And, lo it came to pass that one club became bigger than all the others and the League itself. Yes, Manchester United plc moved out of the FA Cup and into the World Marketable Shop Window tournament to be held in Brazil in the winter. This comes after a pre-season tour of Australia and some games set up in the Far East to boost the launch of the Reds Cafe/Megastore/Theme Parks that are to be set up out there. I am of the opinion that George Graham just about hit the nail on the head when he said the pull-out of the FA Cup had nothing to do with the 2006 World Cup or pressure from the Government, it was all about opportunity. However, I am still a bit mystified about all the fuss that has been kicked up about the matter. Frankly, if Manchester United drop-out, why is the competition devalued ?? They tried to ban us from it a few seasons ago, but no-one was of the view that the most prestigious competition in football was tarnished because we werenít going to be in it. And that came at a time when we held the record for the number of times we had won the thing. Through the years, various clubs have been out of the FA Cup, because they have forgotten to enter. Yes, you have to make an application to enter the competition and some errant secretaries of clubs have not posted theirs in time and were unable to take part. If the "Mighty" Reds want to opt out of playing in the FA Cup, then who will be the losers ?? They will be unable to defend their trophy and they will have one less pot to play for, so no "Double" or "Triple" this season for them. It is also one less route into Europe for them, although the qualification for the Champions League means they donít really have to worry about that. And the biggest reason I canít understand the hoo-haa, is that for the last three seasons, Manchester United reserves have represented the club in the Worthington Cup without a voice being raised by anyone about the club dropping out of the competition. Why couldnít they have done the same this season in the FA Cup ?? Surely it is better to have some Manchester United representation than none, if you listen to the newspapers.

And the Government arenít exactly blameless in this, are they ?? They labour under the apprehension that football is a serious issue and set up a task force to investigate what is wrong with the game, but then decide that they are the people who know best what to do in such a "crisis". All because the Tony loves World Cup 2006. Was it really going to have any bearing on where the tournament would end up ?? Would FIFA think, "Oh, what jolly good chaps England are that they will sacrifice the integrity of the oldest club competition in the world, just so the League winners can take part against the cream of Oceania in the World Club Championship." ?? Methinks not.

Taking part in the winter break for most European clubs and during the close season for other nations, there are few countries which will be disadvantaged by the timing of the event. It is rumoured that it may be available on TV in the UK as Pay Per View (PPV). This is surely the biggest irony of the lot. The money making potential of the thing far exceeds that they could gross from the FA Cup and therefore, for the sake of their fans they are representing Europe in Brazil, but their very own fans will have to shell out hard-earned cash to watch them on a grainy reception from South America. Who is it being done for ?? Need you ask ?? Not that PPV will be the sole domain of Manchester United. No, the Champions League may well be shown via this mode and how long before most European matches are available this way ??

Of course there is still poor Manny Small of Arsenal, who canít face the arduous campaign ahead of him and tells us that all the foreign players will have nervous and physical breakdowns unless they cut the amount of games we have to play. After playing two games in three days at Christmas, he said the foreigners looked at themselves and asked "What are we doing here ". Well, earning shedloads of cash for a start and having to play more games than they would at home in more unpleasant weather conditions is your bread and butter work. Pity the poor street-sweepers who have to carry out their daily tasks in rain or shine. There are many other players who have come to this country to ply their trade, who do so in a professional manner, because they knew what was entailed before they arrived. They are the ones who deserve their money rather than the whinging of players, who because they have won the World Cup (and this includes LeBoeuf) think they have a right to say how the game in this country should be run.

The outrage that poured from Arsene Wenger was a bit rich considering he wanted Arsenal to opt out of the Charity Shield because they had too many important matches in the Champions League later in the season. Despite the fact that the game raised money for many good causes, none which are involved with teams in red unfortunately for the two sides concerned, but hey ... thatís "sport" for you. Itís a funny old "business".

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