United youngster ready to replace Schmeichel

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The Independent Online
Peter Schmeichel, Manchester United's Danish international goalkeeper, is to enter hospital for an elbow operation which will keep him out for two weeks.

Schmeichel will miss United's matches against Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday after surgery to correct an inflammation on his right elbow.

Alex Ferguson, the United manager, views Schmeichel's absence as a great chance for the 21-year-old second-choice Kevin Pilkington to make his mark.

Pilkington's only start was in the 3-0 Coca-Cola Cup defeat by York City, although he did keep a clean sheet against Crystal Palace last season when he replaced Schmeichel after seven minutes.

The Everton striker Paul Rideout looks likely to be out of action until the new year after a collision of heads with the Sheffield Wednesday defender Des Walker during Saturday's match at Goodison Park. Rideout received 32 stitches in his lip, lost two teeth, damaged the roots of several others and sustained a cracked palate, lacerations and bruising to his gums in the collision during the 2-2 draw.

Blackburn have agreed a deal with the Swedish First Division club Halmstad to take the striker Niklas Gudmundsson on loan until the end of the season, with an option on a permanent transfer.

Blackburn's manager, Ray Harford, who expects Gudmundsson to complete the deal later in the week, said: "He is an attack-minded sort of left- wing-cum-centre-forward. He can play either wide or up the middle, has pace and hopefully will fit into our play." Gudmundsson will not feature in tonight's Coca-Cola Cup fourth round tie at Elland Road. Harford said: "He's a bit tired at the moment, having spent a week in Thailand after the close of the Swedish season."

Celtic and Aberdeen have both dismissed reports that the pounds 2m striker Scott Booth is set to move from Pittodrie to Parkhead. There has been speculation over Booth's future since his side's Coca-Cola Cup final victory over Dundee on Sunday.

The Aberdeen manager, Roy Aitken, confirmed: "There has been no bid from Celtic unless it was in invisible ink. I am trying to build a side to compete with the Old Firm and want to keep my best players."

The Aberdeen chairman, Ian Donald, revealed that money will be made available to Aitken for new players after the clearing of a pounds 2.5m debt.

Meanwhile, Scottish clubs will decide whether video evidence can be used in disciplinary hearings. A vote on the contentious issue will take place at the next meeting of the Scottish Football Association Council on Monday, 15 January.

Ajax, the European champions, beat Gremio of Brazil 4-3 on penalties to win the World Club Cup in Tokyo. The English referee David Elleray sent off Catalino Rivarola, Gremio's Paraguayan central defender.

n Italy's Senate yesterday approved a measure which, if it became law, would allow clubs to field teams composed entirely of foreign players in domestic games as long as they were European Union citizens. The Italian football federation said that when there were conflicts between regulations of sporting organisations and national law, national law prevailed. Under current regulations Italian clubs can field up to three foreigners in a match.

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