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Wed 13 Feb 2008 07:08 AM

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No support for overseas matches - Ferguson

Controversial plans to take Premier League matches overseas has little support back home, manager says.

Controversial plans to take Premier League matches overseas has little support back home in England, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said on a visit to South Africa on Tuesday.

Speaking in Johannesburg, one of the likely venues for an extra round of matches under tentative plans announced last week, Ferguson reiterated his annoyance at being kept in the dark about a plan he sarcastically called a "gem of an idea".

"This gem of an idea that burst into the newspapers on Friday just prior to my press conference took me by surprise," he told reporters.

"All clubs should be able to discuss an idea before any kind of decision is taken."

The veteran Scotsman acknowledged the importance of spreading the support base of Manchester United with overseas visits to places such as South Africa, the United States and the Far East.

But he said fans back in England had so given the thumbs down to the suggestion of a 39th game in the middle of the Premiership season.

"The idea of the 39th game is not getting any support, in England, at the moment," said Ferguson.

English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore estimates that the clubs could generate more than five million pounds ($10 million) each for their one trip.

Ferguson was speaking as part of a publicity drive for a money-spinning tournament involving United and the two biggest South African clubs, the Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, during the English close season in July.

The trip will be United's second to South Africa in as many as three years in a sign of the marketing opportunties in a football-mad country which is staging the World Cup in 2010.

"One of the reasons we are here, is to make sure South Africa has a profile going into 2010," said Ferguson who hot-footed it to the country after watching his side suffer a shock 2-0 defeat in Sunday's Manchester derby.

Ferguson insisted that the result would not affect the team's mood in the build-up to Saturday's FA Cup showdown with arch rivals and current title leaders Arsenal which he described as "a massive game".

"We weren't very phased by a bad result last Sunday. It could go either way," he added.

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