Football: Boro hunt Ferguson as Solskjaer stays put

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BRYAN ROBSON, the Middlesbrough manager, has targeted the Everton captain Duncan Ferguson - and although the imposing Scottish striker is officially not for sale an offer of around pounds 9m could be accepted.

Aston Villa are also understood to be interested in signing Ferguson amid speculation that the Everton manager, Walter Smith, would part with him at the right price.

Robson offered pounds 6m for Ferguson earlier this year and would now pay more, since his side are struggling to find a potent attacking force. The club's current strikers, Mikkel Beck and Hamilton Ricard, were left on the bench at the weekend.

Smith, who sold Ferguson while at Rangers, is keen on Tranmere's England Under-21 goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.

Villa, too, have the big Scot on their list of transfer targets with the pounds 15m fund they have behind them, much of it gleaned from the pounds 12.6m sale of Dwight Yorke to Manchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United forward whose place in Alex Ferguson's side is under greatest threat following the signing of Yorke, has rejected a pounds 5.5m move to Tottenham. "Ole is going nowhere," Ferguson said. "He's not for sale and I'm happy he's staying here."

Solskjaer, who was reluctant to move south for personal reasons, has been assured by the United manager that he remains part of his plans as the team prepares to defend a 2-0 lead in tomorrow's Champions' League qualifying match in Poland. Jaap Stam, the United defender who missed Saturday's game at West Ham with a slight thigh strain, is fit and will face LKS Lodz. However, Gary Neville is out for a month after straining a hamstring at Upton Park. He will miss England's European Championship qualifier against Sweden on 5 September.

Meanwhile, Villa's Gareth Southgate has been linked with a pounds 7m move to Spurs to join up in defence with his England team-mate Sol Campbell.

Southampton's Norwegian striker Stig Johansen has joined the Swedish First Division side Helsingborg for pounds 250,000. Johansen, 26, found his chances limited at The Dell after joining Saints from Bodo/Glimt for pounds 250,000 a year ago.

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