Month May 2010

Month May 2010

Foster criticises United fans, oversteps the mark

May 22, 2010 Tags: Shorts 10 comments

In an astonishingly naïve interview Ben Foster has criticised the green and gold protest movement, dismissed the Glazer family’s ownership as nothing more than ‘a technicality’ and claimed that there is no shortage of investment in the transfer market. Foster moved to Birmingham City this week for around £6 million.

Speaking after the goalkeeper’s transfer out of Manchester United, Foster claimed that the protest movement this season had become a distraction to the players.

“There’s maybe too much made of it by the supporters,” said the stopper who played just 26 times in five years at the club.

“They are obviously passionate about Manchester United, but sometimes they need to focus on supporting the club a bit more than getting carried away with the technicalities of who’s in charge.

“Personally, I think the Glazers have always put money in to Manchester United to buy players when needed. Having said that, I don’t think the manager needs to buy too many players there anyway. They have a lot of good youngsters coming through the ranks.”

Foster’s tirade is surprising for both it’s source and inaccuracy, with United running a net transfer surplus under the Glazers and few believing that the family will invest in this summer’s market.

Perhaps even more pertinently many supporters see ownership as far more important than a technicality, with the future of the £716.5 million indebted club at stake.

Not good enough to make it at Old Trafford, Foster’s comments smack of a player keen to offload his personal failure onto supporters.

Enjoy Birmingham Ben, but in future leave matters of United to the supporters.

Anatomy of a bid

May 22, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 3 comments

The revelation in the Guardian – effectively confirmed by an ever-changing Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) statement – of serious divisions within the Red Knights comes as a blow to many supporters. Already considered a long-shot, a successful bid for the club by the Knights now appears utterly dead.

The consortium’s limp-wristed, one-line statement of protest Thursday afternoon hardly helped defer that impression. While MUST has fronted an aggressive anti-Glazer media campaign, the Knights’ tacit endorsement of supporters’ protest but lack of substantive communication has created only a frustrating void.

One that the consortium could not fill with any conviction on Thursday.

So much for the shining Knights, riding to Manchester United’s rescue. The group have become the little more than self-parodies, beset by factionalism and over-heated egos. Sickeningly, the separate agendas now coming to the fore are little more than the inevitable confirmation of the group’s divisions that the Glazer’s stooge, David Gill, had warned of.

The Knights set out with genuine intentions of making a bid though, attracting diverse figures from the business world including Jim O’Neil, Keith Harris, Richard Hytner, Paul Marshall, and Mark Rawlinson among others.

But the strain of funding a bid large enough to satisfy the Glazers’ desired profit margin, while meeting the investment needs of the super-rich has seemingly broken the group’s back. Or at least prompted two Knights to break rank.

It’s hardly surprising, with the Knights’ challenge manifestly difficult.

Firstly the group is required to raise a significant war-chest that will meet the Glazers’ behind-the-scenes demands of between £1.5 billion cash for the club. In February Harris claimed money was no longer the object.

Indeed the Knights reportedly turned away two ‘super-Knights’, each offering £500 million to the fund. The truth appears a little different now, with the consortium intimating it will not – cannot even – fund a bid of more than £1 billion, including the £504 million bond.

The complexities of weaving together up to 40 separate investors in a way that offers long-term security, a potential exit strategy but precludes the kind of block-building that led to United’s acquisition by the Glazers has also proven impossible. While the bid terms had reportedly been agreed a fortnight ago, they are clearly not to every investor’s liking.

This is not a philanthropic act after all. While rich, none of the Knights – at least those who are public – can call upon the billions of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea or Sheikh Mansour from Manchester City. As such the promise to effectively hand over shares to United’s many supporters through a rights-issue did not sit well with the entire group.

The consortium is not aided by the Glazer family’s demands. While maintaining a ‘not for sale’ stance in public, privately the leaked reports of a £1.5 billion Middle East bid – it was £1.2 billion but what’s a few hundred million between friends – confirmed the Glazers are willing sellers.

