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FOOTBALL: United to face Rooney & Co in friendly
Sir Alex Ferguson will be bringing a Manchester United XI to play Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday, August 8.
o It is the second of two glamorous pre-season home fixtures announced by the U's, and has come about largely through United boss Jim Smith's friendship with Ferguson.
The other confirmed home friendly is against another Premiership side Ports- mouth on Friday August 4.
A third match against League opposition has been pencilled in for Saturday, July 29, but it will not be known for two or three days, at least, whether this is a home or away game.
Manchester United, the Barclays Premiership runners-up, seem likely to bring a mainly reserve side to face Conference new boys Oxford, although there may be one or two star names.
They have confirmed that it will not be a youth side, so it's a very attractive friendly fixture for Smith's men, and the fans, and will be the first time the Red Devils have visited the stadium.
The exact strength of Ferguson's team is unlikely to be known until nearer the time.
Wayne Rooney, for example, is unlikely to play if he has appeared for England in the World Cup, but if he is still on the road to recovery from his metatarsal injury, he might be considered.
The high quality of the pitch at the Kassam Stadium increases the chances of top players turning out.
Manchester United's pre-season programme sees them visiting South Africa on July 13 for three games, returning on July 23, then playing at Preston and Macclesfield before flying out to compete in the Amsterdam Tournament with matches against Galatasaray on August 4 and Ajax on August 5.
Plans have been in place to have a top European side visit Old Trafford to open the "new" ground marking the completion of its enlargement to over 70,000 capacity.
And the date proposed for this was the day after Oxford's fixture, on Wednesday, August 9.
However, hoped-for opponents Barcelona have pulled out to go on a two-week tour of the States, so talks are continuing to try to get another top European club.
Ironically, Ferguson's first match in charge of Manchester United was a Division 1 game at Oxford back in November 1986, when goals from John Aldridge and Neil Slatter brought the Yellows a famous 2-0 victory.
Said Oxford managing director Kelvin Thomas: "With Portsmouth and Manchester United we've got two great fixtures for the summer, and there's the possibility of one more home game as well."
Meanwhile, Oxford United's full list of local pre-season games has now been finalised.
They kick off at Court Place Farm against Oxford City on Saturday, July 22 (3pm), and then travel to Eastleigh on Wednesday, July 26 (7.45).
These are followed by friendlies at Milton United, where they have their new training ground, on Friday, July 28 (7.30).
Kevin Brock's Banbury United now just two divisions below Oxford United host the U's on Monday July 31 (7.45).
Smith's side then travel to Didcot Town on Tuesday August 1 (7.45) and their final away game is at Brackley Town on Saturday August 5 (3pm).