RIYADH (AFP) - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has defended the club's mid-season break to Saudi Arabia by claiming that the four-day trip will hand his players a priceless warm-weather training base.
The Premiership champions are in Riyadh to provide the opposition for Saudi legend Sami Al Jaber's testimonial game and will face Al Hilal in front of 65,000 fans in the King Fahd Stadium on Monday.
However the club have been subjected to accusations of greed, with an estimated one million pounds (two million dollars) being paid into the Old Trafford coffers by the Saudis to entice United to the Middle East.
United's global popularity ensures they are a huge draw for local supporters wherever the play, and the club have stressed their determination in the past to visit their far-flung fan-base and play 'in the flesh'.
But with an FA Cup tie against Spurs at Old Trafford to play next Sunday, manager Ferguson insisted that the Saudi trip will boost their on-field preparations first and foremost.
"We will have two good training sessions out here on Wednesday and Thursday in good, warm conditions, so that will definitely be an advantage to us before we go back to Manchester and we have made a decision to come out here which we hope will prove right," said Ferguson.
"We have gone away before in mid-season and it has worked well for us. We went to Dubai a couple of years ago and we won the FA Cup at the end of that season.
"Obviously, if we go back home and get a bad result, then people will say that we shouldn't have come here, but I'm sure that being here won't do us any harm at all.
"We are delighted to be here and I just hope that the sun gets even warmer over the next few days! We get back to Manchester on Thursday, so that will give us three days to prepare for the Spurs on the Sunday.
"It's a terrific tie for us and hopefully this trip will help us."
United have flown a full-strength squad out to the Saudi capital, with only the injured trio of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Louis Saha left behind to undergo treatment at Old Trafford.
And Ferguson admits that he will honour Al Jaber, a player who has played in four World Cups and scored in three of them for Saudi Arabia, by fielding his strongest side on Monday.
He said: "All of the players will play some part and I will start with my strongest team, so the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez will all be involved.
"We have brought 21 players with us, though, so it's a chance for the likes of Darren Fletcher and John O'Shea to get some time on the pitch and we have also brought a young player called Danny Welbeck.
"We think he has a real chance and this is his first chance with the first-team, so it's an important game for him. But we hope that people will look back on this game in years to come as the day that he made his debut."
|Zidane wants to keep BBC as Mbappe rumours persist|
|It was not important to Madrid - Guardiola calms buoyant City|
|Motta and PSG players would welcome Neymar ´with open arms´|
|Troisi re-signs with Victory after snubbing Melbourne rivals|
|Manchester City 4 Real Madrid 1: De Bruyne shines as Danilo makes debut|
|Pogba on same level as Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar - Mourinho|
|United States 2 Jamaica 1: Morris strikes late as USA claim Gold Cup|
|Mourinho: Loss to Barcelona good for Man United|
|Valverde: Neymar happy amid PSG speculation|
|Paris Saint-Germain 2 Juventus 3: Marchisio scores second-half brace|
|Philadelphia Union 3 Columbus Crew 0: Sapong leads hosts to win|
|Barcelona 1 Manchester United 0: PSG target Neymar inspires ICC win|
|Marotta: Juventus have made Keita offer, open to Matuidi|
|Conte: I would pick Kane if I had to sign a striker|
|Mourinho hints Ibrahimovic could make Man United return|
|Patrick Kluivert´s nine-year-old son signs Nike deal|
|Fassone: Bayern´s Sanches too expensive for Milan|