The club has huge leverage but the Glazers are not yet desperate. However with profit ultimately only gained through sale of the asset the real question is one of price.

The Americans will take that profit eventually. For now the Glazers appear happy to milk the club for its worth, while reducing the family’s personal exposure by paying down the Payment in Kind debt through club funds.

The Glazers have spoken of untold riches yet untapped in India and China, or through new media. Realists need only look to GDP per capita or broadband penetration in those two nations to dismiss that fallacy as nothing more than a very long-term dream. Moreover the Premier League’s collective bargaining mantra precludes United from profiting more than any other club from domestic or overseas rights.

The truth is that a bid can succeed but only one that forces the Glazers hand.

Amid the now rancorous speculation the Knights may indeed put an offer to Glazer family but if the consortium is true to its word then £1 billion will be the sum.

No matter how excessive a £1.5 billion bid is for United – based on any normal Enterprise Value (EV) definition or revenue multiple – it seems that the price is set until the club or Glazer family’s finances become distressed.

The fragmented Knights now have few choices: stump up the money, force a sale through mass boycott or disappear into the ether whence they came.

Only the latter now seems realistic.

Shining Knights risk tarnished reputations

May 20, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 4 comments

Stories of the Red Knights’ imminent demise amid in-fighting and a realisation that the Glazer family will not accept an offer this summer are wide of the mark, according to the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST). The trust, now more than 157,000 strong, dismissed newspaper reports of the Knights’ failure as little more than spin.

But it’s a charge not as clear-cut as fans may hope.

The ongoing media war for Manchester United is a prelude to a firm offer from the Knights for the club this summer. Yet, if the Guardian’s sources are sound disagreements in the consortium over the bid’s structure could derail any serious challenge to the Glazers’ five-year regime.

At least two Knights, according to today’s reports, now seriously doubt the consortium’s approach.

“Senior figures involved with the Red Knights have told the Guardian there are internal divisions and that they suspect they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to putting together a takeover bid of sufficient value to end the Glazers’ unpopular regime,” says the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor.

“One of the businessmen prominently involved has lost confidence to the point that he believes they might not even submit a bid were it not for the criticism they would attract after such a highly publicised campaign.

“His belief is that, if they did lodge an offer, it would be for “face-saving” purposes, in the knowledge that it would be turned down.”

After all the £504 million bond issued by the club in January – the small print of which instigated the latest round of anger from United’s supporters – restructured the club’s finances to allow the Glazers more breathing room. The bond, although increasing annual interest payments on United’s £716.5 million debt, enables the family to pay down the punitive Payment in Kind loans from club finances.

Unless the club’s finances slip into what economists euphemistically dub a ‘distressed state’ the Glazer family has bought itself at least seven years grace, with the bond maturing in 2017. This is not news though and the Knights’ bid has always been dependent on an offer which matches the American’s required profit multiple.

The Guardian’s report also follows club ceo David Gill’s assertion that season ticket sales are “on track” with previous campaigns, with supporters required to submit renewal forms by 13 June.

However, MUST challenges both the newspapers’ sources while questioning the club’s belief that support will remain robust in the coming season.

“It obviously wasn’t a rogue knight who contacted all the various journalists/business desks with this story,” claimed the organisation this morning.

“Clearly the Glazers’ anonymous spin doctor has been putting a bit of work in. They ARE worried about the ST renewals (and no boycott has even been called despite reports), sponsorship and the general opposition to their ownership so are seeking to undermine supporter morale.

“They are severely underestimating the determination of Manchester United supporters and the anger they feel about the millions of pounds the Glazers are taking out of our club every year.”

The real question is whether fans have over-estimated the Knights’ ability to fund and organise a bid for the club. Led by Goldman Sachs Jim O’Neil, the consortium’s diverse interests may indeed fuel divisions. In truth, debate is no barrier to a formal bid; the real question is one of money.

