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.

One striker who will be staying put in the immediate future is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United's Norwegian forward disappointing Tottenham yesterday by turning down a pounds 5m move to the Premiership's joint-bottom club.

Solskjaer has now been assured by the United manager, Alex Ferguson, that he can fight for his place at Old Trafford despite rival interest from Everton and Leeds United.

Everton were informed by United yesterday that Solskjaer is not for sale and they, along with Leeds, have been ruled out of any deal.

United's Jaap Stam is fit and will face LKS Lodz in tomorrow's Champions' League qualifying match in Poland. The Dutch defender missed Saturday's game at West Ham with a slight thigh strain but has recovered and trained yesterday. However, Gary Neville is out for a month after straining a hamstring injury at Upton Park. He will miss England's European Championship qualifier against Sweden on 5 September.

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.

Italy's leading anti-drugs investigator is expected to fly to London for talks with Chelsea's Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola and Pierluigi Casiraghi. Ugo Longo, who heads an enquiry by the Italian Olympic Committee, Coni, had been expecting the Stamford Bridge Italians in Rome today. But Coni officials have had no reply to their faxed invitation.

The doping issue emerged when the Roma coach Zdenek Zeman claimed earlier this month that there was widespread drug abuse in Serie A. However, there has never been any suggestion of drug use by Chelsea's imports and Vialli, the club's player-coach, has threatened to sue Zeman.