Missing stars hit glamour match
Superstars David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have withdrawn from Manchester United's exhibition game against Hong Kong champions South China.
And Brazilian international Celio Silva, ready to sign on at Old Trafford, will not make his debut in the territory on Sunday.
Organisers of the match, dubbed the Marlboro Cup, announced yesterday that the three have pulled out of the English Premier League champions' pre-season tour of Asia.
The six-day visit also includes a match against the Thai national team in Bangkok tomorrow, and a game against J.League side Urawa Red Diamonds in Tokyo on Tuesday.
'Giggs had a hernia operation during the summer and is still recuperating,' said team manager Alex Ferguson in his letter to the organisers.
'Neville and Beckham have both had a variety of minor problems over the summer . . . and they are not yet considered fit for competitive football.
'Both Neville and Beckham had over 60 matches last season - a much longer season than their teammates. They need more rest to recover for the new season, the European Champions' League and the World Cup,' he adds.
'I fully understand they are all very popular in Hong Kong and the fans will be disappointed by their absence.
'However, I hope our supporters can understand the players' situation.' Ferguson added the England international pair might not play at the beginning of next season.
Silva is not expected to play in the territory immediately after his move.
'We have negotiated with Silva's agent and his club Corinthians. We have applied for a work permit for him and he will not play for us until the document comes,' said the club's press officer Marie Woodward.
The club have agreed a fee believed to be around GBP3.5 million for the 29-year-old centre-back.
South China team director Peter Leung said he was upset by the players' withdrawals.
'It's a shame that the players, especially Beckham and Giggs, cannot come. Many young girls will be very sad as they are the hottest football stars here,' he said.
Manchester United Goalkeepers: Peter Schmeichel, Raimond van der Gouw. Defenders: Philip Neville, Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister, David May, Ronny Johnsen, Michael Clegg. Midfielders: Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Brian McClair, Karel Poborsky, Jordi Cruyff. Forwards: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Philip Mulryne, Ben Thornley, Terry Cooke.