Manchester United Opt Out Of Australia Trip Offer


Manchester United have decided not to take up the offer from Football Federation Australia of a friendly to be staged in Sydney in place of their cancelled trip to Jakarta.

The Red Devils were due to face an Indonesian Super League All-Star XI as part of the itinerary of their Far Eastern tour. However, the bomb attacks in Jakarta on Friday morning, one of which was in the hotel United were due to stay in, meant the friendly was cancelled due to safety risks.

The FFA stepped in to give United a possible Monday game in Australia, but officials were forced to decline the offer due to time constraints.

"We were planning to pull out all the stops to make it happen," said FFA director of communications Bonita Mersiades, according to BBC Sport.

"Their commitments meant the game could only be played on Monday, which we were willing to organise, but unfortunately it wasn't possible."

United have instead extended their stay in Kuala Lumpur, where they flew in at the start of their tour.

Manchester United have allowed striker Manucho to join Spanish side Real Valladolid on a five-year deal.

The Angolan international, 26, failed to establish himself at Old Trafford, making just one Premier League appearance during his 18-month stay.

Manucho was initially loaned out to Panathinaikos in Greece and spent the second half of last season at Hull.

Despite enjoying moderate success at Hull he found himself surplus to requirements at United.

Former assistant manager Carlos Queiroz first alerted United to Manucho and the forward was handed a three-year contract after a brief trial period in December 2007.

However his application for a work permit was only granted in August last year and in the interim he was farmed out to Greece.

His United debut finally came as a late replacement for Ryan Giggs in a League Cup win over Middlesbrough last September.

His only Premier League appearance was also as a substitute against Stoke two months later.

Prior to joining United, he was the top goalscorer in the Angolan League for two seasons running with Petro Luanda.

Malaysian fans mob Manchester United

The men who did not travel with Manchester United sparked the greatest interest today at the start of the club's tour, which was thrown into chaos before it had begun by the bombings in Jakarta.

The loss of Cristiano Ronaldo, the greatest marketing tool the club has possessed since David Beckham's departure for Real Madrid, made little difference to the hundreds of supporters who flowed into the team hotel for autograph opportunities and question-and-answer sessions, or the thousands who watched them train at the Bukit Jalil stadium, where United open their Asian tour tomorrow.

As Sir Alex Ferguson tried to articulate his confidence that Wayne Rooney would shoulder the burden after Ronaldo's departure "because those are the expectations he has for himself", the manager was drowned out by screams from the floor below, a sign that the players had entered the building.

Neither Antonio Valencia, who has had to return to Ecuador to sort out a visa, nor Nemanja Vidic, who is still recovering from a knee injury sustained while playing for Serbia, made the 12-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur. However, Owen Hargreaves's return will be the most keenly anticipated, with Ferguson predicting he might be ready for first-team football in two months' time.

The midfielder, who cost £17m when he joined from Bayern Munich, has not kicked a ball in anger since the 1-1 draw at Chelsea in September last year. Since then, in an attempt to cure a persistent tendinitis problem, he has undergone surgery on both knees.

"He is completing his rehabilitation in America and I have no doubt that his having the operation was the right thing to do," Ferguson said. "He will join us when the tour reaches Munich at the end of the month. At that point he will not be ready to play football but he will be ready to take part in football training.

"We are happy with his rehabilitation, although getting him back to full football training may take a few weeks, depending on how he reacts. A conservative estimate is that he would be ready in the second week of September." That would mean that the earliest one of the few successes of the 2006 World Cup campaign could be considered by Fabio Capello would be the October qualifiers away to Ukraine and against Belarus at Wembley.

Ferguson revealed he had made a final pre-season addition to Manchester United's squad by signing the Senegal Under-21 striker Mame Biram Diouf, from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's former club, Molde. Diouf scored 23 goals in a little over 50 appearances for the Norwegian side. He will be loaned back to Molde and come to Old Trafford in January.

"We had been looking at him for two years now," Ferguson said. "I said last week that we would not be signing anyone else because we have a big squad but a number of other clubs were looking at him and it accelerated to the point where they were making bids, so we felt we had to act." Among those clubs were Steve McClaren's Twente Enschede and another Dutch side, Groningen.

United have confirmed the sale of the Angolan striker Manucho to Real Valladolid. Manucho, who had spells on loan with Panathinaikos and Hull City, never looked like becoming a regular at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson expects Wayne Rooney to carry Manchester United attack


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Alex Ferguson expects Wayne Rooney to shoulder much of the responsibility for Manchester United's front line this year following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez to Manchester City.

The Premier League champion's manager believes Rooney will play a pivotal role despite signing Michael Owen from Newcastle, Antonio Valencia from Wigan and Gabriel Obertan from Bordeaux to bolster its attacking options.

"The expectation on Rooney is always high," Ferguson told a news conference in Malaysia. "It is a natural situation as it is the standard which he has set for himself."

The Red Devils unexpectedly boosted their attacking options further Friday by agreeing to sign Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf from Norwegian club Molde -- despite Ferguson saying at the start of the week that his business in the transfer window was over.

Terms have been agreed and Diouf will have a medical in Manchester next week, although United wants him to stay at Molde on loan before joining the squad in January.

Ferguson said he had been keeping on eye on Diouf for two years.

"We weren't intending on signing anyone else after last week -- we feel we have a full squad," Ferguson said. "But the situation accelerated to a point where other clubs started to make bids, so we had to decide whether we acted or didn't act. We decided to act and he'll be the last person we sign."

United begins its preseason Asian tour on Saturday with a friendly against a Malaysian XI in Kuala Lumpur. A second planned stop in Indonesia was scrapped after Friday's deadly bomb attacks at two Jakarta luxury hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton where the team had been scheduled to stay.

Ferguson brushed off suggestions that United will lack bite for the new season because of Ronaldo's absence, saying the presence of other forwards such as Dimitar Berbatov and promising youngster Federico Macheda will compensate for the loss.

"We have a squad ... with outstanding football and it is how we use them which is important," Ferguson said.

He was also confident that a few injured players will be back in action by September.

"(Nemanja) Vidic is nursing an ankle injury and it will take him some time although the situation with Owen (Hargreaves) is showing positive signs," Ferguson said.

Cristiano Ronaldo backs Michael Owen to shine in his old Manchester United number seven shirt

Manchester United resisted the temptation to splash out on a new forward following Ronaldo's transfer to Real Madrid and instead signed Owen on a free transfer.

As United learn to live without the world record signing, he admitted that he approved of the latest man to don the famous red number seven shirt.

"Manchester United did well to give him the number seven," he said.

"He is a great player, an English player. He has everything to win there. He is at a fantastic club."

Ronaldo's transfer to the Bernabeu ended two years of intense speculation that blighted his final year in Manchester.

But the 24-year-old said that his decision to leave Old Trafford was not one that he took lightly.

"I arrived at Manchester when I was 18 years old and I'd been there six years and I think it's a lot of time," he said.

