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How to bash any billionares chasing United; GAME ON: THE LOCKER ROOM.

PITY the poor souls of Salford, forced into battle once again this week to protect their vulnerable little football club from another pesky irritant.

Typical - no sooner has Wayne Rooney ensured that everything is once again rosy in the Old Trafford garden than somebody comes along to reap the harvest.

You know their sort - only the very biggest signings interest them and boy are they used to getting their own way.

And that's just the autograph hunters salivating all over Sir Matt Busby Way. Ducking and diving along behind them come more serious threats.

These guys can be picked out by their sharp suits, the haphazard manner in which they park their Lear jets and the illuminating apoplexy they display when they realise their yacht can't make it up the Manchester Ship Canal.

The latest in the long line of big-money men bearing super-sized gifts has raised the hackles of Manchester United fans and reduced supporters from as far afield as Aldershot, Maidstone, Newport and East Stirlingshire to tears.

No sooner have Rupert Murdoch's projected mega-funds been successfully turned away than guy called Glazer from Yankee-land thinks he can try his luck.

United's influential fans bodies have been scrabbling around all week for justifiable reasons to turn away this grinning Tampa Bay Buccaneer bearing gifts.

The fans believe they will be successful again but they can bet their billionth dollar there will be more next year and the year after that.

Everybody seems to want to grab whatever chance they get to turn Manchester United back into the biggest and most successful club in world football.

United fans need to steel themselves against further disgraceful attempts to bolster the club's bank balance or, worst, provide extra funds for use in the transfer market.

We hope this handy cut-out-and-keep guide to billionaire bashing will help in the inevitable scenario that Gates and co come calling...

Bill Gates.

Estimated fortune: pounds 40bn

Cheers: Could buy the club and still leave enough spare change to splash out on 1,481 Wayne Rooneys.

Fears: More silicone updates than all the players' wives put together.

Verdict: Too geeky.

Donald Trump

Estimated fortune: pounds 2bn

Cheers: Would bring glitz, glamour and the prospect of a lucrative United- based celebrity reality TV show.

Fears: Jade Goody for manager.

Verdict: Too cheesy.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Estimated fortune: pounds 10bn

Cheers: Boasts the kind of wealth which makes Chelsea rival Roman Abramovich appear a pauper.

Fears: In jail awaiting massive fraud and tax evasion charges.

Verdict: Too shady.

Giorgio Armani

Estimated fortune: pounds 1.5bn

Cheers: United stars' spending habits would continue to guarantee his bank balance for years to come.

Fears: Would play havoc with the change strip.

Verdict: Too fluffy.

Bernie Ecclestone

Estimated fortune: pounds 2.4bn

Cheers: The players' car park wouldn't half look impressive.

Fears: Constant threats to axe the club if he didn't get exactly what he wanted.

Verdict: Too tiny.

TOP FIVE ... RELIGIOUS FOOTBALL

1. Gavin Peacock. The former Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers striker turned ITV pundit made no secret of his strong Christian faith which he carried with him throughout his career.

2. Sebastien Deisler. The Bayern Munich youngster claimed he had quit his promising career, was diagnosed with depression and joined a mysterious Buddhist temple in Berlin.

3. Peter Knowles. The promising Wolves star quit the game in his prime in 1969 to become a Jehovah's Witness. Wolves finally agreed to cancel his contract - 14 years later.

4. Marcus Gayle. The then-Wimbledon striker joined the controversial London Church of Christ in 1997, alienating family members who expressed concern about the sect's radical ideals. 5. Taribo West. Instead of playing cards and nightclubbing, The Nigerian defender used his spare time in Milan to good effect, setting up and pastoring his own church, Shelter in the Storm.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 9, 2004
Words:634
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