Sir Alex Ferguson called Tony Blair with FA Cup request

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Sir Alex Ferguson made a last ditch phone call to Tony Blair to try to keep Manchester United from dropping out of the FA Cup in the 1999/2000 season.

Manchester United had made history in the previous campaign by winning the Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League. It was to be the first season in which the European champions would compete in a World Championship with the stage set for Brazil.

The schedule was horrendous and would force Manchester United to forfeit their chances of retaining the FA Cup. However, Ferguson tried his best to work out a deal with then-Prime Minister Blair to make sure they could remain in the world's oldest cup competition.

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But Blair was busy with far more pressing matters. He was set to meet Yugoslavia president Slobodan Milosevic to try to bring an end to the war in Kosovo and could not take the call.

With the FA demanding Manchester United take part in the tournament in a bid to boost their chances of hosting the 2006 World Cup, Ferguson admitted defeat and pulled out of the FA Cup.

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The story

Andy Walsh, who was a member of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association and close to the negotiations, told The Mail: "United came out as the villains in all of it.

"But both Sir Alex and then chairman Martin Edwards were under incredible pressure from Tony Banks, the Prime Minister's envoy for the World Cup bid, and from David Davies, the FA's acting chief executive to pull out of the FA Cup and go to Brazil for the Fifa tournament.

"As fans we wanted to find ways of keeping them in the FA Cup and we thought we had come up with a solution.

"It involved moving some of the fixtures to earlier in the season and creating a gap before United were due to go in January during which, if the FA would move the tie, they could play their third round cup match."


The proposal was gathering pace but started to unravel once the season got underway.

He continued: "We were playing Arsenal and Martin Edwards was sat next to the new Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey. She made some remark along the lines of "I believe you're ruining this season's FA Cup" and when word of that got back to Fergie he was furious.

"I spoke to him over the phone and he said: "That's it, they're forcing us out. F*** them. We're going to Brazil and that's the end of it".

"Then he told me that he had tried to call Tony Blair and he couldn't sort it.

"I'd seen Blair on the news that morning going to Yugoslavia so I asked Fergie what had been said.

"He told me that Blair had told him he was about to go into a meeting with Milosevic and that was the end of it."


Manchester United would famously fail to win the tournament, crashing out to Brazilian side Vasco da Gama. England would also fail to win the bid to host the 2006 World Cup, which was instead awarded to Germany.

The Red Devils did, however, reclaim their Premier League title in emphatic fashion, finishing 18 points ahead of Arsenal. The legacy their treble left on the club would help to keep them at the top of world football for the next decade.

Do any Manchester United fans remember the 1999/2000 season and the disaster of pulling out of the FA Cup? Tell us your memories of this controversial decision in the comment box below!

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Alex Ferguson
Premier League
Manchester United

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