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www.red11.org DAILY NEWS
Date: Fri Aug 06 GMT+00:00 1999
Mail: barry@www.red11.org

This Issue:
1. THE NIGHT I WENT TO WIGAN by "Paul Hinson" 
2. Old Trafford Capacity To Move Past 60,000 Mark
3. Alan Hansen (Fergie's Book)
4. Alchol & Parties (Fergie's Book)
5. For Love, Not Money (Fergie's Book)
6. Ferguson will win nothing this time? - Soccernet

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Daily MANCHESTER UNITED NEWS Friday 6th August 1999:

Barry Daily Comment:
Plenty of media action with Fergie's Book
This book when released will become 1999's TOP SELLER without doubt!
Roll on Sunday!

************************

99/2000 fixtures/match reports are at
 http://www.red11.org/mufc/992000.htm

Mark Bosnich's Personal Details 
http://www.red11.org/mufc/bosnich.htm

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

MANCHESTER UNITED STATS v ALL teams on the Web
http://www.red11.org/mufc/stats.htm

Previous News:
 BSKYB Takeover news/pics at http://www.red11.org/mufc/bskyb.htm
  Brian Kidd Press conference, pic, real audio
   http://www.iol.ie/~redcafe/kidd.htm
 Peter Schmeichel's last Season at United!
   http://www.red11.org/mufc/news/schmeichel.htm

---------------------------------------------------------------
 NEXT MATCHES
---------------------------------------------------------------

Friendlies:
August 3rd [19.30] Omagh Town, St Julian's Road ground
August 4th [19:45] Wigan Athletic

08-AUG-1999 [16:00] Manchester Utd. vs Everton  (FA Premier League, AWAY)
11-AUG-1999 [20:00] Manchester Utd. vs Sheffield W  (FA Premier League, HOME)
14-AUG-1999 [15:00] Manchester Utd. vs Leeds U  (FA Premier League, HOME)
22-AUG-1999 [16:00] Manchester Utd. vs Arsenal  (FA Premier League, AWAY)


UNITED Stats v All teams:
http://www.red11.org/mufc/stats/
ALL FIXTURES at: http://www.red11.org/mufc/fix992000.htm
 
Subject: First Team Fixtures 1999/2000 [All dates/times subject to change]
Dates of possible cup ties also shown

Date        Opposition                        Score   Pos.   Attend.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
15/07/99    Melbourne Australia   11.00  pre-season   W  2-0  60,000
18/07/99    Sydney    Australia   06.00  pre-season   W  1-0  78,000 
21/07/99    Shanghai  Shenhua     12.30  pre-season   W  2-0  80,000
24/07/99    Hong Kong South China 08.30  pre-season   W  2-0  40,000
 1/08/99    Arsenal        Wembley Charity Shield     L  1-2  70,185

 3/08/99    Omagh Town aid of Omagh Bomb Fund         W  9-0   7,000
 4/08/99    Wigan Athletic friendly at JJB Stadium.   W  2-0   ? 

 8/08/99    Everton                  away      16.00 Live on Sky
11/08/99    Sheffield Wednesday      home PL   20.00
14/08/99    Leeds United             home PL   12.00
22/08/99    Arsenal                  away PL   16.00 Live on Sky
25/08/99    Coventry City            away PL   20.00
27/08/99    Monaco - Lazio           ESC       19.45
30/08/99    Newcastle United         home PL   13.00
11/09/99    Liverpool                away PL   11.30 Live on Sky
15/09/99    ?     EC
18/09/99    Wimbledon                home PL   15.00
22/09/99    ?     EC
25/09/99    Southampton              home PL   15.00
29/09/99    ?     EC
 3/10/99    Chelsea                  away PL   16.00 Live on Sky
*11/10/99   Sir Alex Ferguson's testimonial OT [Cantona + Schmeichel]
13/10/99    ?     WC 3
16/10/99    Watford                  home PL   15.00
20/10/99    ?     EC
23/10/99    Tottenham Hotspur        away PL   15.00
27/10/99    ?     EC
30/10/99    Aston Villa              home PL   15.00
 3/11/99    ?     EC
 6/11/99    Leicester City           home PL   15.00
20/11/99    Derby County             away PL   15.00
24/11/99    ?     EC
27/11/99    Sheffield Wednesday      away PL   15.00
30/11/99    Tokyo  Palmeiras         WCC       20.00
 1/12/99    ?     WC 4
 4/12/99    Everton                  home PL   15.00
 8/12/99    ?     EC
15/12/99    ?     WC 5
18/12/99    West Ham United          away PL   15.00
26/12/99    Bradford City            home PL   15.00
28/12/99    Sunderland               away PL   20.00 Live on Sky
 3/01/2000  Middlesborough           home PL   20.00