"I won many things there, collective and individual trophies and awards, and I met very good people there, good friends - so it's not easy you know.

"Life is a challenge and I'm a man of challenges. I think it's a good move," he added.

Manchester United get cold feet over £20m Douglas Costa

Manchester United have cooled their pursuit of Douglas Costa, the Brazilian forward, amid frustration at the exorbitant demands of Grêmio.

United opened negotiations with Grêmio last month, but discussions are unlikely to resume this summer unless the Brazilian club dramatically reduce a prohibitive £20 million asking price for the teenager.

The bid for Douglas, 18, was thought to be an exception to Sir Alex Ferguson’s claim this week that United would make no further additions to their squad because of inflated prices in the transfer market, but it is among several proposed deals that have persuaded him about the lack of value this summer. The number of agents involved in the proposed transfer is another factor that has led the club to walk away from the negotiating table.

Of United’s three new signings, only Michael Owen was among the 22 players on the flight that took the squad to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday. Gabriel Obertan, the recruit from Bordeaux, was missing through injury — as were Nemanja Vidic, with an ankle problem, and Owen Hargreaves, who continues his rehabilitation from a long-term knee injury.

Antonio Valencia, signed from Wigan Athletic for a £16 million fee, was missing because of difficulties in obtaining a visa.

Under the terms of his transfer from Wigan, the Ecuador winger had to apply for a new work permit to stay in the United Kingdom. That protracted process is complete, but he has yet to secure the documentation to play in at least one of the four countries that United will visit on their four-match Asian tour.

They start in earnest with a match against a Malaysia XI tomorrow, followed by games in Jakarta, Seoul and Hangzhou.

Manchester United have signed Senegal Under-21 striker Mame Biram Diouf from Norwegian club Molde.


United are currently on tour in Asia and manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed he had bolstered the squad with a mystery signing at the team hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

"We signed a young player yesterday from Norway, who we've been looking at for two years," Ferguson said.

"We weren't intending on signing anyone else after last week - we feel we have a full squad - but the situation accelerated to a point where other clubs started to make bids, so we had to decide whether we acted or didn't act. We decided to act and he'll be the last person we sign."

Although Ferguson did not name the player it was later revealed by Molde that the player was Biram Diouf, who was also being tracked by Steve McClaren's FC Twente, Schalke'04, Udinese and Dutch Eredivisie side FC Groningen.

"Mame Biram Diouf will go through medical checks at Manchester United next week and will join the club in January," the club said.

The 21-year-old forward joined Molde in January 2007 and has scored 23 goals in just over 50 league appearances for the Norwegian club.

United chief executive David Gill said: "He was signed yesterday and he needs a work permit. He'll stay on loan where he is and we'll look to bring him [to Manchester] in January."

United have good links with Molde as former striker and now reserve team manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was recruited from the club.

Manchester United Cancels Indonesia Visit After Bomb


July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Manchester United scrapped its first trip to Indonesia after a deadly bomb struck the Ritz Carlton hotel in Jakarta where the English soccer champion was due to stay from tomorrow.

Blasts at the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott hotels killed at least eight people and injured 42 others in the Indonesian capital’s first terrorist attack since 2005, police said.

United players including Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen landed in Kuala Lumpur today from the U.K. hours after the explosions and were due to fly to Jakarta tomorrow after playing in the Malaysian capital. United manager Alex Ferguson said the decision was taken to safeguard players.

“We’re rather shocked, we got the news as we landed,” Ferguson said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur. “We’re disappointed; we’ve never been to Indonesia before.”

Although United may arrange a new game outside Indonesia, it is more likely to stay in Malaysia for an extra night, United Chief Executive Officer David Gill said at the news conference.

The Indonesian Super League XI, due to face United on July 20, was staying at the Marriott and only missed the explosions because players were training at the time, said Azwan Karim, media officer for the Indonesian Football Association.

United canceled the trip “based on advice received,” the team added in a statement, without elaborating.

Fan base

United sent a full-strength squad with 20 internationals including England’s Rooney and new signing Owen for its fifth tour of Asia. The team is also due to play in South Korea on July 24 and China two days later. More than half United’s 333 million fans are in Asia and about 12 million are based in Indonesia, according to club estimates.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, has been largely free of terrorist attacks since a bombing campaign blamed on the Southeast Asian group Jemaah Islamiyah left about 280 people dead between 1999 and 2005.

Today’s blasts went off at about 7:45 a.m. and ripped the façade off the Ritz, blew out windows and showered the street outside the hotels in the up-market Mega Kuningan district with glass and debris.

“The lobby of the Ritz Carlton was destroyed,” said Rubi Purnomo, a spokesman at the Indonesian unit of Newmont Mining Corp., who witnessed the blasts from an adjacent building.

“Our thoughts go to all those affected by the blasts,” United said in the statement.

Manchester United sign striker Mame Biram Diouf from Molde


• Will join in January if he passes a medical next week
• Senegalese comes from club that produced Solskjaer

Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign the 21-year-old Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf from the Norwegian club Molde.

The player will join the Premier League champions in January, pending a medical, and will stay in Norway until then.

"Mame Biram Diouf will go through medical checks at Manchester United next week and will join the club in January," the Norwegian club said.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said: "We've been looking at him for two years.

"We weren't intending on signing anyone else after last week – we feel we have a full squad – but the situation accelerated to a point where other clubs started to make bids, so we had to decide whether we acted or didn't act.

"We decided to act and he'll be the last person we sign."

The former United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played for Molde before moving to Old Trafford, where he is now the reserve team manager.


Manchester United sign striker Mame Biram Diouf from Molde

• Will join in January if he passes a medical next week
• Senegalese comes from club that produced Solskjaer

Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign the 21-year-old Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf from the Norwegian club Molde.

The player will join the Premier League champions in January, pending a medical, and will stay in Norway until then.

"Mame Biram Diouf will go through medical checks at Manchester United next week and will join the club in January," the Norwegian club said.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said: "We've been looking at him for two years.

"We weren't intending on signing anyone else after last week – we feel we have a full squad – but the situation accelerated to a point where other clubs started to make bids, so we had to decide whether we acted or didn't act.

"We decided to act and he'll be the last person we sign."

The former United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played for Molde before moving to Old Trafford, where he is now the reserve team manager.


Manchester United cancel Jakarta match


(CNN) -- English Premier League champions Manchester United have cancelled the Jakarta leg of their 2009 pre-season tour of Asia as a result of the bomb attacks in the Indonesian capital.

A presidential spokesman confirmed that eight people were killed as blasts tore through two luxury hotels - the J.W. Marriott Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel - the second of which the squad were due to stay in for their time in the city.

The club announced the move in a statement on their Web site: "The Directors have informed the Indonesian Football Association (FA) that the Club (Manchester United) cannot fulfil the fixture in Jakarta.

"We are working on a revised itinerary outside Indonesia with the promoters, and will make a further announcement when these decisions have been made.

