Ferguson confronts Ince critics

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The air of bewilderment over Paul Ince's transfer from Manchester United to Internazionale cleared a little yesterday when Alex Ferguson, the United manager, confronted critics of the pounds 7.5m deal.

Ince, he said, had wanted to go to Milan and had announced he was leaving Old Trafford immediately after the FA Cup final. Ferguson, under fire from supporters surprised by the departure of Ince and Mark Hughes, said he had been disturbed by their reaction.

"I haven't worked this hard for eight and a half years to let things slip," he said. "If anything, failing to win a prize last season has made me more determined."

Hughes, he continued, had been allowed to go to Chelsea for pounds 1.5m as it was in the player's best interests, but the Ince deal had been far more complicated. "For some months, someone representing Paul Ince had been telephoning Inter saying Paul was desperate to join them.

"We were aware of that and you have to assume Paul knew about it too. After the Cup final [which United lost 1-0 to Everton], Paul himself told members of the staff that it was his last game for Manchester United. That was at the reception on the Saturday evening, and when it got back to me on the Sunday I was staggered."

Internazionale contacted Ferguson the following day - "as if the transfer was a fait accompli" - and when the negotiations got to about pounds 7.5m, United agreed to let the England midfield player talk to the Italians. "It was in the best interest of Manchester United to let him go," Ferguson said.

One player who had formerly been coveted by the United manager, Stan Collymore, moved yesterday, although the destination of the Nottingham Forest striker was Anfield, not Old Trafford. He completed his pounds 8.5m transfer to Liverpool, breaking the British transfer record in the process.

"I want to win trophies and enjoy my football," Collymore - who was stacking shelves in supermarkets for a living only five years ago - said. "I'm sure I can do that at Liverpool. The fee is inconsequential as far as I am concerned."

Collymore scored 50 goals in two seasons with Forest, who are still in dispute with their former player over his claim for a pounds 425,000 loyalty bonus. That matter is expected to go to independent arbitration.

On a rather smaller financial scale, Chris Fairclough, 31, moved from Leeds United to Bolton Wanderers yesterday for pounds 600,000.