 ***** 5-14 /01/2000 Brazil WTC  *****   [3-4 games]

12/01/2000  ?    WC sf i
15/01/2000  Leeds United             away PL   15.00
22/01/2000  Arsenal                  home PL   15.00
26/01/2000  ?    WC sf ii
 5/02/2000  Coventry City            home PL   15.00
12/02/2000  Newcastle United         away PL   15.00
26/02/2000  Wimbledon                away PL   15.00
27/02/2000  ?   Wembley WC f
 1/03/2000  ?   EC
 4/03/2000  Liverpool                home PL   15.00
 8/03/2000  ?   EC
11/03/2000  Derby County             home PL   15.00
15/03/2000  ?   EC
18/03/2000  Leicester City           away PL   15.00
22/03/2000  ?   EC
25/03/2000  Bradford City            away PL   15.00
 1/04/2000  West Ham United          home PL   15.00
 5/04/2000  ?   EC qf i
 8/04/2000  Middlesborough           away PL   15.00
15/04/2000  Sunderland               home PL   15.00
19/04/2000  ?   EC qf ii
22/04/2000  Southampton              away PL   15.00
24/04/2000  Chelsea                  home PL   15.00
29/04/2000  West Ham United          away PL   15.00
 3/05/2000  ?   EC sf i
 6/05/2000  Tottenham Hotspur        home PL   15.00
10/05/2000  ?   EC sf ii
14/05/2000  Aston Villa              away PL   15.00
24/05/2000  ?    EC f

http://www.red11.org/mufc/match.htm

-------------------------------------

 THE FANTASTIC TRIPLE WAS WON!!
EC links + Personal diaries here:
 http://www.red11.org/mufc/barcelona.htm

We went to Barcelona in a fine day in May
And all our supporters sang loudly & gay
And when it was over and all said and done
We beat Bayern Munich  by 2 goals to 1

The first one was Teddy's he out foxed the rest
The second was Solskjear's he's simply the best
We could have had 4 or we could have had 9
But we didn't start playing till injury time


 Its the presentation of the European Cup at Nou Camp
  Video including sound   57secs  1.5 meg 

++++++=========+++++++========+++++++++========++++++++


Click On pic - for latest interviews/pics from OT"