"We are deeply disappointed at not being able to visit Indonesia and thank the Indonesian FA and our fans for their support. Our thoughts go to all those affected by the blasts," the statement added.

The tour of Asia by the Red Devils consisted of four fixtures, starting with a game against a Malaysia XI on Saturday, with further ties against an Indonesian All Star side on Monday, FC Seoul in South Korea on July 24 and Hangzhou Greentown in China two days later.

It was anticipated the Gelora Bung Karno stadium would be filled to its 88,000 capacity should the game have gone ahead in Indonesia, such is the popularity of the three times European champions in the region.

United manager Alex Ferguson was reported by the British Press Association as saying the explosions were "terrible news" and it was "very disappointing" their friendly fixture had to be cancelled.

"It was a bit of a shock for all of us, we had no other option but to safeguard our players."

The Scot went onto say: "We got the news as we landed and it is very disappointing. I have never been to Indonesia before and I know the Indonesian FA have worked very hard on this.

"It is terrible news but we have taken what I believe to be the right decision in terms of safeguarding our players," PA reported.

United's chief executive David Gill said: "We have taken the appropriate advice. We have met with the British High Commission who are highly experienced in these matters.


Carlos Tevez: I chose Manchester City over Real Madrid


Manchester City's new £25m striker Carlos Tevez has revealed he rejected the chance to join former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

Tevez, who signing a five-year contract with City following a two-year loan spell at rivals United, said the Spanish giants had been interested in recruiting him but Eastlands proved preferable to the Bernabeu.

"Real made an offer but there was no agreement," the Argentina striker told the Nation newspaper during a promotional visit to Abu Dhabi with City.

"There were talks about deals and agreements but in the end it was only City. They showed lots of interest in me and are intent on growing and signing big players.

"I am sad to leave United but I am excited to join City. I'm thinking about the future and I will grow with this club."

Meanwhile, City owner Sheikh Mansour has constructed a multimillion-pound warm-weather training facility in Abu Dhabi so that his club can enjoy a winter break in the sun.

Their first visit is set for November 12 to play against the United Arab Emirates national team.

Meanwhile, Gareth Barry has hit back at accusations his move to City was motivated by money and claimed the club's recent acquisitions have justified his decision.

Barry left Aston Villa to join City in a £12m switch at the start of last month after snubbing long-standing interest from Liverpool.

Reds boss Rafael Benitez criticised the decision, suggesting it was taken due to "money, money, money".

But England midfielder Barry claims the recent signings of Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez prove he was right to move to Eastlands.

"I think there was maybe a bit of frustration (from Benitez) because it was well documented that Liverpool were in the market to sign me for a couple of years," he said on Friday.

"But Manchester City had agreed a fee with Aston Villa.

"Once I'd spoken to the manager, heard the ambition and he told me what the club were aiming for, that suited me.

"People can talk about the money because of the speculation in the media but the players that are now joining are proving my decision to be a correct one.

"These are players that are really going to improve Manchester City and take us to where we want to go."

Barry was speaking on City's pre-season tour of South Africa with the first game coming on Saturday afternoon against the Orlando Pirates.

He added: "I think all the players are delighted to be here in South Africa.

"We've just come back from holidays and we're mainly focusing on fitness over here.

"We see the two games against the big clubs over here as part of building up towards the start of the Premier League.

"We know the standard of the football here is very high, so we'll be having a big test and as I said, building towards the start of our own league."


Carlos Tevez: I chose Manchester City over Real Madrid

Manchester City's new £25m striker Carlos Tevez has revealed he rejected the chance to join former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

Tevez, who signing a five-year contract with City following a two-year loan spell at rivals United, said the Spanish giants had been interested in recruiting him but Eastlands proved preferable to the Bernabeu.

"Real made an offer but there was no agreement," the Argentina striker told the Nation newspaper during a promotional visit to Abu Dhabi with City.

"There were talks about deals and agreements but in the end it was only City. They showed lots of interest in me and are intent on growing and signing big players.

"I am sad to leave United but I am excited to join City. I'm thinking about the future and I will grow with this club."

Meanwhile, City owner Sheikh Mansour has constructed a multimillion-pound warm-weather training facility in Abu Dhabi so that his club can enjoy a winter break in the sun.

Their first visit is set for November 12 to play against the United Arab Emirates national team.

Meanwhile, Gareth Barry has hit back at accusations his move to City was motivated by money and claimed the club's recent acquisitions have justified his decision.

Barry left Aston Villa to join City in a £12m switch at the start of last month after snubbing long-standing interest from Liverpool.

Reds boss Rafael Benitez criticised the decision, suggesting it was taken due to "money, money, money".

But England midfielder Barry claims the recent signings of Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez prove he was right to move to Eastlands.

"I think there was maybe a bit of frustration (from Benitez) because it was well documented that Liverpool were in the market to sign me for a couple of years," he said on Friday.

"But Manchester City had agreed a fee with Aston Villa.

"Once I'd spoken to the manager, heard the ambition and he told me what the club were aiming for, that suited me.

"People can talk about the money because of the speculation in the media but the players that are now joining are proving my decision to be a correct one.

"These are players that are really going to improve Manchester City and take us to where we want to go."

Barry was speaking on City's pre-season tour of South Africa with the first game coming on Saturday afternoon against the Orlando Pirates.

He added: "I think all the players are delighted to be here in South Africa.

"We've just come back from holidays and we're mainly focusing on fitness over here.

"We see the two games against the big clubs over here as part of building up towards the start of the Premier League.

"We know the standard of the football here is very high, so we'll be having a big test and as I said, building towards the start of our own league."


Former Manchester United defender Richard Eckersley revels in Burnley move


Burnley new boy Richard Eckersley decided to quit Old Trafford even though it meant leaving home in more ways than one.

The right-back, 20, had been at United since he was nine - and only lives round the corner. But he did not hestitate when boss Owen Coyle came calling.

"It was a no-brainer and I had to go," he said."I've seen players stay on too long."

Former Manchester United defender Richard Eckersley revels in Burnley move


Burnley new boy Richard Eckersley decided to quit Old Trafford even though it meant leaving home in more ways than one.

The right-back, 20, had been at United since he was nine - and only lives round the corner. But he did not hestitate when boss Owen Coyle came calling.

"It was a no-brainer and I had to go," he said."I've seen players stay on too long."

Report: Manchester United's Indonesian Tour Game In Serious Doubt


Manchester United's friendly against an Indonesian All-Stars side on Monday is in serious doubt following recent events in Jakarta.

According to Reuters, six people were killed and 40 injured after two bomb blasts rocked the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels. An employee at the Ritz Carlton said that United were scheduled to stay at that hotel ahead of their friendly.

Man United are set to hold a press conference in Kuala Lumpur at 14:30 local time (06:30 GMT), to make an announcement about the status of the sold-out match.

Football transfer rumours: Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester United?

