United reject Blatter plea

Click to follow
The Independent Online

MANCHESTER UNITED last night dismissed the request of the most powerful man in world football that they should defend their FA Cup title this season, insisting they had no intention of taking part in England's oldest tournament.

MANCHESTER UNITED last night dismissed the request of the most powerful man in world football that they should defend their FA Cup title this season, insisting they had no intention of taking part in England's oldest tournament.

Sepp Blatter, the president of football's world governing body, said that Fifa has never exerted any pressure on United to withdraw from the FA Cup to play in its inaugural World Club Championship next January in Brazil. "I still hope that a way will be found to enable United to follow a long tradition and to defend the Cup they won at Wembley last year," he said.

A spokeswoman for United responded that the club would not be changing its mind on the issue. "The club's position is still the same," the spokeswoman said. "We are not entering the FA Cup this year."

United qualified for the Brazilian event by winning the European Cup. In the summer, they were given permission by the Football Association to withdraw from the FA Cup to ease their fixture load. They were also reportedly encouraged by the FA to make the World Club Championship a priority or else risk snubbing Fifa and potentially damaging England's 2006 World Cup bid.

Blatter believes a compromise can be reached, with the FA Cup's format being changed to accommodate United. He cited the example of Spain, where the domestic cup has been altered to allow Real Madrid to take part despite league and Champions' League commitments. "We have seen from the example of Real Madrid in Spain that a solution may still be possible," he said.

David Davies, of the FA, said numerous avenues had been explored to find a solution. "But the Spanish cup has 48 teams and the FA Cup has 580 teams," he said. "Our Cup starts in August, that's why we brought the matter to a head when we did."

It seems the FA has not completely given up on finding a solution - including United fielding a B side in the FA Cup - but United's stance makes such an outcome increasingly unlikely.

Comments