Subject: THE NIGHT I WENT TO WIGAN by "Paul Hinson" It felt just like an Eastern Europe away game - strange people talking oddly and a third-world TV unit (MUTV) relaying the pictures to a small domestic audience. We set off at 6pm from a mates house in Walkden. As he drove off the motorway into the metrollopis of Wigan, we saw old women in shawls, and local men whizzing past on penny-farthings. The new spanking KGB Stadium is in amongst a Retail park. There you can get a McDonalds, with a pie on top, next door Burger King, this weeks offer, a Burger with a pie on top, and Fatty Arbuckles, classic American cuisine, with a pie on top. Wiganers love their pies. This was how the town has become modernised. As we walked towards the Stadium, a cool breeze blew off Wigan Pier, where the old sea-dogs of yesterday used to tote cotton and sing the blues. Outside were Portakabin huts, obviously the Executive Boxes hadn't been installed in time. I always try to get a programme, but after getting through the turnstile I asked a steward and he said "Programme, what do ye think this is, the Theatre?". We checked out the cuisine on offer. A stall sold Uncle Joes Mint Balls, and next to it was a Penny Bazaar run by a bloke with a long beard. We fancied a pint so we tried the Bar. "A Fosters please" I requested. "Fosters? We've only got Brown Ale and Stout. Good for you, put hairs on your Mint Balls" the weasel-faced man replied. Declining his offer we took our place in the Stand behind the goal. Only three sides of the Stadium were being used, when Wigan play league games they will probably get away with one. This was what the Athletic diehard has dubbed the "Stadium of Pies", similar to Sunderlands "Stadium of Shite." On the pitch, President Whelan was conducting the Official Opening ceremony, whilst Sir Alex was interviewed by a local yonner. It was obvious that he couldn't understand a bloody word he was saying. The United squad warmed up, using old-fashioned leather footballs that weighed a ton, whilst the home side smoked fags and ate a pie each. Pre-match entertainment was three girls with pom-poms, a synchronised Ferret Display and some Clog Dancers moving clumsily to "Vindaloo." At last it was kick-off time. The National Anthem, "Come on Wigan" was sung with gusto, and our old Opera-singing friend from last season was back, knocking out "Nessum Dorma" and "Turned Out Nice Again." The Reds around me tried to make some atmosphere, but nobody would join in with their 'Henning Berg' song (to the tune of the A-Team). The match itself wasn't a classic. Carroll in the Wigan goal made some good stops, and Wigans shooting was abysmal. It appeared as if they were trying to audition for the Rugby side that will share their new home. In the second half at least we managed to score, that must have pleased the viewing audience at home (Barry Leeming). Scholes burst through and slotted the ball inside the post. The electronic scoreboard refused to acknowledge the goal for a good five minutes, that'll be a handy tactic to deny the visiting team in future. Wigan forced a corner, and the enthusiasm was almost electric, nearly as powerful as the Beckham- booing. You could just make out the Ukelele being strummed at the far end. Ole, with a suspicion of handball, forced his way in from the back of the box to rifle in a second goal. Two goals in the last ten minutes pooped the party a little, but what punctuated the game most of all was a series of weird announcements. "Will Fred please phone home - the whippet is on heat" "Albert and Ron, please return home - your wives have gone into Labour" (I think that meant the Labour Club) "Reg - your Black Pudding has shrivelled up into a piece of Charcoal" After the final whistle the Stadium lights dimmed, they had clearly ran out of coins for the meter. It was time for the last treat of the evening, the Firework Extravaganza. Two blokes came on with a stepladder and stuck a Catherine Wheel to a goalpost, lit it and legged it. Other pyrotechnics went off that had been carefully concealed in the unused Stand. That will be fun for the visiting fans in coming matches! What fun, what thrills. On Saturday they entertain Scunthorpe United. I don't think it was be quite as memorable as the day Manchester United came to town. Paul H
Click On pic - for latest interviews/pics from OT"

Subject: Old Trafford Capacity To Move Past 60,000 Mark Manchester United fans have been boosted by the news that Old Trafford's capacity will pass the 60,000 mark in March because redevelopment work is ahead of schedule. United's capacity will increase by around 6,000 when the second tier of the East Stand opens in the spring. United had not expected to be able to use the seats until a year from now, but contractors Birse are on course to complete the work five months ahead of schedule. Birse will then begin work on expanding the West Stand and when that is completed Old Trafford's capacity will have increased from its current level of 56,024 to 67,400. All of the extra seats from the 30million redevelopment will go to non-season ticket members. At present the 90,000 members go into a ballot for the 12,000 tickets available to them for each match and the redevelopment will increase their chances of getting into Old Trafford. United spokesman Ken Ramsden said: "Originally the contractors scheduled for the first phase to be completed - at the start of next season - in another year. "However the builders have said they can now deliver by March, which means we will have around 6,000 new seats available towards the end of the season." United's present capacity is unaffected by the redevelopment work, which began at the end of last season. However, United have asked supporters coming to the first home games against Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday and Leeds on Saturday week to arrive early because the building work will cause some disruption.
Click On pic - for latest interviews/pics from OT"