It's the bit about John Terry being "stale" that really sticks as far as the Mill is concerned. John Terry is stale. His skin has lost its crispness. His fingers droop. He's giving off a musty smell, and around his knees there's already a faint green fur of mould. How did this happen? A fault with the packaging? Was he not stored in a vacuum-sealed tin? Perhaps they made the common mistake of putting him in the fridge. Either way, the traditional remedy of sprinkling him with water and bunging him in the oven for 10 minutes simply won't do. This morning the latest stage of Terry's crunch-restoring, odour-banishing on-off Manchester City transfer saga has him being splashed about the place in Chelsea's new shirt, which has a zip and looks like the kind of thing you might wear to a disco called "Love Pump" or "Muscle Thrust".

"GUESS YOU'RE STAYING THEN, JT," crows the Sun, the hammer of pretension and untruth in any form. "Chelsea put their shirt on Terry to stay," says the Times, noting that the stale one will be going on the club tour of China or Mars or Mega City Two or whichever never-ending magic porridge pot it is they're off to this time.

The Sun also brings news of a "Chamakh hike jolt for Arsenal", with the story that the Gunners' latest target Marouane Chamakh is insisting Arsène Wenger and Pat Rice accompany him on a two-week walking tour of the Isle of Wight as part of his move from Bordeaux. Also, his price seems to have been bumped up to £7m plus Mikaël Silvestre. Which makes [Mill punches anxiously at its calculator buttons, has a lie down, broods for a bit, bursts into tears, then finally makes "eureka" gesture before hobbling off to run naked through streets of unpleasantly industrial King's Cross] about £7.001m. The Sun notes "Chamakh is preparing for life in North London". Cue montage of youthful French goal ace poring over selection of tiny electric cars, purchasing a pair of really tight jeans and practising talking in a loud, braying voice about this really great new Montenegrin-Samoan fusion tapas bar.

The man we're now calling "Manu" Adebayor wants "more time" before finally consummating his move to Manchester City. Maybe if they could just get to know each other a bit first. Juventus have signed Arsenal's long-term crush, laid-back guitar-strumming Fiorentina midfielder Felipe Melo. Everton are "vying" with the Reals of Mallorca and Zaragoza for Espanyol defender Marc Torrejón. And the voices inside Phil Brown's great pink flapping Morrissey's-hearing-aid earpiece are telling him to spend £5m of real money on Bobby Zamora.

In the Daily Mail shrugging, strolling beanpole one-season-wonder Adebayor has now been offered to Manchester United. Spurs are hoping their unattractively complicated and stingy offer to pay in "staggered instalments" for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will somehow appear more attractive than Stuttgart's straight-up £16m with no questions asked and we'll even throw in a clingfilm-wrapped welcome basket containing some slightly iffy Devon fudge and a bottle of bad Australian wine. Steve Bruce will finally get his great, doughy, sweaty hands on the lean and spindly shanks of Peter Crouch after Portsmouth accepted his £12m bid. Crouch will now hold "talks", sign, look silly in vertical stripes, occasionally score a flailing overhead kick, miss a few easy headers, still get picked in every England squad and appear in swimming trunks in your tabloid newspaper at least once a week because he's standing next to his girlfriend. And Rangers midfielder Barry Ferguson is "discussing personal terms with Birmingham", all the while secretly making V-signs under the table and doing an insulting "du-uh" face whenever they're not looking.

In the Mirror South Korean winger Lee Chung-yong could be off to Bolton, along with Zat Knight and louche, eyeliner-sporting, art-rock peacock "Bryan" Ferrie Bodde of Swansea. Gary Megson is conducing negotiations from his training camp in Austria, presumably while dressed in skin-tight yellow lederhosen and a tank top. Big "Sam" Allardyce has decided to try something new by bringing in a very tall and muscular striker. Current favourites include: Hightower from the Police Academy films, a hat stand and hulking perennial transfer window favourite Nikola Zigic, available for £6m from Valencia. And Manchester City have "made a surprise move for David Bentley" after closing their eyes and randomly jabbing a pencil down on a page in the current directory of overpriced but potentially available disappointing English players.

Back in the Times Aston Villa are on the brink of signing Sylvain Distin, who used to be good but then got spooked by standing next to Sol Campbell every week. Liverpool are "interested" in Albacete's Belgian midfielder Ritchie Kitoko, who might get a couple of games in the Carling Cup before being loaned to a team in Spain. And Blackburn have been offered the Senegal and Nantes midfielder Guirane N'Daw, who has a nice name, but one that's quite hard to say five times really quickly.

According to the Spanish newspaper Sport, via Goal.com, David Villa is willing to take a pay cut to go to Barcelona. But he will still get £4m a year. So it's all right. There's no need to make him a packed lunch or anything. And Inter may lavish several millions on Corinthians' Andre Santos, with smooth B-list soul crooner Maxwell all set to hook it in the other direction to the Camp Nou.


Despite being offered a new deal with Manchester United, 20-year-old right back Richard Eckersley has spurned the opportunity and signed for Burnley.


The right back's move will be subject to a fee set by a tribunal but he becomes Owen Coyle's latest addition to the squad after completing a move to Turf Moor on a four year deal.

Eckersley has progressed well at Old Trafford and was a regular in the reserve team, finally getting his first opportunity in the first team in the FA Cup win, coming on as a substitute for Fabio.

Three days later he replaced Gary Neville in a 5-0 hammering of West Brom for his first taste of Premier League football and he went on to make two further appearances. In all his time on the pitch Manchester United didn't concede a goal.

His contract came to an end this summer and he was offered a new deal by Sir Alex Ferguson. However, with limited chances of breaking into the first team at Old Trafford he's decided to make the move away and has signed for Burnley and becomes the fifth summer signing for Owen Coyle.

Eckersley decided to move on because he was frustrated at a lack of first-team opportunities.

He looked to be heading for QPR on loan, only to change his mind.

"They are a big club. But it was a no-brainer when Burnley came, because I want to perform in the Premier League, '' he said.

"I like the way Burnley play, they pass and move, and I am looking to get some games under my belt.''

Meanwhile, Sheffield Wednesday chairman Lee Strafford has accused Burnley of "disrespectful'' and "underhand'' tactics in the tug-of-war over Owls striker Marcus Tudgay.

Strafford has also accused the player's agent, former Owls midfielder Darryl Powell, of deliberately unsettling Tudgay and failing to act in his best interests after the Yorkshire club rejected Burnley's formal bid for the 26-year-old.

An Owls statement read: "Sheffield Wednesday can confirm that Burnley FC have made a formal and what can only be described as derisory offer for striker Marcus Tudgay.

"We would like to stress that this offer is most unwelcome and this move is regarded as an underhand tactic to unsettle our player.''

Strafford added: "It's disappointing that an agent would act in such a cavalier manner when he is supposed to be protecting the interests of the player and also the right of the club to protect its assets.

"Sheffield Wednesday will not be taken advantage of in this situation.

