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Ferguson backs 2018 World Cup bid

Sir Alex Ferguson has thrown his weight behind England's bid for the 2018 World Cup and the Manchester United manager will play a key role in this week's visit by FIFA inspectors.

The Scot will join Sir Bobby Charlton in guiding the six-man FIFA team around Old Trafford, one of the main venues for England's bid, when they visit Manchester tomorrow.

Ferguson said: "The facilities for both players and fans are magnificent, from training grounds to stadia and the passion of the English people for the game would ensure that everybody would be made to feel welcome.

"It would be a memorable occasion and would inspire people all over the world."

The FIFA team headed to the north-east by helicopter this evening after a day of presentations and venue visits in London.

Representatives from all the host cities, including London mayor Boris Johnson, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis and Liverpool chief executive Christian Purslow were involved.

The FIFA team were also given presentations on hotels, transport and security before going on a boat journey along the Thames, after which they visited the O2 arena, the proposed venue for the final draw.

A presentation on training camps was due to be given at Middlesbrough's training ground this evening, with visits to the Stadium of Light and St James' Park tomorrow before flying to Manchester.

Howard Webb, this year's World Cup final referee, will meet the inspectors at City of Manchester Stadium.

One of the main presentations to the inspectors today focused on the proposed arrangements for the final draw in London for the 32 countries who qualify for the tournament.

The bid proposes an event where the balls for the draw are taken by river to the Tower of London the night before the event with a 3-D holograph of a penalty shoot-out on the river using Tower Bridge as the goal.

On the day of the draw, the balls would be taken down the Thames to the O2 arena - the exterior of which would be transformed into a giant football - for the draw itself.