Bombs force Manchester United game to be cancelled

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Bombs force Manchester United game to be cancelled

Manchester United’s attempts to spread farther their gospel in South-East Asia could have been ended by the hotel bomb blasts in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday night. It is unlikely that the club will contemplate pre-season fixtures in Indonesia in the near future.

United had sought “expert” advice before agreeing to play a match in the country for the first time, especially after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had warned them in April that it was a “high-risk” destination. After detailed discussions, the Barclays Premier League champions decided that it was safe to travel.

The game against the Indonesian Super League, which was to have been played at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Monday, has been cancelled. It may be switched to Kuala Lumpur, where United are based for the first leg of their four-match Far East tour and where they take on a Malaysia XI tonight.”We were aware of the situation [the Foreign Office warnings] and had discussed it very carefully, taking the appropriate advice,” David Gill, the United chief executive, said yesterday. “We discussed it with the relevant authorities and it was the right decision at the time.

“We didn’t just take the decision ourselves. We discussed it with the experts and felt that it was a safe place to go. It was our first visit, everyone had worked extremely hard and it is an important market for us because we have a lot of fans there. Balancing everything up, we felt it was the correct decision.”

United called off the second leg of their tour after talks with the Indonesian FA. They have been speaking with the Indonesian and Malaysian FAs about restaging the match at the Bukit Jalil Stadium here, in which the United players trained in front of 20,000 often hysterical Malaysian fans yesterday evening.

“We are obviously shocked but, with regard to the safety of our players, staff and fans, there was no other way we could have looked at the situation,” Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said. “We wouldn’t have been comfortable going there [Indonesia] and I believe that we have made the right decision.”

United were due to have stayed in one of the hotels that was bombed in Jakarta, the Ritz-Carlton, after flying from Kuala Lumpur this evening. They also play Seoul in South Korea on Friday and Zhejian Lucheng in Hangzhou, China, a week tomorrow.

In an atmosphere of uncertainty yesterday, Ferguson unwittingly revealed that he had signed another player — Mame Biram Diouf, the 21-year-old Senegalese striker who plays for Molde in the Norwegian league.

Earlier in the week, Ferguson said that he had completed his summer recruiting, which includes Antonio Valencia, the Ecuador and former Wigan Athletic winger, and Michael Owen, the former Newcastle United striker.

United have confirmed the sale of Manucho to Real Valladolid. Carlos Queiroz, the United assistant manager at the time, alerted United to the Angola striker 18 months ago. However, despite spells on loan with Panathinaikos and Hull City, he did not become a regular at Old Trafford.

Owen Hargreaves, the England midfield player, who is recovering from surgery to both knees, could join the squad when United stop off in Munich on the way back from China to play in the Audi Cup on July 29 and 30. “He should be ready to train by then,” Ferguson said. Hargreaves is keen not to jeopardise his long-term future by returning too soon.

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