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Monday, 10 January, 2000, 20:56 GMT
Man Utd: Just happy to be here?

Manchester United embarked on a belated charm offensive

By the BBC's Bernie Rose in Rio

Instead of worrying about who they'll be playing against in Friday's final, Manchester United's main concern ahead of Tuesday's game against South Melbourne, is whether they'll even make the third place play-off at the end of this week.

Despite all the hassle...we're delighted to be here
Sir Alex Ferguson
Victory alone won't guarantee them qualification. They'll have to wait for the result of the other group game to find out their fate.

Having arrived here full of optimism and made favourites by many, United now face the possibility of an early plane home with their pride severely dented.

So has it then been worth the effort? You won't catch any of the United team, or management talking of regrets about their participation.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "Despite all the hassle that went with our participation, and despite the results, we're delighted to be here."

David Beckham, Copacabana Beckham: His sending off was bad PR
That attitude is mirrored by his captain Roy Keane, who said: "It's been worth every minute."

Whether these thoughts are genuinely held is open to question. The team have come under fire from the local press for their attitude to the tournament and the media have been heavily critical of the limited access they've had to the players.

As far as the organisers are concerned though, Manchester United are seen as one of the darlings of the tournament.

Football's world governing body, Fifa are delighted that Manchester United are here in the first place.

Their spokesman, Keith Cooper said: "The whole tournament would have been devalued without the European Champions being here."

The Football Association, who encouraged United to be here in the first place, may take a rather different view.

Their presence in Rio was seen as crucial to England's hopes of being awarded the 2006 World Cup.

But the adverse publicity that has followed the world's richest club so far has perhaps had the opposite effect.

Sir Alex Ferguson Ferguson: Has given limited access to his team
David Beckham's sending off and Sir Alex Ferguson's dismissal in the opening game against Necaxa, together with what's seen here in Rio as an aloofness from Manchester United would not be what the FA had envisaged.

Only after the defeat against Vasco de Garma, and with it the certainty that they couldn't win the tournament, has the attitude relaxed and the charm offensive begun.

The last two days of training sessions have been shared with local children from deprived areas. Who was picking up skills from who though, was at times hard to tell.

The promotional work though has brought smiles not just to the faces of the children, but also to Fifa and especially the FA.

Seen by some as a damage limitation exercise, it has certainly done them no harm.

What United and indeed the FA must hope for now is a convincing win tonight against South Melbourne - and qualification for the third place play-off against a high profile side.

Even then, the whole adventure may be seen as merely a limited success.

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See also:
10 Jan 00 |  Manchester United
Man Utd go for youth
09 Jan 00 |  Manchester United
No regrets for Ferguson
08 Jan 00 |  Manchester United
Man Utd's world title bid demolished
07 Jan 00 |  Talking Point
Beckham: Help or hindrance?
07 Jan 00 |  AudioVideo
Beckham match ban
05 Jan 00 |  World Club Championship
World Club Championship results
09 Jan 00 |  World Club Championship
World Club Championship tables

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