Subject: Alan Hansen (Fergie's Book) August 5 1999 ALEX FERGUSON The reason I dropped Hansen EVERYBODY accepted that the first obligation to Jock Stein's memory was to complete Scotland's qualification for the World Cup finals in Mexico in 1986. I was delighted when the Scottish FA decided I should take over as manager. When it came to the squad, I recognised that no decision would be more controversial than the one I had to take about Alan Hansen. Nobody could doubt his quality as a central defender but his tendency to pull out of Scotland matches had raised a question in my mind about his reliability and perhaps his attitude. His reputation as a marvellous player was based on his achievements with Liverpool. He was never as remarkable with Scotland. So I decided to leave him out. There was no personal animosity. My criteria were strictly those of a football manager. I felt that he did not deserve to go to Mexico. But I realised that Kenny Dalglish would take a different view and I made sure Kenny was the first player I contacted on the day before the squad was announced. I spent the afternoon making a long series of calls. After telling Kenny how pleased I was that he would be with us, I told him that I would not be taking Hansen. Kenny made the expected response. "He's a great player, Alan. You can't leave him out." "Well, look, let me think about it," I said. That was a matter of showing respect for what Kenny was saying but, after phoning other players about their selection or exclusion, I went back to Kenny. "No, I can't change my mind about Alan," I told him. Kenny's reaction was muted. "Well, OK. It's your decision." When I gave the bad news to Hansen himself, he handled it well. "Fine," he said. "I understand it's difficult. You can't take everybody." Shortly before we were due to fly out, Kenny called off. We were told that he was going in for an operation on his knee. In his autobiography, Kenny wrote: "People claimed I was snubbing Fergie out of spite over Alan. That was not true." Dalglish was a massive loss to us. His extraordinary talent was matched by unbreakable courage, an attribute the importance of which is often overlooked. I think my management over Scotland's first two matches in Mexico was good but I am less than happy with my memories of how I handled that decisive game with Uruguay. My team selection could have been better, although I was handicapped by the physical difficulties being experienced by Graeme Souness and an injury sustained by Charlie Nicholas. I must say that the players could not be proud of how they performed. As soon as the Uruguayans were down to ten men, we became nervous and revealed that old Scottish inability to produce the killer thrust. The French referee, Joel Quiniou, had started off like a hero but later on was blatantly intimidated by the Uruguayans' mischief. Yet again Scotland's participation in a World Cup had been brief and far from glorious. It pained me deeply that I had been unable to improve upon a depressingly familiar script. Extracted from Managing My Life, My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson with Hugh McIlvanney (Hodder headline)
Click On pic - for latest interviews/pics from OT"

