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Real test begins now for Man Utd

By Steve Wyeth
BBC Manchester reporter in Yokohama

Manchester United lift the Club World Cup
Manchester Utd were crowned world champions after defeating Liga de Quito 1-0

Having more than one good year to crow about didn't do Frank Sinatra any harm and whilst 1999 will always be a vintage for Manchester United they can also look back on 2008 with a great deal of satisfaction.

In a year that marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, United have been crowned Premier League, European and now World champions.

United were overwhelming favourites to win a tournament which probably needed a big name from Argentina or Brazil to mount a serious challenge and, beyond the final two, lacked strength in depth.

You only need take a less than fashionable Premier League club like Wigan to see why Fifa might struggle to win over sceptics in Europe.

Ecuador and Egypt were both represented here, yet top players like Antonio Valencia (Ecuador) and Amr Zaki (Egypt), have left those countries, and its clubs, to ply their trade at the JJB Stadium.

The competition was enthusiastically backed by the locals mind, even if tickets for the final cost up to 200, and it was certainly well organised.

The big challenge for United now is to be ready for Stoke on Boxing Day after what will have been a truly bizarre week

BBC Manchester's Steve Wyeth

It also had the charm of other major international sporting events in allowing you to return with stories of fans you had met from all over the world, and the passion you had in common for football.

I can't imagine ever again witnessing the bemusement of the locals as we shared a drink, and a football song or two, with some Mexicans in a Hawaiian bar in Yokohama.

Wayne Rooney's 18-minute cameo in the semi-final ensured United got to play in the showpiece, and his splendid goal was a fitting way for the contest to be settled, although the scoreline flattered Quito.

United dominated even after Nemanja Vidic had been sent off for throwing an elbow he'd obviously had especially sharpened for the occasion.

Argentine striker Claudio Bieler's reaction, rolling around like a petulant child refusing to wait until Christmas Day for his presents, hardly helped give his team the credibility their performances lacked.

The big challenge for United now is to be ready for Stoke on Boxing Day after what will have been a truly bizarre week or so.

Staying at Yokohama's equivalent of Canary Wharf I doubt anyone in the travelling party got a real taste for being in Japan and they were often confined to the hotel by local well-wishers who stalked their every move in huge numbers.

Nemanja Vidic is sent off
Vidic got his marching orders from referee Ravshan Irmatov

United also intentionally never tried to completely adapt to local time and had started the switch back to GMT three days before contesting the final.

Even members of the backroom staff went to bed at four in the morning on the penultimate night, and no-one has felt it worse than manager Alex Ferguson.

He says he failed to sleep more than two hours a night until the eve of the final and will probably be hoping he's taken one for the team and that his players fared considerably better.

I'd be intrigued to discover just how long it takes to feel anything like settled in these Japanese surroundings. Eight days is nothing like enough.

Just when you think you've cracked it, you take a sip from what you believe is a can of Lemonade only to find yourself spraying Japanese Brown Iced Tea all over your laptop.

Despite finding myself wide awake at bizarre times of the night, I've also managed to sleep through an earthquake that was powerful enough to make the news in a country where these things are as commonplace as delays on public transport back home.

606: DEBATE

By contrast getting around Japan has proved to be a clean, efficient and almost frighteningly punctual experience. Although these qualities are of little use if reading the subway maps or for the fact that buying a ticket feels like you're trying to decode the Matrix.

I remain grateful to whoever bundled me on to the correct train back to Yokohama on Friday, otherwise I fear I'd have still been wandering around Tokyo's Shibuya station when Wayne Rooney won Manchester United the Club World Cup.

I should be home for Christmas, if someone can point me towards the airport.

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see also
Tim Vickery column
21 Dec 08 |  separator
Liga de Quito v Man Utd photos
21 Dec 08 |  Man Utd
Liga de Quito 0-1 Man Utd
21 Dec 08 |  Man Utd
Gamba Osaka 3-5 Man Utd
18 Dec 08 |  Man Utd
Man Utd's Japanese adventure
17 Dec 08 |  Man Utd


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