"Marcus has stated he is happy at Sheffield Wednesday and has a good working relationship with Brian Laws, we would like Burnley to act in a more realistic and respectable manner so that we can get on with preparing for next season.

"From my perspective, we want to go into the future with Marcus and see him fulfil his potential playing in the Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday, a club which is widely regarded as one that can sustain a position in the top division.''

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney: Gascoigne I Love, Maradona My Favourite

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney, the likeliest Red Devil to fill the central void vacated by Real Madrid recruit Cristiano Ronaldo due to his sterling performances in that role under national boss Fabio Capello, has revealed his early footballing heroes.

Rooney has admitted that he used to relish watching former Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur legend Paul Gascoigne, and that he also admired England nemesis Diego Maradona, claiming the Argentinean World Cup winner is the greatest footballer of all time.Regarding 'Gazza', Rooney is quoted by Sport as saying, “I used to love watching Gazza play for England. The way he went past players and how he could dribble was just brilliant.

“He was an amazing player to watch. He was strong, he could dribble past players, he could shoot and you could see he always enjoyed playing.”

Rooney continued, “My favourite player is Maradona. I’ve watched lots of videos of him in action and I just love the way he played.

“In my eyes he’s the best player of all time,” he concluded.

Debate: Should Manchester United Target Sergio Aguero Leave Atletico Madrid?


Sergio Aguero did in two seasons what Fernando Torres failed to do in six. Aguero came close to doing in two seasons what Torres couldn't do in five. While Torres thought that the best way to enhance his career was to make a move away from the Calderon, Aguero thought that the best way to enhance his career was to make a move to the Calderon.

Fernando Torres might have been and still be the blue-eyed boy of Atletico Madrid but Torres could never lead them to the Champions League, described by one columnist as Atletico’s “Promised Land”. Hell, he could never score 20 goals in a league season and would often raise his tally (like Valencia’s David Villa) from penalties.

Aguero took just two seasons to sear Atleti back to Europe's top tier club competition and only in his second season at the Calderon scored 19 goals. In 2007-2008 it was the then 20-year-old who almost single-handedly dragged El Pupas to European Cup football after 11 heavily limping years away from the continent's elite, and although last season Aguero had a disappointing campaign by his own standards, 17 goals and 9 assists in the league and 3 strikes in the Champions League are not exactly stuff that would brand him a Class C striker.

Better Than Lionel Messi?

Diego Armando Maradona's son-in-law's stock has risen so much in the last two seasons that Premier League champions and European heavyweights Manchester United are (reportedly) seriously contemplating a bid for the player. Aguero, though, has persistently insisted that he is not thinking of leaving Atleti anytime soon, but as many Atletico fans dread, just like El Nino, El Kun too could be forced to leave the Calderon to ‘enhance his career’.

And just like Fernando Torres, Aguero has no shortage of admirers. In Spain both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked with the player, with Aguero himself admitting that he would like to play with Lionel Messi at some point in his club career; both the Milan sides - Inter and AC- are keen admirers of the prodigious talent and in England Chelsea and Manchester United would require no second invitation to sign perhaps the most talented 21-year-old striker in the world.

Sergio Aguero is a player whom Jorge Valdano would like to describe as 'culo bajo', stocky or low-arsed. One columnist enthused that Aguero is "a talent that could surpass Messi's if only because the new kid on the block is a better finisher" while there is a universal belief - or at least among those who bother to watch the second most entertaining side in Europe week in week out, a side that once ended a game 6-3 and that score goals at canter and concede them with equal ease- that Aguero is the closest thing to a Romario, with his sudden shaking off players in the opposition penalty area and taking the shot without seemingly even interested to do so.

Young And Ambitious

At 21 Sergio Aguero is discernibly young and ambitious and would love to win anything and everything; and at Atletico chances of doing that are slim. With Barcelona asserting themselves as the best team in Europe and Real Madrid making expensive summer signings to usurp the throne, La Liga is now going to be a battle between the old duo. Although Atleti do have the unpredictability to make it through in the European Cup, their defensive frailties are all too obvious.

Aguero's technical ability, unalloyed talent, burst of speed, keen eye for goal, physical strength and mobility would see him succeed in any league he plays and for whichever club, if given the right service from the midfield and played to his strengths. Which is why the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea are interested in getting the prized signature of El Kun.

Achieving Maradona-esque Greatness

Yet, the reasons for Aguero not leaving Atleti are apparent. This is a World Cup year and Aguero is already well settled at the Calderon. Moving to a new league or even a new club in Spain would imply adapting and fighting for a place in the starting xi, which the 21-year-old does not have to do at Atletico. Moreover, at Atletico Aguero doesn’t confront the same pressure he would have to face elsewhere; at Man United, Barcelona or Inter Milan, the pressure to win all the time can be dreadfully submersing but at Atletico a top four finish in the league is a marvel.

Then there's the Atleti fans, who worship him and have embraced him as their Messiah.

But perhaps most importantly there's the Maradona syndrome. El Diego might be an all-time favourite of Boca Juniors and Barcelona but his best years were at Napoli, whom he single-handedly revived and seared to glory. At Barcelona Maradona might have entertained the crowd and done all his tricks but in two years at Camp Nou he didn’t win anything major. It was at Napoli and in a more tactical and at the time more difficult league (Serie A) that Maradona became what he is, at least in club football.

Aguero has long been 'cursed' with the New Maradona label but if indeed he wants to displace El Diego as arguably the greatest player in football history, he would find no better place than Atletico, a club that hasn't won the league since 1996, a club that almost desperately but helplessly want to win it. If Aguero can lead Atletico to a title triumph against the odds, then he would become the Spanish club's very own Maradona.

Playing among the best at Man United, Inter or maybe even Barcelona would win Aguero trophies but the 'greatest of greatness' lies in winning trophies for a club that cannot do so.

And Atletico, at least at the moment, cannot win any trophies. Except the Copa del Rey. Perhaps.

Why Has Manchester United Resigned Itself To Being Outspent?


Sir Alex Ferguson has a practical take on morality. Anything benefitting Manchester United is right. Anything hindering Manchester United is wrong. With Manchester City and Real Madrid suddenly able to outbid Manchester United for players. It should surprise no one that the grizzled Scot spoke out for the little man.

“I said a year ago, when they [the Abu Dhabi United Group] took over at City, that this was possible,” Ferguson said. “Some of the values across the world now are amazing; the numbers that get tossed about. The values of players have shot sky high. I don’t think any of the [big] transfers this summer are realistic but for some reason it has caught fire this summer. It’s an unusual summer and it’s very difficult to get value because of that.”

“We went in for Benzema but, as far as we were concerned, the price tag was beyond his value. If other clubs want to go to that level, that’s entirely their business. We had a value that we thought was fair and we didn’t want to go above that position. Maybe Lyon thought we under-valued him and that’s fine, it’s their decision. They got €42m for him and they will be happy with that because they have done well. All this tells you about us is that we are sensible.”