Should the Knights’ not come up with a figure that is to the family’s satisfaction then ownership will not change hands in the short-term. It would be a blow not only to supporters’ hopes of Old Trafford regime change but to those who have led the Knights’ high-profile media campaign.

Perhaps three events will dictate this summer’s events and the club’s future.

Firstly, the club announces its quarterly financial results on 28 May where it is widely expected the Glazers will have drawn down United’s £122 million cash reserves. Then – potentially – will come the Knights’ bid before the World Cup begins on 11 June.

Finally, as season ticket renewals land on the Old Trafford mat the club will learn whether supporters’ anger is tangible or not.

In public at least the Knights’ stance is firm, while MUST continues to ask supporters to delay renewal until the last possible moment.

“Talks have been going better than ever and are progressing very positively,” a Red Knights source told the Press Association today.

If they are not, reputations will suffer for it and the Glazers’ stranglehold on the club will likely continue.

*update Thursday 20 May*

MUST changed it’s statement this afternoon, removing the group’s assertion that a Red Knight had not spoken to the press and implicitly confirming the premise of a divided consortium. Repeating the claim that the Glazers are “attempting to frighten supporters into renewing season tickets,” MUST said that the American family is concerned about the Green & Gold movement.

The adage about organising a drink in a brewery comes to mind.

The £437m that buys a new team

May 19, 2010 Tags: , , Just for fun 12 comments

Andersred’s breakdown of the Glazer family’s £437 million cost to Manchester United since the Americans acquired the club is shocking for the massive waste. Spent on interest, management fees and loans to the family, MUST argues that the money would have allowed United supporters into the ground for free in the past five years.

No wonder Sir Alex Ferguson has said United won’t spend this summer, with the Glazers taking out at least £70 million in dividends, the Scot has no money for transfers despite ceo David Gill’s continuous assertion to the contrary.

Aside from offering United fans free entry to Old Trafford what else could the £437 million do? Buy an entirely new team that’s what!

Drawn from players likely to move this summer, Rant’s team of new players is based on fees speculated in recent media reports. Unfortunately we couldn’t spend enough of the Glazers’ wasted cash so we bought seven substitutes too.

We’ve even got £6,500,000 left over to throw the biggest Glazer Out party the world has ever seen!

GK – Hugo Lloris (Lyon, £15m)
DF – David Luiz (Benfica, £21.5m)
DF – Jack Rodwell (Everton, £20m)
DF – Jerome Boateng (Hamburg, £11m)
DF – Cesar Azpilicueta (Ossasuna, £12m)
MF – Angel Di Maria (Benfica, £38)
MF – James Milner (Aston Villa, £25m)
MF – Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal, £35m)
MF – Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich, £45m)
FW – Fernando Torres (Liverpool, £70m)
FW – David Villa (Valencia, £34m)

SUB TOTAL: £326.5m

GK – Manuel Neuer (Schalke, £10m)
DF – Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund, £15m)
MF – David Silva (Valencia, £28m)
MF – Joe Cole (Chelsea, £0m)
MF – Sergio Canales (Racing Santander/Real Madrid, £6m)
MF – Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotsupr, £25m)
FW – Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg, £20m)

GRAND TOTAL: £430.5m

Fergie: no summer spending

May 18, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 19 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson says that Manchester United will target just one transfer this summer, while failing to replace Ben Foster who will join Birmingham City for £6 million this week. Speaking in New York, Ferguson effectively confirmed a second summer of regression with United’s transfer market activity highly restricted.

Following the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez last summer, Sir Alex brought in Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia as the close season’s only senior signings.

With youngsters Javier Hernandéz and Chris Smalling joining United for pre-season training, Ferguson says there will again be no major rebuilding of his squad this summer.

“In the market today it’s very, very difficult and the structure of our squad is good in terms of ages, the balance, the numbers and there’s a lot of good young players,” the United boss told the press in New York today while promoting the club’s forthcoming tour of North America.