Subject: Alchol & Parties (Fergie's Book) August 5 1999 ALEX FERGUSON In the fourth extract from his autobiography, Alex Ferguson reveals how alcohol has blighted players' careers - and tells of the party that drove him to violence Why we should breath-test players AS I travelled towards my first working day at Manchester United, my thoughts were on alcohol and the damage it could do. Accounts of excessive drinking by some United players had been confirmed and I realised that the problem had to be confronted. For longer than anybody cares to remember, boozing has been a blight on the discipline of British footballers. On the eve of my first meeting with the players and less than 48 hours before they were due to play an away match at Oxford, certain members of the squad were doing some serious drinking. Apparently Ron Atkinson, as outgoing manager, had thrown a farewell party. Instead of making an immediate fuss, I contented myself with the briefest of introductory speeches. They encountered a different Ferguson when they were summoned to the gym again the following week, after I had sat through a 2-0 defeat at Oxford. I made it plain that I meant to put an end to Manchester United's reputation of being almost as much of a social club as a football club. When I joined United on November 6, 1986, they had gone 19 years without a title and nobody had to tell me that if I did not end that drought I would be a failure. I see the period between my appointment and the European triumph in Rotterdam as the first phase of my management at Old Trafford. Those four and a half years brought me far more lows than highs as I struggled to cope with the forbidding list of problems. It was hardly a comfort to reflect that three of our players, able to compete in the toughest company, were injured so often that it was a luxury to have all of them fit at the same time and not a rarity to have none of them available. Bracketing Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside together would be foolish. They were very different footballers and very different characters but they did share a tendency to spend a lot of time in the physio's room. Something else they had in common was that none of them could ever have been mistaken for a teetotaller. When Robson was fit, the masochistic zeal of his training helped to sweat the alcohol out of his system more effectively than for the less vigorous McGrath and Whiteside. Although Norman's drinking never struck me as serious as Paul's, he was a worthy companion when it came to carousing. I was saddened and infuriated by the way they abused themselves. Having seen how much Norman had to offer, I set out to discover why he had so many injuries. According to Norman, his tale of woe began when, at the age of 15, a physiotherapist gave him treatment that went wrong and left him with permanent trouble in his hips and other joints. It was natural to wonder if the pain of thinking about what might have been had something to do with the contempt for his career that was implied by his consumption of booze. He was intelligent and would hold his hand up when called to account. My rebukes did little good but at least I felt I was in communication with Norman. That was never true with McGrath. I found him unreachable. Time and again I would have him in my office, attempting to bring home to him the damage that alcohol was doing to his life. He would nod in agreement, then walk out and carry on as before, indifferent to the threat his behaviour posed to a career already jeopardised by knee problems. But I went on trying. I knew that a fit McGrath who had his head straight would be a huge asset. His lifestyle, though, had taken its toll. In the match that was my first as United manager, that 2-0 defeat at Oxford, I had been advised to play him in midfield but he did not have the stamina. He was so knackered that I had to take him off. Once when McGrath hurt himself by crashing his car into somebody's garden, my concern about his injuries was compounded by fears of what he might get up to when reunited with Whiteside, who was recovering from Achilles' tendon damage. The less active they were professionally, the more hectic they tended to be socially. The day of reckoning drew nearer in January 1989 when the two Irishmen broke all their records for irresponsibility during the week of preparation for a third-round FA Cup-tie at Old Trafford against Queens Park Rangers. I became aware that they were heading for an epic bender on the Tuesday afternoon, when I started receiving calls from supporters who reported that the pair were moving from pub to pub in Cheshire. At training on the Wednesday I read the Riot Act and fined them the maximum allowed under the ludicrous agreement with the Professional Footballers' Association. They showed how much the fines bothered them by hitting the drink on the Wednesday evening. Next morning McGrath could hardly jog and I had to send him off the field. The antics had immediate consequences, since my squad for the Cup-tie had been depleted and my hopes of including McGrath were evaporating. But I was so badly off for fit players that I had to keep him on the periphery of the squad. Then, on the Friday, Granada screened an interview with Paul and Norman in which both were on Planet Zigzag. Just when it seemed that the handicaps for the QPR match could not get any worse, they did. I was down to 13 men and then McGrath put the final touch to his disgraceful week by reporting unfit. I suppose I asked for the kick in the teeth. But who could have foreseen that McGrath's disdain for the club would stretch to withdrawing a couple of hours before kick-off? The conclusion was that neither he nor Whiteside had a future at Old Trafford. Over the years Ferguson continued to monitor the behaviour of other wayward players, often verbally and physically pulling them into line. He continues: I had no idea how hard I was about to be clattered when, on the evening after our loss at West Ham in the 1991-92 season, I went to Morecambe for an English Schools Football Association function. I was in no mood for such an engagement but I had given my word, so I turned up. During the meal, a member of the association suddenly mentioned that he had seen Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs in Blackpool on the Monday night. "Impossible," I said. "We had a game on that afternoon and were getting ready for another on Wednesday. They were at home resting." The schools official was adamant. "No, Mr Ferguson, I definitely saw them. Lee Sharpe was in a Range Rover." By that time smoke was coming out of my ears. I drove straight to Sharpe's house and had to park 30 yards up the street because of the number of cars outside his door. Music was blasting from the house. When the door was opened to me, I burst in with all guns blazing. There was a full-scale party going on and there must have been 20 people in the place, including Giggs and three apprentices. It was the presence of those boys that detonated my temper and I went berserk. I ordered everybody out of the house and as each apprentice passed I gave him a cuff on the back of the head. Yes, I know the guardians of political correctness wouldn't approve but I think the lads' parents would have supported me. Sharpe was nowhere to be seen. Obviously he was upstairs in the bedroom. I was angry enough without going up there. Eventually Sharpe appeared and I took him and Giggs to the lounge and tore into them. My anger was directed more at Sharpe than Giggs because there had been other signs of waywardness in Lee's off-field behaviour. I may have contributed to such tendencies by allowing him to have his own house when he was too young (at the time of the escapade he was 20). I look back on my dealings with Sharpe as a disappointing episode. My experiences with him trouble me more than those with McGrath. Here was a boy who had a chance of making it big. His rise in the game was swift but I soon concluded that his lifestyle was accelerating even more spectacularly. Little titbits about his conduct had been fed back to me. When I challenged him he was quick with denials but they did not have much credibility once I had learnt about the outing to Blackpool and then charged in on his party. I had tried to warn him about how fast living would slow him down. "To make it to the top in football you need to sacrifice," I told him. "If you lose that speed of yours, you will end up an ordinary player. Please don't take it for granted." Lee is with Bradford now and I hope their promotion to the Premiership helps him to revive his career. I found him a lovely lad and his failure to make the best of his potential filled me with sadness. He should have developed into a footballer of real significance instead of losing his way with us before being transferred to Leeds for 4.5 million in 1996. Cases like his make me want to exert an influence on young players that goes far beyond their football. I have no desire to run their private lives but I am keen to educate them about the dangers they encounter, especially about how damaging a freewheeling attitude to drink can be. I believe that soon we will be able to test them each morning and if they have been drinking they will be sent home. Future contracts may be constructed to counter the kind of behaviour that reduces a player's capacity to fulfil his obligations. It wasn't long before the other players heard about the jamboree in Blackpool and they weren't impressed with the way Giggs and Sharpe had chosen to "rest" between the Forest and West Ham games. They had let themselves and their team-mates down. They knew how irresponsible they had been. I have never had any bother from Ryan since that incident. He has developed into a fine young man and I have become very proud of him. Extracted from Managing My Life, My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson with Hugh McIlvanney (Hodder headline)
Click On pic - for latest interviews/pics from OT"

