Ferguson rues lateness of Uefa reforms

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Alex Ferguson yesterday embraced the sweeping away of the restrictions which have handicapped English clubs since their return to Europe, while wishing it had happened two years ago.

The full surrender of Uefa to the Jean Marc Bosman judgement has come too late to prevent the Manchester United manager being haunted by the Champions' League failures which left him living in the shadow of Sir Matt Busby. He blames the inability to play his best team more than any technical or tactical failure.

Now after Monday's decision to do away with the 'three-plus-two' rule, Ferguson says: "It opens the door in any direction you want to go It is just a pity it did not happen two years ago when I felt we could have gone very close in the Champions' Cup with the team that won the double. That was a special team but we were never allowed to play it in Europe.

"Things will level out in time but everyone's immediate reaction will be to start scouring the world. But we will take our time about what we will do."

United, however, have their scouting team already in place, with the highly rated South African Mark Fish recently arrived for a two-week assessment at Old Trafford.

Nottingham Forest, England's only European survivors this season, are expected to comply with the 'gentleman's agreement' to keep to the restrictions which were in force for the earlier rounds of the continental competitions.

Uefa is planning to meet with the European Players' Union headed by English union's chief executive Gordon Taylor, on Friday to discuss alternative concepts.

But Rick Parry, the Premier League chief executive, yesterday warned Uefa that they do not have the power to impose single system Europe-wide.

"It must be made absolutely clear that it is those responsible for running the professional game in the respective countries who have to deal with domestic rules and regulations," he said. "We believe that it is important for the good of the game that the right steps are taken to protect the domestic transfer system."

Taylor is promoting the concept of the 'home-grown' player to combat the threat to youth policies. "There is a need, both domestically and internationally, to have a certain number of players at every club who are home-grown, regardless of nationality," he said. "We don't want a complete open house."

Coventry look set to sign Aberdeen's Eoin Jess and the Birmingham defender Liam Daish for a total of pounds 3.5m, but the midfielder Neil Lennon, who had agreed a move from Crewe, is to have talks with Leicester today regarding a pounds 750,000 move to Filbert Street.

Middlesbrough have been backed by the Brazilian FA in their attempt to obtain a work permit for the full-back Branco, but in other development, the Department for Education and Employment has put all transfers of foreign players between English clubs on hold until after a summit involving the Premier League, Association, League and Professional ers' Association.