Ferguson discusses “sensible” spending, but under his tenure at Manchester United, that has always meant spending superior resources to crush the opposition. Let’s look at this decade.

United signed Ruud Van Nistelrooy for a club record £19m in 2001. Later that year, he smashed that record by bringing in Juan Sebastian Veron for £28.1m.

Ferguson broke the transfer record again in 2002, spending £29m for Rio Ferdinand.

In 2004, the club spent £25.6m for Wayne Rooney.

United signed Michael Carrick from Tottenham for £18.6m in 2006, and spent £17m on Owen Hargreaves the next summer.

In 2008, Ferguson broke the club’s transfer record again spending £30.75m on striker Dimitar Berbatov.

When Ferguson wants a player, Manchester United overspends with superior financial resources to get him. It is hypocritical to criticize other clubs, which finally have more financial resources than United, for doing so.

It is interesting that Manchester United are resigned to being outbid for players. They have had two extended Champions League runs the past two seasons and received an £80m windfall from the Ronaldo transfer. If all was well, there should be plenty of cash available.

Is this truly Ferguson, who shows no track record of doing so, finally being “sensible,” or is the tremendous debt foisted on the club by Malcolm Glazer starting to affect the club’s finances?

Manchester United Tours Asia


SINGAPORE—Manchester United Asia Tour 2009 will mark the club’s fifth tour of Asia in the last decade. The Asia Tour 2009 will include stops in Jakarta, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, and China.

Their last tour was in 2007. Manchester United is very enthusiastic to meet up with their Asian fans again who make the players feel like superstars.

United’s first friendly is against Malaysia XI on July 18. After that, they will stop in Jakarta to play against Indonesia All Star on July 20 for the first time in 30 years. Their next two friendlies in the Far East are against FC Seoul on July 24 and Hangzhou Greentown in China on July 26.

Former Indonesian Football Association chairman Agum Gumelar, who will head up the local promotion of the game in Indonesia said, “I am proud to announce an event that is likely to be Indonesia’s event of the year in 2009—a football [soccer] match featuring the world club champions Manchester United.”

Besides the friendly games, Agum Gumelar also mentioned that he will arrange a few other activities for Manchester United players like golf and supporting the campaign against global warming “One Man One Tree” in which each man will plant a tree to fight global warming.

Indonesia’s United fans will have a chance to catch their favorite stars in action at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on July 20.

English football champions Manchester United are to open their first cafe in the western Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) later this year


The venture is the first of several the club plans for Indian cities.

Leading English football clubs are now poised to aggressively target India, where they see a huge untapped marketing opportunity.

Last month, a soccer academy in nearby Pune was opened with the backing of Liverpool Football Club.

Video screens

Manchester United, English Premier League champions and last season's UEFA Champions League finalists, have never visited India.

But they are the most popular foreign football club in the country.

In recent years, the club has strengthened its ties with India. Earlier this year, the country's telecoms giant, Bharti Airtel, became the first Indian company to strike a sponsorship deal with the club.

Now Manchester United Food and Beverage, the club's hospitality arm, has announced it is rolling out upmarket bar restaurants in several Indian cities. Mumbai's famed nightlife makes it the obvious first choice.

The cafes will feature large video screens on the walls to screen matches, and booths selling players' shirts and club memorabilia.

In cricket-crazy India, where the game is followed like a religion, football is making rapid in-roads.

Former Man Utd players such as Christiano Ronaldo and David Beckham have proved more popular among the youth than local cricketing heroes.

Replica shirts of the clubs and famous footballers are becoming a common sight on India's streets.

Commercial interests

While football mania is mostly seen during World Cups, club competitions, such as the English Premier League, also have a significant following on television, with an estimated weekly TV audience of more than 50 million.

English clubs look at India's billion-plus population as a huge potential fan base with massive marketing opportunities.

Last month, the opening of a football academy backed by Liverpool, marked the latest chapter in the quest by Premier League teams to gain a foothold in India.

However, India's national coach, Englishman Bob Houghton, has often said that European clubs are more interested in promoting their commercial interests than helping the game grow in India.

Carlos Tevez hits back at Sir Alex after signing for City


Carlos Tevez completed his move to Manchester City on a five-year contract on Tuesday, and rubbished claims made by Sir Alex Ferguson that he had shunned calls from his former manager.

The Manchester United boss claimed he had attempted to contact Tevez on a number of occasions to persuade him to remain at Old Trafford, but was blanked. But Tevez has now claimed that is not true.

Tevez, who cost the club a fee in the region of £25m, said: "I was there for two years and Sir Alex never called or sent any text messages in that time.

"The only time he talked to me was after a match against Roma to discuss a situation about going to play for Argentina.

"It doesn't seem that this is the way to treat a player in two years at the club. it doesn't seem there is a line of communication.''

The 25-year-old did go on to thank United, adding: "David Gill (United chief executive), Alex Ferguson and the club's fan base I thank you for the time I spent there, but this is a new life for me and I am happy to be at Manchester City.''

Sir Alex also believed that Tevez had agreed to join City as long ago as January, something else the 25-year-old denies: "It is United people talking about signing a contract (in January) but it is not true that it was decided then.''

Meanwhile, Mark Hughes confirmed that City are still looking for further signings and that talks are on-going with Emmanuel Adebayor of Arsenal, and he is a firm admirer of Chelsea skipper John Terry.

Hughes said of his future summer transfer dealings: "There may well be opportunities that present themselves. There are areas of the team we still want to strengthen.

"We would like to obviously be in a position at the beginning of the season to have a team in place that we think can challenge this year.

"If opportunities present themselves we could possibly buy more players.

"I think there's been discussions between ourselves and Arsenal [for Adebayor] but, as is my usual response about players that we haven't signed, really it's not the right time or place to discuss that - only in as much as yes there has been contact.

"There's a deal to be done possibly but it's not been concluded as we speak. Until it actually happens, really it's not the time or the place to discuss it here.''

When asked about Terry, he replied: "I have fantastic respect for John Terry, ever since I saw him as a young player when I was at Chelsea as a player myself.

"He's a great player and an outstanding captain. But he's very much a Chelsea player at this moment in time.

"I have huge respect for him. I think any manager would covet a player of the type of John Terry, but at this moment in time he's a player for Chelsea so we have to respect that.''

When asked whether Tevez represents good value for money, Hughes said: "Absolutely, for Manchester City, it's absolutely good value.

"From our point of view, where we are in our development, to be able to bring one of the top strikers in world football to our club is a fantastic thing for us as a club, for our fans and everybody connected with Manchester City.

"We're absolutely delighted that Carlos is here.''


Come in No 7: Fergie has handed Ronaldo's shirt to Owen



This lot will do: Sir Alex Ferguson with Gabriel Obertan (left), Michael Owen (second left) and Antonio Valencia (right)

Carlos Tevez has spoken of his delight at signing for Manchester City.