Subject: For Love, Not Money (Fergie's Book) August 5 1999 ALEX FERGUSON A job for love, not money THERE have been many fanciful versions of when and how Manchester United first approached me. Ron Atkinson insists Bobby Charlton offered me the job during the 1986 World Cup. That is not true. There was nothing but rumour to link me with Old Trafford before November 5. In the phone calls he made to me almost weekly, Gordon Strachan kept telling me the word in Manchester was that I would be the next manager. But there was not the merest hint of an official approach. When it did come, it was a surprise. I realised that Ron would be under pressure when on November 4 Southampton beat United 4-1 at The Dell. United were second-bottom of the first division. But I was hardly likely to have those events in my mind when the next day I was telephoned by Martin Edwards. Would I be interested in the job at United? Yes, I told him without hesitation. Could we meet that night in Scotland, at a place safe from prying eyes? I arranged with Edwards's party for 7pm at the motorway service station at Hamilton in Lanarkshire. Bang on time, Edwards arrived with his companions, Bobby Charlton, Mike Edelson and Maurice Watkins, the United director who is also the club's legal adviser. Our meeting covered the main subjects: players, staff, the money available for transfers, which - surprisingly - was nil. The salary was disappointing. I had earned more that year at Aberdeen. I mentioned the difficulties involved in organising a quick sale of my house and asked United to buy it from me but that proposal met with a blank. There was the other problem of a 40,000 loan I had been given by Aberdeen and which I thought United might undertake to clear, but again there was a refusal. From all of this it will be seen that financial inducements had nothing to do with my enthusiasm for going to Old Trafford. To a great extent I was a captive candidate and happy to be so. The job was a dream opportunity to fulfil the ambitions I had nursed since entering management and I eagerly accepted the terms. Extracted from Managing My Life, My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson with Hugh McIlvanney (Hodder headline)
Click On pic - for latest interviews/pics from OT"

