Outside the Box: Manchester, a city divided by football but united in humour

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Manchester may have been uniting behind England's 2018 World Cup bid in the past week, with Old Trafford and Eastlands both designated as stadiums that would be used, but at a reception in the magnificent Town Hall, factionalism still raised its head. While old rivals such as Nobby Stiles and Mike Summerbee managed to share the same packed hall without, for once, kicking each other, the leader of the City Council, Sir Richard Leese, made his allegiances clear by announcing to laughter that Manchester had many famous football clubs such as "Manchester City, plus Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Stockport, Bury and Rochdale". The balance was immediately redressed by the 2018 bid's chief executive, Andy Anson, who recalled "many times standing outside this building watching Manchester United bring another trophy home". Not, he might have added, something that City have been in a position to do since the League Cup final of, er, 1976.

Put your shirt on Warner

Anson, whose collection of air miles must be a thing to behold, admitted to being a little bleary-eyed after stepping off a flight back from Central America, where a bid delegation had been schmoozing Trinidad & Tobago's Jack Warner and Guatemala's Rafael Salguero, two of the 24 Fifa executive committee members who will decide the 2018 and 2022 hosts in nine months' time. Warner, who famously returned a £230 Mulberry handbag gift from the English bid team last autumn, did accept signed Arsenal and Manchester United shirts on stage at the Caribbean football congress. "It's a gift-giving world," Anson said. "We'll just make sure the gifts cause less controversy." In a busy week, the team were able to take advantage of Egypt's executive member Hani Abo Rida being in London for the friendly against England. They visit New York next, before the definitive "bid book" is delivered on 14 May. Fifa officials undertake a four-day inspection from 22 August and the final decision will be announced on 2 December.

European bans still likely

The European Clubs' Association were delighted with the outcome of their financial fair-play negotiations with Uefa, under which actual debt is ignored and clubs can now only be banned from the Champions' League or Europa League if they make a loss over the course of three years, and not in any case until 2015. According to the survey in 'The Independent' last week, however, the only Premier League clubs making a profit on latest available figures were Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton and Birmingham. Not Chelsea (lost £11.4m), Aston Villa (lost £13.1m) or Fulham (lost £2.1m), all of whom competed in Europe this season.

Pity those who play away

So what did Plymouth Argyle's striker Rory Fallon think he was doing running around in one of the world's glamour spots at five o'clock in the morning, two days before an important League game? And Arsenal's Carlos Vela with him too. It is not, in fact, another tale of debauched footballers, but of conflicting demands in a World Cup year. The two players were in opposition as substitutes for their respective countries, New Zealand and Mexico, in the friendly played in Pasadena, California, which kicked off at four o'clock on Thursday morning, English time. Fallon, whose goal in the play-off against Bahrain last November earned the All-Whites their place at the World Cup finals, finished on the losing side this time – Vela scored in Mexico's 2-0 success – but he did achieve one small victory: the football authorities in New Zealand reluctantly agreed to upgrade him to business class for the long flight to and from London.