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By ESPN Staff

China boss worried by United Dong plan

China coach Zhu Guanghu has expressed concern over Manchester United's plan for Dong Fangzhou to receive a European passport, believing it would make him ineligible to represent his country in the 2008 Olympics.

United coach Sir Alex Ferguson revealed on Tuesday that Dong, who has spent the last two-and-a-half years on loan at Belgian side Royal Antwerp, will qualify for a European passport in December.

That would free him up to launch a career in the Barclays Premiership.

While delighted by United's eagerness to bring the 21-year-old over to England after his long loan spell in Belgium, Zhu believes Dong would be unlikely to take up a foreign passport as he would have to renounce his Chinese citizenship and give up on his international career.

'I am very pleased that Manchester United have recognised Dong's ability as he is a very talented player,' said Zhu.

'I know that he is capable of performing at a high level and it would be a great honour for him to play for Manchester United in the English Premier League.

'However, our government does not allow dual nationality and since Dong is an important member of the team that we are preparing for the 2008 Olympics, I don't think that he would give up his Chinese nationality in order to get a passport in Europe.'

Dong was signed by United from China Super League side Dalian Shide in early 2004, but the striker's appearances for the Red Devils have been limited to pre-season friendlies as he has not yet been able to qualify for a UK work permit.

However, the Chinese youngster has made steady progress and has already represented his country at the senior level, appearing in both of China's AFC Asian Cup qualifying matches earlier this year.

Ferguson lavished praise on Dong after he scored the only goal in United's 1-0 win over South African side Kaizer Chiefs on Tuesday evening.

'He has played four times for China already, so clearly he has a lot of potential,' said the United boss.

'He has the speed and physicality and his technique is improving all the time.

'He has improved a lot but we expect that and he has to continue it if he wants to be a player.'

There could be good news for Zhu, if United can persuade Home Office officials Dong is worthy of a work permit.

Ferguson also said earlier this week: 'We could apply for a work permit on the fact the lad has played four times for China.'

Special dispensation can be given to players judged to be outstanding talents, and Ferguson added: 'We might be able to get a work permit on potential as it stands on appeal.'