Subject: Ferguson will win nothing this time? - Soccernet By Jeff Powell Friday, August 6, 1999 In between fending off the merchants of bung and setting sail to conquer the world, Sir Alex Ferguson might consider taking the Worthington Cup a shade more seriously than usual this autumn. Like putting out his first-team aristocrats in a genuine effort to reach the working man's Wembley. Because the little old League Cup, in its current guise, could be the only tin pot which Manchester United have a real chance of winning this season. No, this is neither heresy nor lunacy, although to listen to the wimps who make up the Premiership numbers you could be forgiven for thinking it's all over, already. United are supposed to run away with everything in sight, all over again. Arsenal and Chelsea might give them a run for all the money that's crossed palms this summer and Leeds are young and rude enough to put up a fight, albeit a losing one. As for the rest, forget it. Because by the time they've finished running up the white flags while banging the patriotic drum, Fergie will still be wearing the Premiership crown, the world club title will be on its way to Old Trafford and the championship of Europe will still belong to Manchester. Believe that if you will. But reality - along with danger - lurks in the fixture list. Behind all the inevitable but superficial assumptions about the invincibility of Sir Alex and his triple crown heroes, the odds are stacked high and heavy against them on all fronts. United championed English football to the utmost last season. No team could have done more to refurbish the battered image of our national game, let alone win more. But that is reason to fear for them now as potential victims of their own success and not only because the prospective log-jam of matches has cornered them into absconding from the FA Cup. Set aside, for a moment, the preconceptions about the majesty of Manchester. Then look at the season this way. United rarely get off to a flyer in the League. Judging by their sluggish Charity Shield performance against Arsenal last Sunday, the hangover from Barcelona and all that could make for an even slower start to this campaign. It is far from inconceivable that they could find themselves approaching Christmas up to 10 points behind a pack of Premiership pacesetters which would almost certainly include Chelsea and Arsenal (and perhaps Liverpool). Then the delights of Rio will be beckoning. Anyone who thinks the World Club tournament is going to be a walkover knows little about South American football. The two Brazilian entrants, Corinthians and Vasco de Gama, will start as local favourites over both United and Real Madrid, with Ferguson's men disadvantaged more significantly by the climate. United will be travelling from the chill depths of an English January to play the gifted sons of the samba in 100-degree heat and sweltering humidity. The speed of their journey, by Concorde, will make acclimatisation all the more difficult. The likelihood is that they will partially adjust just in time to come home shivering, weary, defeated (and even further behind whoever the Premiership leaders may be). Games in hand are all very well, except that winning them is not easy psychologically when a team is playing catch-up. They are even tougher when they come in the midst of other distractions and United will quickly find themselves embroiled in the Champions League, with its expanded format and increased degree of difficulty. The prospects of United retaining the European title won so late and dramatically against Bayern Munich are more remote than of them becoming inaugural World Club Champions in an alien environment. Since they are excluding themselves from the FA Cup, that leaves only the domestic championship among the honours Ferguson covets most dearly. And we have seen already how handicapped United will be in that enterprise. If the realisation of United's problems dawns on the majority of the Premiership, Sir Alex could find his beloved team playing for nothing much more than a UEFA Cup place from February onwards, a come-down which the United faithful would find as hard to take as 40,000 in a Russian teapot. Since Arsenal, for all their comparable wealth but with their ageing defence on the retreat, also looked anything but unbeatable at Wembley, it is time for the others to stop bleating about the impossibility of challenging the rich and the famous. It is not good enough for any Premiership manager to give up the ghost of a championship chance - before a ball is kicked - by hiding behind the reputations of United and Arsenal. Forget the propaganda. There are several teams who have as good a chance of spiking the big guns as United had of upsetting Bayern in Barcelona, and given the pressures on United and the disturbances at Arsenal, there will be no excuse for Chelsea if they cannot find the title-winning nerve to go with the high-class talent they have bought. This is the mountain confronting football's newest knight and it is a realisation shared by bookmakers. Manchester United to win nothing? Ladbrokes will quote you no better than 2-1 against them failing in Brazil, Europe and the Premiership. And what does that leave as Fergie's best bet? Why, the little old Worthington Cup.
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