10 years on, Brazil trip still riles Ferguson

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he "regrets" Manchester United pulling out of the FA Cup 10 years ago. The move created a storm of controversy, with United getting much of the blame for devaluing the tournament.

Indeed, many critics argue the FA Cup has never fully recovered from the decision, taken as a direct consequence of United's involvement in the Club World Championship in Brazil.

Ironically, Ferguson has always felt the move benefited United that season because they were able to recharge their batteries in the South American sunshine while major rivals Arsenal and Leeds were starting to struggle and, refreshed and raring to go, the Old Trafford club went on to retain their title by a massive 18 points.

However, as a traditionalist, Ferguson was never entirely comfortable with the move. United have won the competition five times – and been beaten in three other finals – during the Scot's 23-year tenure and are bound to be in one of the most notable ties in this season's third round, having been drawn at home to face either non-league Kettering or old rivals Leeds United.

Looking back, Ferguson, whose job was said to have been saved by his stuttering team's Wembley triumph in 1990, knows the entire situation did not reflect well on the club. "It turned out to be a disaster for us," he told Inside United. "We did it to help England's World Cup bid. That was the political situation.

"I regretted it because we got nothing but stick and terrible criticism for not being in the FA Cup when really, it wasn't our fault. The FA and the government felt that playing in this tournament would help England's bid to host the 2006 World Cup. There was a lot of undue criticism – but it was a great two-week break."

Federico Macheda has signed a four-year extension to his contract with United. The 18-year-old Italian striker made a significant contribution to last season's Premier League title triumph, scoring late winners against Aston Villa and Sunderland which ultimately proved pivotal in securing the club's 18th league title.

And, while Macheda has found appearances harder to come by this season, Ferguson has no doubt about the player's long-term future.

"We are delighted by the new four year deal," said the United manager. "Everyone at the club recognises the fantastic talent he has and we hope to see that develop in the next years, so he becomes a well rounded player." Macheda made his fifth appearance of the season on Tuesday night when he came on as a substitute during the second half of United's 2-0 Carling Cup win over Tottenham.

He is yet to score this season, although with Ferguson pledging to stick with his youngsters for the semi-final, Macheda should be guaranteed at least two more games, plus next week's Champions League tie with Wolfsburg in Germany.

After signing him from Lazio on his 16th birthday, United are acutely aware of Macheda's potential, which has also been spotted in Italy, where he has won three Under-21 caps.

"I am very happy to commit my future to Manchester United," said Macheda.

"I really enjoyed myself last season when I came on and I hope to get more chances like that and contribute to the team's success."

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