“Sometimes you have to trust in all the development of the last few years and I’m going to stick with that, or most of it.

“There may be one signing and maybe we’d like to get a good player to the club, of course, but it’s not easy in the present day climate and I’ve nothing definite to tell you because we’re still assessing whoever’s available and the difficulties in terms of who you’d bring in.”

Ferguson also confirmed that United will not purchase a goalkeeper this summer, with the club previously linked to moves for Hugo Lloris, Igor Akinfeev and Manuel Neuer.

“When we decided to let Ben (Foster) go, we were in the process of letting a good young goalkeeper, Ben Amos, go out on loan,” Ferguson said.

“He’s in the England Under-21 team but we can only accommodate three goalkeepers. So when the situation with Ben’s future at Manchester United came into it and we agreed to let him go, we stopped Ben Amos from going on loan.

“He will now be our third goalkeeper, he’s very talented and has a good future ahead of him.”

Amos spent part of last season on loan at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s former club Molde in Norway, appearing in eight league matches, although the 20-year-old ‘keeper has not always held on to his first team place.

Unless Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak suffer injury Amos’ development will be limited to the reserves next season.

Sitting alongside Ferguson in New York, club ceo David Gill once again claimed that Ferguson has money to spend but that new Premier League squad rules limits potential activity.

From August the Premier League restricts squads to a 25-man limit, which must include eight home-grown players. Those players under-21 do not count towards the squad limit.

Strange then that United already has 12 home-grown players in the probable squad for 2010/11 and just 23 players likely to fall inside the Premier League limit. That is without the potential departures of under-performing squad members such as Anderson, Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov.

Although Gill reiterated the board’s stance that United’s £716.5 million corporate debt is serviceable few fans will believe the United chief. The bond interest payments total more than £45 million per season, while the Glazers will take at least £70 million from United’s cash reserves this summer as the family pays down Payment-in-Kind debt.

“We easily can meet those interest payments,” Gill claimed.

“We’re very confident the business model we have in place will be secure and will ensure the club can continue to compete at the top of football for many years to come.”

Many United supporters will wonder how that Gill can make that assurance with no investment in the playing squad.

Foster completes Brum move but will United buy a replacement?

May 18, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 7 comments

Ben Foster completes a medical this morning as Birmingham City seal a £6 million deal for the Manchester United goalkeeper. Foster, 26, will move to the Midlanders this summer after five largely frustrating years at Old Trafford. The deal includes £4 million up front and a further £2 million dependent on performances and international caps.

Foster, who played 13 times for United last season, began the campaign as Sir Alex Ferguson’s number one but a series of high profile mistakes, including in the derby against Manchester City at Old Trafford, consigned the Leamington-born player to the reserves.

The ‘keeper’s long-term position at the club, despite Ferguson’s promise that the England international would stay, effectively ended when Edwin van der Sar signed a one-year contract extension earlier this year.

Foster will replace Joe Hart at St. Andrews, with the City ‘keeper heading back to Eastlands this summer after a year on loan in Birmingham. It is with no little irony that Hart has replaced Foster in the England set-up as the United stopper’s form dipped during the campaign.

But Foster will leave United with the best wishes of supporters. A fine young ‘keeper, Foster was found out with the pressure finally placed on his shoulders after four years in the reserves or on loan elsewhere.

It hardly helped the Foster that United’s defence suffered so many injuries in the early part of last season, while Ferguson’s promise that the stopper had a long-term role at United was clearly misleading. After all the club accepted the first bid for the player this summer.

With Foster now departed, van der Sar approaching 40 and Tomasz Kuszczak few supporters’ choice as the long-term United number one, Ferguson may move for a new ‘keeper this summer.

The club watched Schalke’s Manuel Neuer, CSKA’s Igor Akinfeev and the brilliant Hugo Lloris of Olympique Lyonnais in the past year.