The Argentina international put pen to paper on a deal with the Eastlands club after spending two years across the city at Manchester United.

City have called a press conference for 3pm where they will unveil their latest big money signing. Tevez flew into Manchester on Tuesday morning and was immediately whisked away for a medical. He signed a five-year contract at lunchtime for a fee believed to be £25m.

The 25-year-old insists he always wanted to sign for City and expects to have many successful years under Mark Hughes. The striker was wooed by the club's long-term ambitious plans to be transformed into one of Europe's biggest clubs.

He will wear the number 32 shirt, which he wore at both West Ham and the Red Devils.

"The manager and the owners are very ambitious and that became clear to me the first time we spoke," he told the Daily Mail. "This is the chance to be involved from the start, an opportunity to help build a special experience.

"I hope to win many more trophies with City. There is a great feeling of excitement around the club. Look at the quality of the players who have been signed and the prospect of other top-quality players coming, too. Things are happening at this club."

City have already signed Gareth Barry and Roque Santa Cruz this summer for a combined fee in the region of £30m with Tevez to cost £25m. After ditching their pursuit of Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o, City have begun negotations with Arsenal to land Emmanuel Adebayor for a similar price.

"The owners made it clear to me that they will be doing everything in their power to make this an extraordinary club to play for," Tevez added. "I look forward to being part of that experience.

"Mark Hughes played in my position for some of the biggest clubs in the world and understands the demands and pressure of playing as a striker. I look forward to learning from him.

"My record of success speaks for itself. From helping West Ham to avoid relegation to helping Manchester United to two Champions League finals in two seasons. That's not a bad record!

"When I get the chance to play, I am confident that it can lead to goals, for me and for my team-mates. I am a team player who can score goals. I know my responsibilities.

"I am thrilled to be a City player. I can't wait for the new season to begin."

Michael Owen insists he is no crock at Manchester United unveiling


Michael Owen last night denied he is an injury-prone liability whose best days are behind him - and vowed to prove his enduring class at Manchester United.

Owen, officially introduced as a United player yesterday following his move from Newcastle on a free transfer, went on the attack when his troubled injury history was put to him.

The former England striker has been a hostage to injury in recent seasons, but the striker, 29, rejected claims he breaks down on a regular basis.

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce said he did not make a move for Owen because of his injury history, while Wigan chairman Dave Whelan also questioned his ability to stay fit.

"The injury-prone thing gets up my nose more than anything else," said Owen. "Because I don't believe I'm injury-prone.

"Yes, I pick up an injury here and there, but that's the modern-day game, the rigours of the game. It's faster, stronger and quicker than ever.

"Over the last two years I've read that I've been 'plagued with injuries', but the facts don't support that.

"I've played 32 and 33 games in the last two seasons. Newcastle weren't in Europe and didn't have any long Cup runs.

"The Premier League season is only 38 games, so 32 and 33 appearances isn't too bad. The two years prior to that I was injured but they were nothing to do with being injury-prone.

"If someone jumps on your foot and your metatarsal breaks, there's not much you can do. There's a long list of top players who've had that injury.

"And then, foolishly, I tried to rush back to get back fit for the World Cup in 2006.

"I'd just come out of plaster and didn't have the muscle support for the joints. So my knee and those two injuries account for two years.

"But they're not what you would call 'injury-prone' problems. I'm 29 now and I've played over 500 games for club and country, so that says it all." Sir Alex Ferguson clearly does not see the acquisition of Owen as a risk, having signed him on the cheap on a two-year £50,000-a-week deal with built-in incentive payments.

Fergie, having been outbid by Real Madrid who paid £38m for Lyon's Karim Benzema, turned his attention to Owen and backed the veteran striker to vindicate his faith in him.

"Experience is vital and I know Michael will score a lot of goals for us," said Fergie. "He'll give us experience in the penalty box. That's what he's been great at for years and years.

"You've always had to be aware of him in the last third of the pitch and you always knew that he could hurt you because his timing and running was so great.

"He always had that knack of losing defenders in the last third. He had that knack of timing it well.

"We looked at Michael's situation for a few months and mulled it over. Michael knows that. We knew his contract was coming to an end and I still had an intent to bring another player in.

"What confused us was waiting for a decision from Carlos Tevez. That confused as we were not getting any answers.

"It put us in quite a quandary in terms of what we should actually do. We waited long enough.

"We tried to get Benzema but as soon as that dropped through we went for Michael."

Owen admitted he has a point to prove at United after a doomed season at Real Madrid and four years of underachievement at Newcastle.

"Obviously I feel as if I belong at a top club," said Owen, who embarks with the United squad on their pre-season tour of the Far East on Thursday.

"There were a few good clubs showing interest but when United came in all the other talks were put on hold and the deal was wrapped up virtually straight away.

"I know I'm hungry to do well. If this challenge doesn't create a hunger and put a spring in your step and put a smile on your face, then nothing will.

"I'm as hungry as ever and the fact that Sir Alex and a club like United have come in for me says it all in my opinion.

"With a full pre-season preparation I believe I can give it a good go this season and stay fit."

Richard Eckersley turns down new Manchester United deal

Defender Richard Eckersley stunned Manchester United yesterday by rejecting a new deal - and Premier League new boys Burnley are now set to sign him.

Right-back Eckersley came through the ranks and was on the brink of a breakthrough at Old Trafford, but wants regular first-team football in the top flight.

The Salford-born 20-year-old will talk with Owen Coyle's Burnley after rejecting a move to QPR.

Coyle has agreed a £600,000 deal with Hamilton for defender Brian Easton.

Manchester United unveils trio replacing Ronaldo, Tevez


MANCHESTER, England — Alex Ferguson unveiled the signings he hopes will prove to be another bold masterstroke, but could still turn out to be a gamble too far for the Manchester United manager.

Even while flanked by his new attacking trio Monday of Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan, Ferguson had to concede that his shopping list was redrawn as Madrid pushed up Europe's price tags.

That swiftly ended any interest in Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema for Ferguson, who deflected any concerns about Cristiano Ronaldo joining Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez defecting to Manchester City.

Just a quarter of the 80 million pounds ($131 million) received from Madrid for world player of the year Ronaldo has been spent by Ferguson and will be before January at least.

Tasked with marauding down the Old Trafford turf graced by world player of the year Ronaldo are wingers Obertan -- at 20 not yet a full France international -- and Valencia, the Ecuadorean whose Premier League experience has been limited to Wigan.

"They're both very quick and play in wide positions, although they can also play through the middle," the 67-year-old Ferguson said. "Players who can play in several positions are invaluable in the modern game."

Ronaldo's No. 7 shirt will be occupied by Tevez's replacement Owen. Yet while Tevez is an Argentina regular, the injury-prone Owen has been exiled by England and was struggling to find a club when his Newcastle contract expired. Ferguson, though, believes the 29-year-old Owen is still a potent targetman.

