United Sacrifice 'In Vain'

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The unprecedented move to let Manchester United miss next season's FA Cup is unlikely to improve England's chances of hosting the 2006 World Cup, according to football's governing body Fifa.

The Football Association has allowed holders United to sit out the FA Cup so they can take part in the inaugural World Team Championship in Brazil next January.

The FA believes that by taking part in the new tournament, which is the brainchild of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, United will aid England's campaign to win the race for 2006.

United accepted the argument and on Wednesday they reluctantly withdrew from the FA Cup - against the wishes of many of their supporters, who have been vocal in their condemnation of the proposal.

However Fifa's head of communications Keith Cooper has warned that United's sacrifice could be unnecessary.

Separate issues

He dismissed the theory that United have improved the 2006 bid and insisted the World Team Championship is a separate issue from who hosts the World Cup.

"I think the two things are completely separate," he said.

"The position on who will host the World Cup in 2006 will be taken by the 24 members of the executive committee in March next year and the criteria that they choose to apply is entirely their business."

Cooper's comments will add further fuel to the controversy raging over United's withdrawal from the oldest and most famous knockout competition in the world.

'Time to be taken seriously'

But one of the leading figures within international football took the opposing view and feels England's hopes have been boosted by the United situation.

Trinidad & Tobago's Jack Warner, a Fifa vice president and president of the north and central American federation, Concafaf, welcomed the move.

Warner, one of 24 FIFA officials who will vote on who hosts the 2006 World Cup, said: "This can only augur well for England's bid to host World Cup 2006.

"If England want to be taken seriously by the world of football it's only right they take the world of football seriously themselves.

"I am therefore very pleased to hear that Manchester United will be taking part. It speaks volumes for the efforts of the club and country."