While many believe Lloris, who had a superb campaign in the Champions League, is the best of the three, Lyon’s notoriously hard-nosed chairman Jean-Michel Aulas ensures that the ‘keeper will command a fee in excess of £15 million.

Olympique Marseille’s French number two Steve Mandanda has also claimed interest from United, although many who have seen the Congolese-born player’s erratic performances over the past five years believe this is true.

Should Ferguson place faith in just van der Sar and Kuszczak – despite using three senior ‘keepers in the past year – one of United’s youth players may step up to the third choice slot.

While Ron-Robert Zieler returns to Germany this summer with Hanover, Ben Amos may return to United after a less than successful loan spell at Norwegian club Molde. Tom Heaton, on loan at Wycombe Wanderers for the past season, will leave the club with his contract finishing in June.

In Ferguson’s tenure at Old Trafford only Kevin Pilkington, with eight appearances, and Mark Bosnich have come through the ranks at the club. Bosnich only took the first team shirt after returning from Aston Villa on a free-transfer during summer 1999.

But Ferguson is keen to avoid the goalkeeping chasm that engulfed the club in Peter Schmeichel’s wake. When the great Dane moved to Portugal and into semi-retirement in 1999, Ferguson went through a string of ‘keepers including Roy Carroll, Tim Howard, Bosnich and the laughably poor Massimo Taibi before settling on van der Sar six years too late.

The ideal scenario sees United recruit a top-class stopper this summer, allowing van der Sar to wind his career slowly down.

In reality the limited transfer budget and even more pressing areas of the team means that the club will seek the best available next summer.

Fergie feels City’s presence

May 17, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 4 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester City are now genuine title contenders, with the Eastlands club likely to spend large sums before the new season kicks of in mid-August. Roberto Mancini’s outfit finished a 34th season without a trophy and failed to make the Champions League but will be heavy investors this summer.

Last season began with City signing former United striker Carlos Tevez and Ferguson accusing the cross-town rivals of being small-minded for crowing about the acquisition in a now infamous Manchester poster.

City’s pretension to the throne took a beating, with Ferguson’s Manchester United victorious over City on three occasions last season; knocking the Eastlands club out of the Carling Cup on the way to winning the tournament and doing a Premier League double with late goals in each tie amid much acrimony.

But with United’s transfer budget restricted by the Glazer family’s £716.5 million debt the 18 point gap is likely to close next season as Mancini’s side makes an assault on the title.

“They will be a lot stronger this time,” Ferguson told the Daily Mail today.

“With the experience of last year behind them they’ll be better equipped to go for the title because they will spend big money again.

“Winning the title is going to be more difficult for anybody. This time it’s been ourselves and Chelsea and Arsenal for a period, but I think we can all hear the horses’ hooves galloping closer.”

Much will depend on City’s transfer activity, with Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard probable summer targets, although neither deal will come easily. £11 million German international central defender Jérôme Boateng will get the ball rolling when he joins from Hamburger SV.

Money is no guarantee of success though. City’s £24 million spent on Joleon Lescott now looks more than a little embarrassing, while untold riches were unable to bring Brazilian Kaká to Eastlands 18 months ago.

Evidence of this is also present in Spain, where Real Madrid’s £260 million spent last summer bought precisely no trophies to the Bernabeau.

There is also no shortage of competition in the market. Barcelona will spend more than £80 million on Cesc Fabregas and David Villa in the coming weeks, while Real Madrid will surely be compelled to respond in kind.

Moreover, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has apparently sanctioned a £70 million bid for Torres as the domestic market heats up.

“In addition to City, I’m expecting Tottenham to be in the mix as well. I suppose the neutrals will welcome a situation where the competition is spread further as being good for the game,” added Ferguson.

Meanwhile the United manager is keeping his counsel when it comes to transfer activity, with many onlookers now believing that the Old Trafford coffers are empty.

