Arsenal and United in no rush to talk peace

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The Independent Football

As Manchester United's chief executive, David Gill, prepares to face a grilling from fans at today's AGM - primarily about his plans to ward off any hostile takeover from Malcolm Glazer - the Football Association is considering whether to try to entice Gill to an early "peace summit" with Arsenal.

The AGM usually delivers fireworks, and today should be no exception. Gill will be asked by supporters' groups "to put flesh on the bones" of his recent statement that he wanted to work with fans.

The intentions of Glazer, the stalking American, will come under particular scrutiny, especially if his representatives try to block any of the "housekeeping" resolutions of the board, such as the re-election of directors. The Glazer camp were playing down that possibility last night.

Gill will at least receive voting support from fans as a thank-you for the board's decision to spurn Glazer's takeover bid but could come under sustained fire on subjects as varied as agents' fees and ticket prices.

Against a backdrop of such pyrotechnics, the FA's quest for imminent peace is in danger of becoming a damp squib. Privately, neither Arsenal or United are in any rush to get around the negotiating table, and sources on both sides are doubtful whether any "summit" will take place ahead of the clubs' League Cup quarter-final on 1 December.

The FA might suggest a rapid meeting between Gill and David Dein, Arsenal's vice-chairman, along with FA and Premier League representatives, but is unlikely to force the issue.

The original intention was to request - not demand - clear-the-air talks sometime ahead of the clubs' next League meeting, at Highbury on 1 February. Contrary to some febrile interpretations, this was never an "emergency" meeting. Indeed one source described it as "not exactly Yalta", and the FA's hierarchy would have preferred to convene it later rather than sooner so the dust could first settle on the fallout from the teams' last meeting, not least Arsène Wenger's improper conduct charge for calling Ruud Van Nistelrooy a "cheat".

The League Cup draw has brought fresh impetus, but the FA would still rather have a constructive, relaxed meeting. The view from Highbury is, according to one source, that "the healing process has already begun, and there should be no repeat of what happened because the clubs know their responsibilities". This may be true, but it has been ever thus, and has made no difference. As Ferguson mischievously chuckled after learning of the Arsenal draw: "The Football Association will be delighted with that. Oh dearie me."

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