HANG YOUR HEADS; Man U Chiefs Are Accused of Treachery as Club Ditches FA Cup for World Title Clash
BRITAIN reacted with fury yesterday over Manchester United's decision to snub the FA Cup.
Fans, players, celebrities and politicians accused the Treble winners and English football bosses of treachery.
The FA asked United to opt out of this season's competition to allow them to play in the inaugural FIFA World Team Championship in Brazil.
Soccer chiefs believe taking part will boost England's chances of hosting the 2006 World Cup.
But the decision has provoked fury.
GMTV presenter Eamonn Holmes, a life-long supporter of the Old Trafford club and a season-ticket holder, could barely contain his rage.
He fumed: "It's the end of the English game as we know it.
"I simply don't accept Manchester United have fallen on their sword for the sake of the country.
"This is about money, money, money. If Manchester United want to take part in this two-week tournament - that none of us can go to - they should come clean and not make out it's all for the good of the nation.
"All football supporters know that club success comes first, country success second.
Eamonn, president of a Manchester United supporters' club back home in Northern Ireland, added: "I think we're giving up the most historic and prestigious tournament in the world for one with no history and even less prestige.
"I would have expected to have been given a chance to vote on this, but the club knows the fans wouldn't back it."
Former United goalkeeping legend Harry Gregg also condemned the move.
Harry, 67, who survived the Munich air crash, said: "I can't believe they've taken this decision.
"They shouldn't have done it. The game all seems to be about money."
Harry, who now runs a hotel in Northern Ireland, added: "I do not think this decision will devalue the FA Cup.
"To say it will is simply disrespectful to all the other teams who are taking part. It is the supporters who are losing out here."
Former manager Tommy Docherty, who guided the team to FA Cup glory in the 70s, claimed they had little option.
He said: "I feel a bit sorry for the club because they can't win, whatever they do.
"If Alex Ferguson had put his youth team out in the FA Cup, he would have been slaughtered for it."
But Docherty attacked the FA and the Government for putting pressure on United. Sports Minister Tony Banks was among those who supported the FA's move.
He added: "It's all politics. United are being made scapegoats by the politicians and all the FA are interested in is getting the World Cup.
"Whether they play in Brazil or not, it will not matter. I believe the decision has already been made and the World Cup will go to South Africa."
His comments echoed those of team boss Alex Ferguson, who earlier complained United had been put in an impossible situation.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday where the club announced its decision, Sir Alex said: "We had to think about the situation regarding England hosting the World Cup. That was paramount.
"No one wants to see them not getting it and the criticism we would have received if they had not got it and we had refused to go to Brazil would have been unthinkable - and that's a Scotsman talking.
"From our point of view we couldn't win and we're getting criticised anyway because all of a sudden everyone is putting the FA Cup above everything else.
"We know that and we understand that, but we've been brave enough to make this decision."
United chairman Martin Edwards also defended the move, claiming the team would have faced too many fixtures if it stayed in the cup.
He said: "The last thing we want to do is disappoint our fans and we hope they understand this decision. We had to consider England's 2006 World Cup bid and that may have been at stake.
"But we also have the opportunity to be the champions of world club football in the inaugural competition. …