But Ferguson, who claims United’s limited spending in the past year is due to ‘poor value’ in the market, insists that the club’s failure to land the Premier or Champions League this season will not spark a revolution at Old Trafford.

“Of course I’m disappointed we didn’t quite get there this season, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be making wholesale changes,” said the Scot.

“I believe we are well placed to make another challenge next season. We have brought in some young players over the past couple of seasons and they’re going to be a lot better this time. We also have tremendous experience in the side.

“I’d like to make a couple of signings, but the market is very narrow. There will be a few clubs trying to buy the same players and we all can’t get what we want.”

If that sounds disheartening for United supporters then the competition from the club’s noisy neighbours is only likely to intensify.

City is challenging United off the field too with the club’s owners, the Abu Dahbi Royal Family, spending heavily on redeveloping the area around Eastlands to include a fan zone, training ground and leisure facilities.

As the very definition of a vanity purchase, City’s spending is perhaps unsurprising. After decades in the shadow of United, the club must spend lavishly to catch up on and off the field.

United’s challenge in a city where Reds consistently beat Blues is to maintain the club’s superiority in an era of enforced austerity at Old Trafford.

Supporter ownership faces Conservatives challenge

May 16, 2010 Tags: , , , Opinion 10 comments

Labour’s pre-election commitment to mutualism in football is worth little with the Party now deposed. While the Liberal Democrats added a lukewarm policy response, the Conservatives initially dismissed supporter ownership as an election gimmick. So what now for supporters’ hopes for a legislative initiative?

Labour’s promise – a story initially broken by the Guardian’s Owen Gibson – included a commitment to enable supporters to buy 25 per cent of their clubs. Although the manifesto pledge was a little watered down, football finally moved out of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and onto the mainstream political agenda.

“We will work with governing authorities to ensure that professional clubs are accountable to their stakeholders, and run transparently on sound financial principles, with greater involvement of local communities and supporter representation,” promised Labour’s manifesto.

“Sports governing bodies will be empowered to scrutinise takeovers of clubs, ensuring they are in the long-term interests of the club and the sport. We will develop proposals to enable registered Supporters Trusts to buy stakes in their clubs.”

Labour’s commitment was necessary, with Manchester United, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Southend, Cardiff, Notts County and Leeds United suffering either financial problems or supporter unrest due to ownership issues this season.

Indeed, the business of football now garners almost as many column inches as the game on the pitch.

The proposal won strong support from fans’ groups, including the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST). At governance level, although the Premier League has steadfastly remained ‘ownership neutral’ – read weak – UEFA President Michel Platini offered a positive response

“Personally, I think it is a great idea… that the supporters invest in a club because they at the end of the day defend the club’s identity, they are always there,” said to the Frenchman, who is also driving through financial fair play rules much to major clubs’ chagrin.

Naturally MUST, which has worked tirelessly behind the scenes during the Glazers’ tenure at Old Trafford to create political pressure for change, welcomed the manifesto commitment.

However, nothing in politics, especially in a tight race for Number 10, is ever clear-cut and initially both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives criticised Labour’s proposals before offering tokenistic manifesto pledges.

Conservative Hugh Robertson, now Sports Minister in the new government, challenged the Labour proposal as unworkable.

“After 13 years of inactivity by the government on this issue this has all the hallmarks of a pre-election gimmick,” said Robertson, who will work under Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt in the coalition administration.

“There are massive, massive implications for company law and insolvency law.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat shadow culture, media and sport secretary Don Foster, marginalised in the post-election shake-up, dismissed the idea as a pipe dream.

Even with the understandable political rhetoric pre-election there are now other priorities for the new administration such as cutting the structural deficit and managing a coaltion of unlikely bedfellows.

It seems that supporter ownership will not head the legislative agenda anytime soon.

Groups pushing for governmental administration may also find little support from a party that has rarely ‘got’ football. Many match going fans remember a Thatcherite proposal to register all football fans in the 1980s – effectively an attempt to criminalise a generation.