"Michael gives us experience in the penalty box, which is vital," Ferguson said. "He has always had that little knack of losing defenders in the last third. I know he will score a lot of goals for us. He has been great at that for years."

With no more players arriving before the end of the transfer window in August, Owen will be competing for a starting spot alongside one-time England teammate Wayne Rooney and Bulgaria international Dimitar Berbatov. Teenagers Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck will also be pushing their cases.

"It does irritate me that so many people have doubts, but if there is one thing I am angered by, the injury thing would be it," Owen said. "There is no doubt I have had injuries in my career. But there is a long list of players that have had a broken metatarsal. I was foolish trying to rush back for the (2006) World Cup and my leg had just come out of plaster.

"But I played 33 and 32 games in the last two years in a (Newcastle) team that was not in Europe and did not go on a decent cup run. Still I was continually labeled injury-prone, which gets up my nose. I am 29 and have played over 500 games for club and country. That says it all."

Ferguson monitored Owen during the final year of his contract at Newcastle, knowing the former Liverpool and Real Madrid player could leave St. James' Park for nothing at the end of the season. The interest persisted despite Owen's side struggling before dropping out of the Premier League in May.

"In certain parts, people do have a justification to have a go at me," Owen said. "I didn't set the world alight in the last year at Newcastle. That is no one's fault but mine. We were not playing well as a team and I wasn't doing my bit either."

Ferguson has being keeping track of Obertan's progress despite the France under-21 winger also struggling with injuries of late.

"We've monitored Gabriel since he was 16 years of age and he was probably the most sought-after youngster in Europe," Ferguson said. "His form dipped a little last year, possibly due to an injury, but he's regained that form and was fantastic against England under-21s earlier this year. That reignited our interest in the boy."

The pressure on Obertan and Valencia will be constant comparisons with Ronaldo.

"When I had my first conversations with Manchester United it was never said that I was coming here to replace Cristiano," Valencia said. "Obviously Cristiano did very well here and he's a good player. But I'm here to do my job and to do the things that I do well. I'm keen to do well, I have a desire to do well, and I don't really make any comparisons between myself and Cristiano."

Two other points. Ferguson insisted it was his decision not to spend heavily – nothing to do with the huge debts incurred by the club’s American owner

As uncertainty mounts on FC Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, Goal.com's Subhankar Mondal says that Manchester United would do themselves a huge favour by signing the Cameroonian international this summer.....

Before this radically becomes a discussion of who between David Villa and Samuel Eto'o is the better striker, let's acknowledge that both are world class strikers, two of the best in the business and both are natural goalscorers.

Goalscorers, that's the keyword. Whatever Samuel Eto'o may or may not be, he is a natural goalscorer. For whichever club he has played, under whatever circumstances, the Cameroonian international striker has always scored. Even when he has been injured or been playing for modest Real Mallorca, the art of scoring has never deserted the 28-year-old.

Detractors suggest that Eto'o could score as many goals as he did at Barcelona because he played for two of the best Barca sides in history, first getting the supplies from Deco and Ronaldinho and now getting at the end of Thierry Henry, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi's passes. Of course, playing as the central and main striker in a 4-3-3 formation helps and so does the 'feeding' by top class attacking players, but to denigrate Eto'o as simply the obtrusive beneficiary of others' hard work would be to suggest that during your schooldays you had the easiest task in the world of only studying while your parents did everything else for you.

Just like last summer, Barcelona have cast the Cameroonian into the basket labeled ‘unwantables’. 30 Liga goals and 4 Champions League hits have apparently failed to endear Eto'o to coach Pep Guardiola, who is interested in getting on board Eto'o's perfect replacement David Villa. The three times African Player of the Year has been linked with a host of clubs but still nothing concrete has been established yet.

Manchester City, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Manchester United are the clubs Eto'o has been linked with, and while City have officially shunned their interest in the player eventually losing their patience in the protracted transfer saga that was going pretty much nowhere, Milan cannot afford Eto'o's wages and Inter have decided not to go for a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-Samuel Eto’o swap, Manchester United have emerged as the most likely club to take on board the star striker in recent weeks.

Usually, one club's loss is another club's gain but in this case Barcelona's loss of Samuel Eto’o would be theirs (but only if they can secure the signature of Villa) as well as Manchester United's gain.

For one, Manchester United have never really replaced Ruud van Nistelrooy since he was sold to Real Madrid in the 2006 summer. In the Dutchman, United had probably the most clinical goalscorer in the world best defined as a one-shot-one-goal striker who remains United's all-time leading marksman in Europe. True, after he left, the reigning Premier League champions didn't struggle for goals as a certain Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to become as much a creator of goals as a scorer of them, setting a new landmark in the 2007-2008 season when he hit no fewer than 42 goals in all competitions, but bar the Portuguese there was no one who could really score goals frequently.

Now that Ronaldo, so often played as a striker, has been sold to the same Real Madrid whom Sir Alex insisted he wouldn't even sell a virus to, the question is: who will score the goals for Sir Alex's side?

Dimitar Berbatov, as excellent a player he is, couldn't get into double figures in the league last season, Wayne Rooney's best strength doesn't lie in scoring goals, Michael Owen is a gamble whose goals have dried up and Carlos Tevez has left. Admitted, the way that United play, Ji-Sung Park, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic all get goals but who will score 20-25 goals in the league for United?

Enter Samuel Eto'o, goalscorer supreme and two times Champions League winner.

The 28-year-old is a legendary goalscorer who will hit 20 league goals in a season with ease. And if the service is great, as was at Barcelona last season, he can add 10 more to his tally. Eto'o's technical ability might be inferior to that of David Villa and he doesn't necessary make football a showboating stuff but if Eto'o is anything, then he's an athlete.

The Cameroonian's direct run at defenders, delicately ruthless inter-play with his teammates and ability to generate moves that would lead to his side scoring are facets that would suit Manchester United greatly. Then of course, there is Eto'o's keen eye for goal as he can score from anywhere and with any part of his body: left foot, right foot and head. A marvelous player who might miss a chance or two at times, Eto'o guarantees goals and lots of them.

Which is why Manchester United could do themselves a huge favour by signing Samuel Eto'o. They have been linked with a number of other top class strikers but Eto'o answers their call like no other. Sergio Aguero, defined by many as the 'closest thing to a Romario', won't probably leave Atletico Madrid this summer and neither would Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave Inter Milan (at least for Old Trafford); Luis Fabiano is a brilliant targetman but not an ‘A class’ striker, Klass-Jan Huntelaar has Van Nistelrooy-esque accuracy but would rely heavily on service. Eto'o appears to be the best striker available in the market for United; his mobility would be a boon to their gameplan.

Eto'o's personality, as everyone knows, is tenacious but in Sir Alex he would meet arguably the best man-manager in the English game who in his time has worked with more difficult and high profile characters. Personal terms and weekly wage might be a concern but United are one of the richest clubs in the world and surely they can afford to pay the salary of one of the two best strikers in the world.

But whether they do so or not remains to be seen.