Manchester United were at the centre of a political storm last night after the Malaysian football authorities reversed their decision to cancel the final leg of the Barclays Premiership champion's summer tour of Asia amid intense pressure from the Government for the game to go ahead.
The about-turn follows the intervention of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, but is unlikely to be well received by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) or Fifa, the world governing body, who had demanded that United's match against a Malaysia Select XI in Kuala Lumpur on July 27 be cancelled as it clashed with the Asian Cup finals.
Badawi's insistence that the game take place has left the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) in a difficult situation as they cannot be seen to defy their Prime Minister openly, but, nonetheless, the decision has made them vulnerable to severe disciplinary action from the AFC and Fifa.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, who are co-hosting the Asian Cup, which runs from July 7-29, had originally agreed not to stage any other games while the tournament is on.
Ed. See our story posted on Sunday.