MUST may also find little favour from Oxford graduate Hunt, whose background in public relations and directory publishing – including a personal wealth of more than £4 million – offers little in the way of mind share with ordinary football supporters.

Hunt’s agenda – aside from managing the 2012 Olympics in London – is also likely to include a pre-election promise on digital economy legislation, an initiative to scrap the BBC Trust and now potentially a 2018 World Cup bid on the rocks.

Football ownership, it seems, is no longer the political football is once was.

Rant Cast 30 – season review

May 14, 2010 Tags: Rant Cast 10 comments

In this week’s podcast regulars Ed & Paul commiserate on a title lost, wonder where it all went wrong and rate the players’ performances this season. We look back on the best moments this season, talk about some summer transfer targets and preview United Rant’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer.

Thanks for listening this season. Rant Cast will return weekly for the World Cup and then again from pre-season in North America!

Stream this episode of the podcast using the player below or click here to download the podcast (right click > save as).

We welcome your input – send all feedback to or comment below.

Subscribe on iTunes now.

Transfer round-up 14/5

May 14, 2010 Tags: Shorts No comments

Today’s rumours, speculation and gossip include a bizarre Italian swap, the goalkeeping revolving door and a Spanish star on his way to Old Trafford. With silly season barely warmed up Sir Alex Ferguson is only interested in £345 million worth of talent according to today’s papers. Rant barely gets out of bed for that much speculation.

Birmingham Foster good relations with Ben
Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster is in talks with Birmingham City after the clubs agreed a £5 million deal according to Sky Sports. With Joe Hart returning to Manchester City, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish is close to a deal for United’s third choice ‘keeper.

Would Hugo to Manchester?
As one stopper leaves another will arrive at Old Trafford if Ferguson is successful with a move for Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Hugo Lloris before the World Cup. The Manchester Evening News says the French number one is the Scot’s top priority at a cost of at least £15m.

Macheda for Buffon
If rumours of 18-year-old Federico Macheda fathering a child with celebrity WAG Sophie Houghton weren’t strange enough, claims that United is interested in swapping the striker for Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The 32-year-old Italian number one is interested in a move to England according to recent reports.

Krasic begs United for move…. and Bayern
CSKA Moscow winger Krasic wants to United, according to the player’s agent Dejan Joksimovic. “For now, he is focused 100 per cent on the World Cup,” Joksimovic said. “There has been no contact with Manchester United, but Milos is very attracted by the league because it remains the best in the world.

“Bayern Munich could also be his first choice,” Joksimovic added confusingly.

No Silva lining for Fergie?
Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur is keen on beating United to the signature of Valencia midfielder David Silva. With a Champions League qualifying round to negotiate Spurs believe they can outbid Ferguson’s side with a £28m offer, although the 33-cap Spaniard has previously said he would find it difficult to turn United down.

I’m Yohan Gourcuff Get Me Outta Here
Bordeaux midfielder Gourcuff will leave the French Ligue 1 outfit after criticising the local media for ruining the club’s season. The former AC Milan star is available for around £18 million after reacting angrily in an interview with French press agency AFP News to persistent rumours that manager Laurent Blanc will take over the French national side after the World Cup. Teammate Marouane Chamakh is to join Arsenal in the summer and Ferguson is a known admirer of the 23-year-old Gourcuff.

Marco Milan’s words, Borriello is for sale
La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that United will bid €20 million for AC Milan’s Italian striker Marco Borriello this summer. The 27-year-old international who has scored 14 goals this season, although Milan is less keen to offload the striker than his partner, perennial failure, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Corey Blimey, Evans is off to Notts Forest
Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies wants United’s youngster Corry Evans on a season-long loan next year. Brother of Jonny, Evans is yet to make his debut at Old Trafford, although he has two caps for Northern Ireland. 18-year-old Evans can play in defence or midfield. Forrest lost in the Championship playoffs to Blackpool earlier this week.