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Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 12:28 GMT
Man Utd look to turn up the heat

keane Roy Keane is hoping to lead his side out despite an injury niggle

The BBC's Bernie Rose reports from Rio de Janeiro on Manchester United's final preparations ahead of their opening World Club clash.

Having won almost every competition they've entered over the last year, Manchester United can, perhaps, feel fully justified of their confident mood going into the inaugural World Club Championship in Brazil.

World Club Championship
Asked on Wednesday if they can win the tournament, manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "We're not underestimating the challenge, but we won't be far away."

Although they are seen by some as favourites, they'll have to cope with conditions that are far removed from those at Old Trafford.

Despite two days of rain on their arrival in Rio, players have had to cope with stifling heat as temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees.

Waiting game

United face their first battle on Thursday, against little-known Necaxa from Mexico.

Nevertheless, the game that's really whetting the appetite of the locals is Saturday's game against Rio's own Vasco de Garma. All 100,000 tickets have long sold out for what's likely to be an atmosphere to savour.

stadium The Maracana stadium has undergone massive refurbishment
The loyal and ever-poorer band of Manchester United fans that have made the long journey to Brazil, will be engulfed by the locals in a game that could well decide who progresses to next week's final.

The setting for the game couldn't be more suitable. Millions of pounds have been spent on upgrading the Maracana - one of the World's most famous stadiums - as part of Brazil's bid for the 2006 World Cup.

Work is still being done in order to get the stadium ready in time, but the organisers have assured football's World governing body FIFA that all the work will be completed in time for kick-off.

Money talks

So, what is the incentive for Manchester United to take this tournament seriously? It would give them the right to be the official "world champions". And, with an increasing wage bill, a winners' cheque of 4m will come in handy when the next wave of players start their salary negotiations.

Manchester United's only injury doubt is their captain, Roy Keane, who is confident he'll be fit to lead his side out despite sitting out Wednesday's training session.

Billboards throughout Rio proclaim a welcome to Manchester United and the other teams in their group to what most people consider the spiritual home of football.

Amid all the other distractions that United have this season, it remains to be seen whether they're able to rise to the challenge of making their mark on a World stage.

There would, however, be no better place to win what would be their 5th trophy in just 9 months.

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See also:
05 Jan 00 |  Football
Keane hoping to face world
05 Jan 00 |  Football
Too hot for Man Utd
04 Jan 00 |  Football
Man Utd homesick in Brazil
Links to other Football stories are at the foot of the page.