United chase 2003 European final

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The Independent Online

Manchester United have decided that attempting to reach the final of the Champions' League is not enough – now they want to bring the final of the competition to Manchester.

The Premiership champions are among nine contenders who have lodged bids with Uefa, European football's governing body, to host the 2003 final. Were they to succeed it would be the first time Old Trafford has hosted any European final, and the first European Cup final to be staged at an English club ground.

However, United face strong competition from Spain's Real Madrid who hope to secure the event as a follow-up to their centenary which they are celebrating this season. There are also three German applications, one from Russia, which is yet to stage a European Cup final, a cheeky one from Rotterdam, the venue for this season's Uefa Cup final, and further bids from Paris and Amsterdam.

In United's favour is England's decade-long wait for a final, Wembley having staged the last of five finals in 1992. Against them is the British location of this season's finale, Glasgow's Hampden Park.

Villa Park, which hosted the last European Cup-Winners' Cup final in 1999, is among eight stadia seeking to stage the 2003 Uefa Cup final. The bids will now be evaluated by Uefa. Its Executive Committee will then decide the venues in December.

Scotland, meanwhile, were given a boost by the result of the remaining World Cup qualifier at the weekend. Austria's draw with Israel, while gaining them a play-off place, meant they slipped below the Scots in Uefa's ranking list. The Scots are now likely to join England among the second seeds when the draw for the qualifying stages of the 2004 European Championship is made in Portugal in January.

2003 EUROPEAN CUP FINAL BIDS: Amsterdam ArenA (Amsterdam, used by Ajax); Arena Aufschalke (Gelsenkirchen, Schalke 04); De Kuip (Rotterdam, Feyenoord); Gottlieb-Daimler (Stuttgart, VfB Stuttgart); Luzhniki (Moscow, Torpedo Moscow); Old Trafford (Manchester, Manchester United); Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid, Real Madrid); Stade de France (Paris, no host club), Volksparkstadion (Hamburg, Hamburg SV).

2003 UEFA CUP FINAL BIDS: Gelredome (Arnhem, Vitesse Arnhem); Gottlieb-Daimler (Stuttgart, VfB Stuttgart); Philips Stadium (Eindhoven, PSV); Sanchez Pizjuan (Seville, Sevilla); Stade de France (Paris, no host club); Ullevi (Gothenburg, IFK); Villa Park (Birmingham, Aston Villa); Volksparkstadion (Hamburg, Hamburg SV).

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