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English Premiership

Man Utd cancel trip after blasts

KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 – Manchester United's pre-season tour was thrown into chaos Friday when they were forced to cancel the Indonesian leg after a bombing at the Jakarta hotel where they were due to stay next week.FERGIESir Alex Ferguson’s team of multi-millionaire superstars arrived in Kuala Lumpur from England to be told about the carnage in the Indonesian capital, where at least nine people were killed and more than 40 were injured.

They were due to play an Indonesian All-Star squad at the sold-out 100,000-capacity Bung Karno Stadium on Monday on their first-ever trip to the sprawling country and were booked into the Ritz-Carlton.

But the hotel, along with the JW Marriott in the upscale Mega Kuningan business district in the city centre, were hit by explosions at around 8:00 am (0100 GMT), which sent huge plumes of smoke into the sky.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called the blasts an "act of terrorism" and the team sought the advice of the British High Commission before abandoning the leg of a tour that also sees them visit South Korea and China.

"We are shocked," Ferguson told a press conference.

"We just got the news as we landed here and we are terribly disappointed because we’ve never been to Indonesia before.

"The organisers have worked very hard to get us over there and it is disappointing for them too.

"There’s no other decision we could have taken in regards to the safeguarding of our players. We feel we’ve made the right decision."

The club said it was trying to reorganise that leg of the tour, with one suggestion that the Indonesian team fly to Kuala Lumpur and play the match here.

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"There are various things we’re looking at. We could bring the Indonesian team here. It’s a possibility and something we’re looking at," said chief executive David Gill.

"In all probability (United) will stay here (in Kuala Lumpur). But there are lots of things to be done before we sort out the logistics for the rest of the week."

Gill defended the decision to schedule a match in Indonesia.

"We were aware of the situation and we discussed this and after taking the appropriate advice, it was the right decision at the time," he said.

"We discussed it with experts and felt it was a safe place to go. It is an important market for us and we have a lot of fans there. On balance, we felt it was okay to go."

The decision to pull out is a blow for United who have a huge fan base in Indonesia and numerous commercial partners, making their tour as much about business as football.

Despite the blasts, their match against a Malaysian XI here on Saturday will go ahead and Ferguson has brought a 22-man squad.

A glaring omission was Park Ji-Sung. No reason was given for his absence.

Also missing was defender Nemanja Vidic after the Serbia international picked up an ankle injury which forced him out of a World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands last month.

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New recruit Antonio Valencia also will not play after returning to Ecuador to get a visa for England, while Ferguson revealed recent signing Gabriel Obertan is injured and could be out for three months.

Despite this, United has a strong squad, with Michael Owen set to make his debut after his shock move from Newcastle earlier this month.

Ferguson said he had yet to decide on his starting 11.

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