United fans cling onto Cup hope

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The Independent Football

Manchester United fans are still hopeful a compromise can be reached with the Football Association over the club's participation in the FA Cup.

Manchester United fans are still hopeful a compromise can be reached with the Football Association over the club's participation in the FA Cup.

The FA have drawn up a deadline of this Saturday to find a solution to the problem.

United's presence in the World Club Championship in January is of paramount importance to the FA and the Government if England are to stage the 2006 World Cup finals, despite FIFA's remarks to the contrary.

FA executive director David Davies admitted at the weekend the chances of any settlement are now extremely slim.

The Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association have vigorously campaigned for their club to defend the trophy they won in May, although chairman Andy Walsh feels more could have been done by the powers that be.

"People think coming out of the FA Cup was a mistake," said Walsh. "It's a high price to pay for the 2006 World Cup - destroying the integrity of the cup competition.

"We have said from the start that United are still in the FA Cup until the draw for the third round and we are hopeful a solution can be found even by that stage.

"But money and other influences have seemingly brought about this situation and it's shameful. The FA are responsible for looking after the integrity of the English game and they have failed in their duty.

"The people who are going to suffer more than anybody are the supporters - and we were the last people to be consulted."

Walsh confirms his organisation did hold talks with the FA and were invited back for a further meeting, although that did not materialise.

He added: "We did speak with them, proposing alternatives like other dates available in the calendar or the possibility of extending the season. Obviously these did not find favour.

"The closer we now get to the draw (for the third round) the more difficult it is to find a solution. It will be a great shame if Manchester United do not compete in the FA Cup."

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