|Champions League Review: Van de Beek earns Ajax away goal in Nice tie|
|Celtic 0 Rosenborg 0: Unconvincing hosts fortunate to escape with draw|
|Keeping players against their will is counterproductive - Marotta explains Bonucci exit|
|Serie A fixtures: Potential for AC Milan nightmare October as Bonucci faces pre-Halloween Juve reuni|
|Serie A fixtures: Juventus to face gruelling run-in|
|Serie A fixtures: Inter meet AC Milan in October, Derby d´Italia set for December|
|Mourinho: I had to beg Real Madrid to let me go|
|Chelsea captain Cahill: Terry will be first person I call|
|Serie A fixtures: Juventus face Cagliari in opening round|
|Sarr chooses Rennes over Barcelona|
|Terim leaves Turkey role after brawl|
|Bacca left out of Milan squad amid Marseille rumours|
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic bang on the money in latest Instagram post|
|Barkley will 100 per cent leave Everton - Koeman|
|City can challenge Madrid – Sane|
|Fabinho and Lemar staying at Monaco - Vasilyev|
|Mbappe in talks over new Monaco deal|
|Toure urges Mendy to adapt quickly|
|Inter can forget about Vidal - Ancelotti|
|Perisic to Man Utd dependent on Inter finding valid alternative - Spalletti|
|Guardiola refuses to rule out City rivalling Madrid in Mbappe pursuit|
|Bayern Munich as big if not bigger than Real Madrid - James Rodriguez|
|Real Madrid friends reunited: Zinedine Zidane, Raul and David Beckham meet in LA|
|Lure of Pep made it easy for Danilo to choose Man City over Chelsea|
|Man Utd boss Mourinho says ´dangerous´ fees a threat to football|
|Victory star Rojas set to return to Europe|
|Beckham happy for Madrid coach Zidane|
|Toluca 0 Atletico Madrid 0: LaLiga giants held to dour draw|
|Tottenham 2 Roma 3: Kolarov makes debut in thriller|
|Premier League spending unsustainable – Levy|
|Mourinho: I miss Rooney a lot|
|Instagram post was Pique´s ´gut feeling´ over Neymar future|
|Emery unmoved when quizzed on PSG´s pursuit of Neymar|
|Real Madrid´s attack doesn´t need Mbappe to wreak havoc, claims Casemiro|
|Balotelli fitter than last season, warns Dante|
|Mata and Herrera provide Manchester United injury boost|
|Orlando capture Dwyer in record swoop|
|Bardsley bolsters Burnley backline options|
|Ibrahimovic still a leader at Old Trafford – Pogba|
|Thiago Maia joins Brazilian influx at Lille|
|WATCH: Neymar´s aim defeats Messi and Suarez|
|Hart can help West Ham reach top eight – Hislop|
|Ajax´s Nouri out of intensive care and breathing unaided|
|Mourinho wants a midfielder and winger at Man Utd|
|Mourinho slams UEFA over Bailly ban|
|Payet was a flawed individual – Sullivan|
|Conte pleased with Morata cameo|
|Kaka uncertain of Orlando future as he targets MLS play-offs|
|Cassano should be applauded, says Prandelli|
|Sanches seeking to swap Munich for Milan|
|Brown loaned to Brighton after signing Chelsea contract|
|VAR would have ruled out ´Hand of God´ goal, Maradona admits|
|Bordeaux abandon Wellington Silva transfer|
|Kaka backs Bonucci to help Milan rediscover glory days|
|Chelsea 2 Bayern Munich 3: Muller at the double as Bayern bounce back|
|Injured Michu confirms retirement|
|Neymar will make right decision amid PSG links - Kaka|
|Wagner backs Liverpool to win the league|
|Monaco deny world-record €180m Real Madrid deal for Mbappe – report|
|Higuain: I need to score more in Europe|
|Real Madrid ´would be alright´ but Dolberg in no rush to leave Ajax|
|Mane, Ings back in full Liverpool training|
|Mahrez would do great things at Roma – Gonalons|
|Real Madrid want a top-class French striker, Lyon president claims|
|Bernat has surgery on ankle ligament tear|
|Higuain wants Dybala at Juventus but ´can´t point a gun at his head´|
|I want more trophies – Ronaldo confirms Real Madrid stay|
|Aulas: PSG signing Neymar for record fee is risky|
|Klopp unfazed by Mourinho, Man United|
|WATCH: Mourinho crashes Lingard interview|
|Lukaku aiming to emulate Ronaldo at Man United|