Eriksson and United rally round Smith after selection mix-up

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Both Sven Goran Eriksson and United came to the defence of the 24-year-old who was called up to the squad on Saturday evening by the England manager only to then apparently withdraw because he wanted to play for his club's reserve side against Bolton on Monday night. From Barwick's reaction to the news on Monday it seemed almost certain that the player's England career under Eriksson was over.

United and Sir Alex Ferguson are understood to be furious at Barwick's criticism that Smith's decision was "not the cleverest". As the evidence was pieced together, it appeared that a breakdown in communication at the FA was responsible for Eriksson calling up Smith when he had already ruled himself out.

A statement from United said that Smith had already agreed with the FA that he would not be travelling to Copenhagen with the squad. "Prior to the initial squad announcement United coaching staff spoke with Sven and the FA and it was agreed that Alan Smith would be left out of the squad so he could gain match fitness," the United statement said. "It was then cleared that he would play in last night's reserve game at Bolton. It is by no means due to Alan Smith's lack of desire to play for England."

Eriksson's version of events yesterday differed from those spelt out by Old Trafford. He said that he had told his secretary to contact Smith on Saturday immediately after learning that Crystal Palace's Andy Johnson would have to pull out of the squad with a hamstring problem. Only then did he find out about the arrangement that Smith would not be available.

Eriksson said that he discussed the fitness of the player - who scored for United's reserves in a 3-0 win - with Walter di Salva, United's fitness coach who previously served under the Swede at Lazio. It was then that the situation was explained to Eriksson and he was at pains to make clear that he had no personal issues with Smith.

Eriksson said: "I think he [Smith] has his reasons - maybe he thinks he is not fit and he thought he should sit on the [England] bench for 90 minutes and instead he wanted 90 minutes of football. I have nothing against Alan Smith. Absolutely not. It doesn't mean he is out for the future. What I have told you is the truth and I think it is my fault that I didn't communicate it better. I take the blame."

Shaun Wright-Phillips did not travel with the squad to Copenhagen yesterday and Eriksson added that he will make up to seven substitutions. He has an agreement with the Tottenham manager Martin Jol that the goalkeeper Paul Robinson will play just the first half.

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