Manchester United have turned down a final plea to fulfil their Far East tour match in Indonesia – and also rejected the opportunity to earn £1m by going to Australia instead.
United are still discussing how to fill the gap created by the terrorist attacks in Jakarta yesterday, which led them to scrap a trip supposed to take place immediately after today’s encounter with a Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur.
It seems certain Alex Ferguson and his squad will remain where they are for an extra few days before flying to Seoul on Wednesday as planned.
However, a number of alternatives are still being discussed, some with more vigour than others.
And one that was dismissed quickly was an appeal from the Indonesian government to reverse their decision to abandon the second leg of the trip.
“Manchester United needs to show that they are with us not just in words, but in deeds,” said presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal.
“There is no more powerful message to the world than to continue with the Jakarta match as planned.
“Of all the great feats that have been and will be achieved by Manchester United as a great football team with a heart, this one – proceeding with the match in Jakarta as a measure of solidarity – will be long remembered by history.”
Given United were supposed to be staying at the Ritz-Carlton, one of two hotels targeted by suicide bombers that left eight dead and over 50 injured, the reaction was understandable.
“The decision to cancel the Jakarta leg of the tour was not taken lightly,” said a club spokesman.
“But after an act of terrorism, the club received advice from a variety of sources, including our own Foreign Office. That advice has not changed and so the club’s decision has to stand.
“Everyone at the club is disappointed not to be able to play in Indonesia but it has a responsibility to its players and staff.”
It is estimated the total loss incurred by the cancellation will be around £4m when refunds to supporters and the loss of commercial revenue are taken into account.
United are still investigating the possibility of getting the Indonesian Select outfit they were supposed to be playing on Monday into Malaysia in order to play the game as planned.
However, a number of corporate events with sponsors and local companies in Indonesia have had to be scrapped.
Also off the table is a £1m offer to play a single match in Sydney made by the Football Federation of Australia.
The offer of a match – against either Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory at the ANZ Stadium – had some merit given United are extremely popular Down Under.
However, the extra travel – it would have meant a nine-hour flight to Sydney and then 11 hours up to Seoul, where United are set to play on Friday – made it a non-starter given they are heading back to Europe straight after a game on the Sunday in China.
“We were planning to pull out all the stops to make it happen,” admitted FFA director of communications Bonita Mersiades.
“However, their commitments meant the game could only be played on Monday, which we were willing to organise, but there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on their side, so unfortunately it wasn’t possible.”
In addition to scheduling difficulties, United are still knocking back questions about why they put themselves in this position given previous warnings of terror attacks in Indonesia, where over 200 people were killed in the Bali bombings in 2002.
However, chief executive David Gill insists the correct authorities were consulted and United were right to arrange the game.
“We are experienced at travelling,” said Gill. “We don’t take these decisions lightly. We discussed the situation with the relevant authorities and it was the right decision at the time. The experts felt it was a safe place to go.”