Last updated : 09 May 2007 By Ed
From the Telegraph

Manchester United remain confident their pre-season visit to Asia will go ahead, despite the growing threat to the Malaysian leg of the four-country tour after their plans were criticised as "disrespectful" by a leading official.

United's trip to the Far East had been scheduled for July, clashing with the four-yearly Asian Cup, and has drawn stinging criticism from the Asian Football Confederation, who fear the visit of the newly installed Premiership champions will draw attention away from the region's showpiece tournament.

Mohamed bin Hamman, the president of the AFC, condemned the arrangements which will see Sir Alex Ferguson's side play in Tokyo on July 17 and visit Seoul and Macau before a final match against a Malaysian XI in Kuala Lumpur on July 27, and his comments were echoed by the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, who has also urged the club to change their plans.

That triggered an announcement yesterday by officials at the Football Association of Malaysia, making it clear that, under present plans, United would not be welcome in the country, one of four nations co-hosting the Asian Cup that runs until July 29. United's visit to the Malaysian capital will have to be rescheduled or, more likely, scrapped.

A club spokesman said: "We are currently attempting to clarify with our tour organisers what the situation is in regards to Malaysia, but we are confident that the rest of the tour will go ahead."

Blatter said: "The Asian Cup is on a date reserved for competitions for the confederations and they should also be respected by clubs who are touring in the same region where these competitions are taking place.

"I would personally appeal to the club, to the associations, but also to the organisers in the different countries. We have an opportunity for solidarity for football."

Bin Hamman has branded United's itinerary "disrespectful" and the vice-president of the Football Association of Malaysia, Tengku Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah, said: "If they want to come [to Malaysia] during that time they can't. The sanction has not been given by the AFC and we have to follow it. Manchester United cannot come to Malaysia during the Asian Cup.

"It is bad news for the fans but it is the feeling of the family of Asia. By the look of it the Asian Cup will have to take precedence. We all have to support Mr Bin Hammam's call for Manchester United not to come. The feeling is that they have to reschedule."