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Tragic events in Paris led to French World Cup winners Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Christian Karembeu pulling out of David Beckham's 'Match for Children' at Old Trafford.
The trio should have been among the star attractions of a 'Rest of the World XI' playing against a Beckham Great Britain and Ireland select side in aid of Unicef.
But although two other French players in Robert Pires and former Manchester United player Mikael Silvestre did feature, organisers announced the three could not play following Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris.
A statement read: "In light of the tragic events in Paris last night some of the players who were set to take part in today's Match for Children at Old Trafford unfortunately were not longer able to participate. Our thoughts go out to the victims and families."
The match itself, after a minute's silence in tribute to the Paris victims, lacked sparkle and was played in a subdued atmosphere in a front of a sell-out 75,381 crowd.
But it still provided enough moments of quality to entertain an obviously United-loving crowd as Great Britain and Ireland - a side incidentally lacking a single Irishman - won 3-1.
The sight of former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson back in the Old Trafford technical area, leading the home side was a sight to please many.
So too was Beckham on the right wing and Ryan Giggs on the left with Paul Scholes prominent in midfield. There were big cheers for all three and comedy boos for Liverpool hero Jamie Carragher.
That theme continued throughout the game and the welcome for Gary McAllister, the former Leeds and Liverpool midfielder, as a replacement for the injured Nicky Butt, who was carried off on a stretcher, was hardly warm either.
By contrast Dwight Yorke, who replaced another former United player in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer early on, received a good reception.
The World XI boasted stellar names such as Cafu, Luis Figo, Clarence Seedorf and Ronaldinho.
But Beckham's team were the stronger, and with current Premier League players such as John Terry, Darren Fletcher and Peter Crouch on the field, that was perhaps no surprise.
It took little time for Beckham to roll back the years, delivering a superb dipping cross from the right for Scholes to meet and head in.
That proved a definite highlight for the United-leaning crowd in the first half as Scholes took aim on a number of other occasions but failed to find the net again.
Goals came easier in the second period as Michael Owen struck following good work from Scholes and Yorke pulled one back with a cool low finish. Owen pounced for another late on after a fumble by former United goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw.
There was a touching moment as Beckham was replaced by his son Brooklyn Beckham, a surprise substitute not named on the team sheet.
But that was not the end for Beckham senior as he soon returned in place of Sol Campbell to play out the closing minutes.
The crowd were almost treated to one last moment of quality as Scholes hit the bar with a delicate chip.