United dream a nightmare for Hoddle

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The Independent Online
The perennial club v country dispute will make an unwelcome re-appearance if Manchester United come within sight of their European dream. This season's European Cup final is due to be played on 28 May - three days before England face Poland in Chorzow in a crucial World Cup qualifying game.

The United manager, Alex Ferguson, will be unwilling to do without and Philip and Gary Neville and David Beckham, but the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, will almost certainly name at least the latter two in his international squad and would ideally want them in the England camp for the week preceding the Poland match.

The Football Association said yesterday that the matter will be discussed nearer the time but one thing is certain: the date of the Poland-England match cannot be changed.

"It's a question for the two managers to decide on further down the line," a spokeswoman said. "We're not really able to comment on it at present as it's not yet a reality. It could be discussed before the [European Cup] semi-final."

There was better news for United when the club learned that Peter Schmeichel will not face racism charges arising from his November confrontation with Arsenal's Ian Wright.

The FA chief executive, Graham Kelly, has sent identical open letters to both players in which he implores them to make a public statement of conciliation, on the day Schmeichel learned he would not face a criminal charge for alleged racist remarks.

Kelly strongly implies that, if the Arsenal striker and the Manchester United goalkeeper agree, they can avoid FA disciplinary action too.

In his letter to Schmeichel, Kelly writes: "I have to decide what is best for English football. I have to be aware that both you and Ian Wright are public figures, idolised by millions of football fans at home and abroad. Your example is vitally important.

"That is why I ask you, in the interests of the game as a whole, to make a public statement of reconciliation with Ian Wright as soon as possible. In doing so, you can be a power for bringing the game together, not dividing it.

"In current circumstances, a drawn-out disciplinary procedure with uncertain results would not be helpful. I want to avoid it unless you and Ian Wright leave me no alternative.

"I believe I understand your strong feelings about what has happened. But English football is bigger and more important than both of you, and me.

"The example you set by putting the past behind you in a public way can only be beneficial. You are well aware of the issues involved. Please recognise your responsibilities and respond urgently to my request."

Television pictures appeared to show Schmeichel mouthing insults at Wright during the 16 November fixture between the sides at Old Trafford, won 1-0 by United. However, the Dane denied making any racial remarks and the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday decided not to take any further action against him.

The two men found themselves in conflict again last month, when United beat Arsenal 2-1 at Highbury. They had to be restrained at the end of that game, during which Wright made a controversial challenge on the United goalkeeper as they went for the ball.

Manchester United's solicitor, Maurice Watkins, said Schmeichel was delighted that no action would be taken.

He said: "Peter has been told the Crown Prosecution Service won't be pressing charges. He always believed this would be the outcome but he is just pleased to have it confirmed. Peter is not a racist and never will be."

Ferguson is assessing Gadi Bromer, the Israeli international on trial at this week. The pounds 2m-rated Maccabi Tel Aviv defender, a United fan of long standing, has forsaken winning another cap for Israel this week in an effort to impress Ferguson. In spending the week with the double winners, Bromer misses his country's friendly international with Sweden.

The 23-year-old Bromer has set his heart on a permanent move to United. He said: "I don't know whether I am good enough to be a part of Manchester United but my target is to become a United player. I don't think I am going to have any problems either physically or technically. It's all new to me but generally I don't see any problems."

More football, page 27

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