesman for the Minister for Sport said.

"It remains our position that we would like to see Manchester United compete in the FA Cup but we have not been directly involved. We will leave the FA and United to sort it out.

"From Tony Blair to Chris Smith to Kate Hoey, we have all said we would love to see United play in the FA Cup. But it is up to United and the FA to find a solution.

"We have not been in direct contact with United for some time. The last time was probably the Charity Shield when Kate sat next to Martin Edwards."

But it is believed that the FA are not expecting a dramatic U-turn by United to defend the trophy they won last May despite the pleas of Sir Bobby Charlton yesterday.

"I believe my club, Manchester United, has a responsibility to the history of the game in our country and I'm going to speak to our directors again this week," Charlton said.

"I've already spoken to Alex (Ferguson) about it. With the best will in the world we would like to be in it but the problems it creates are major problems."

The FA needed to set a deadline before the second round of the competition to prevent disruption of the third round when Premiership and First Division clubs join the smaller clubs in the draw.

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