TOKYO (AFP) - Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson came to the defence of the Club World Cup Tuesday, calling it a prestigious tournament that was important for his team to win.
There has been criticism in the British press that the long trip to Japan mid-season for a tournament of continental champions was a pointless exercise that could derail their Premier League campaign.
Ferguson admitted jet lag would be a problem, both here and against Stoke City on December 26, but insisted it was all part of being successful.
"This tournament can add prestige to a football club which is why we are here and why we want to win," he said at a news conference ahead of their semi-final against Japan's Gamba Osaka Thursday.
"I think it is mainly the media in Britain who don't take this tournament as seriously as we do.
"The nitty gritty is that we could look back in 30 years and say that Manchester United was the world champion and that is what this club is about and that is why it is important for us to win it."
United will have to catch up two games with their main Premiership rivals on their return to Britain on December 22, but the Scot said the trip to Japan could also have its benefits.
"Playing different types of opposition will certainly do us no harm, but the big incentive is to win the world championship," he said.
"We can win that in December but we can't win the Premiership in December. Yes, it is a relative handicap but that is what happens when you are successful.
"We are here as champions of Europe and I hope to be here again in Abu Dhabi next year."
The Club World Cup moves to the United Arab Emirates next year for two years before returning to Japan in 2011.
In 1999 United won the annual Intercontinetal Cup, which was contested between the European and South American champions before it became the Club World Cup, a development Ferguson said was good for the game.
"This tournament has grown because, with countries like Japan, South Korea and China developing on the football side, there needed to be a better balance," he said.
"It is an extra game for us and the South American team but the prestige attached to it is now even greater."
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