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Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
The great pretender unmasked
The Man Utd mystery man joins his new team-mates
Right, you're at the back - and no mistakes
BBC Sport Online's Frank Keogh goes on the trail of the mystery man who appeared in Man Utd's Champions League team photograph.

The football world was holding its breath on Thursday over one of the game's greatest riddles - just who is the Man Utd impostor?

A huge manhunt began after the character somehow made his way into the club's team photo before their Champions League game at Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

As speculation mounted, a men's magazine stepped in to claim responsibility for the stunt.

And the unoffical new member of the United team was named as practical joker Karl Power, from Greater Manchester.

United's millionaire players were left bemused when their new team-mate - an Eric Cantona lookalike complete with authentic kit - wandered on to the pitch and joined in the photo.

  Top 10 unlikely candidates
Glaswegian Mungo Henning
The Bayern Munich boot boy
Colchester Kid Nicholas Corps
Londoner Dan 'Danners' Hambury
Jake Dearlove, of Cologne
Formby lecturer Chris Spencer
Middlesbrough fan Jonathan Wright
'Crazy Ade' Fisher
Stoke-on-Trent's Daniel Shaw
'Neville cousin' Roddy Burns
From hundreds of e-mails monitored by BBC Sport Online's Lucy Oakley and Christine Demsteader

After United were knocked out of the tournament with a 2-1 defeat, the inquisitions began.

And not into why United lost, but the equally burning question: Who was the great pretender?

Hundreds of people responded to BBC Sport Online's appeal to identify the 12th man, and appropriately enough, there were a few red herrings.

Suggestions ranged from the Bayern Munich boot boy to a Glaswegian by the name of Mungo Henning.

But one of the earliest responses appeared to have picked out the prankster.

Chris Pert's e-mail said: "His nickname is Fat Neck and he drinks in a local of mine in Droylesden.

"The pub he drinks in is called the Royal Oak and he might be called Carl Connor."

Later, the man was identified as Carl Power, of Droylesden, Greater Manchester.

Dwight Yorke
Oh no, he's taken my place: Agony for Dwight Yorke

In one of many bizarre twists, it appears that Power is well acquainted with pop stars Shaun Ryder and Bez from the Manchester indie pop group The Happy Mondays.

The pair are even said to have written a song about Fat Neck when they moved on to form the group Black Grape.

It reached number 10 in the UK singles chart in 1996.

On Thursday afternoon, men's magazine Front finally stepped forward to claim responsibility for the prank.

Front editor Piers Hernu revealed the man used a United pass card of some kind to get near the pitch, and then just coolly strode on to get his picture taken.

Mr Hernu said that after getting his picture taken, the man went back to the side of the pitch to watch the game.

TV stars Noel Edmonds and Vanessa Feltz have also fallen victim to previous Front publicity stunts.

Mr Hernu told BBC Sport Online four people in total were involved - Power, writer Eddie Hardin, a photographer and a man only referred to as The Impostor.

"We did a feature about him six months ago because he goes to all the Man Utd games abroad and blags his way in, watches the game from the sidelines, and videos it," said Mr Hernu.

He timed his run perfectly
  Magazine editor Piers Hernu on the mystery man

"He became a friend and we went on holiday with him recently and talked about doing a stunt.

"We had this idea of going on dressed as Eric Cantona and getting involved in the photo."

Power was thought to be at the centre of a tabloid newspaper bidding war as rivals The Sun and The Mirror sought his signature.

The Sun - who splashed the team photo across their front page on Thursday - were thought to have come out on top.

Meanwhile, Mr Hernu described Fat Neck's burst to stardom as: "He timed his run perfectly."

But he did admit to one error. His man wore the wrong kind of shorts - the white home version with a red logo rather than white with a dark blue logo.

His magazine team were still celebrating, however. They watched the game in a pub, where the landlord offered free drinks all round when the stunt was successful.

"We went mental. The whole place was in unproar," said Mr Hernu.

And he promised another prank at this summer's Wimbledon tennis tournament.

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Stars in their eyes
15 Jan 01 |  Football
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