Football: Ferguson's pounds 12m injury crisis fund

SIR ALEX FERGUSON is poised to plunge back into the transfer market after Manchester United agreed to give him pounds 12m to spend to solve a player crisis.

Ferguson emerged victorious from a summit meeting with the club's chief executive, Martin Edwards, who will let him buy a new centre-half, and possible midfield cover. Ronny Johnsen's knee injury is a huge worry and United fear he could be their second vital defender to be ruled out for a long period. The other victim whose chances of returning this season are slim is Wes Brown.

As Johnsen flew home to Norway in preparation for surgery at the hands of his old doctor Trygve Kase, United started drawing up a list of replacements.

United will probably have to look abroad for the answer to their centre- half problem. Ferguson would like Sol Campbell or even Ugo Ehiogu, but they are unavailable, so he will send his spies around Europe this weekend in a frantic search ahead of the Champions' League deadline of 31 August.

United only have Jaap Stam and Henning Berg available at the moment and both have had injury problems in the recent past. David May is also sidelined for the next month with strained medial ligaments, leaving United desperately thin on the ground. The only alternatives are switching Gary Neville or even captain Roy Keane. Youngsters John Curtis and John O'Shea are on trial.

If Ferguson can unearth a bargain he will also be allowed to recruit a new midfield player, the area he felt needed strengthening throughout the close season.

Ferguson has won his fight with the plc to keep Roy Keane for the season following the captain's refusal to sign a new contract, but would ideally like someone to cover for him and possibly eventually replace him.

Johnsen is likely to be missing for the whole of the campaign after his rehabilitation programme failed to cure his "jumper's knee" problem.

The surgery involves the removal of 30 per cent of tendon from both knees and carries a recovery rate of 70 per cent.

United's board have now studied those figures and realised that the chequebook has to come out for the first time in over a year since the arrival of Dwight Yorke.

In Scotland, Kilmarnock are set to launch a compensation fight for the loss of midfielder Ian Durrant. The Scotland international suffered a groin injury on Euro 2000 duty against the Czech Republic on 9 June and has so far not recovered sufficiently to make an appearance for the Rugby Park men this season.

With their Uefa Cup hopes hanging by a thread following their 1-0 defeat by KR Reykjavik in Iceland last week, the Kilmarnock chairman, Bill Costley, feels the Scottish Football Association have a moral obligation to compensate his club.

"We have made a considerable investment in bringing Ian Durrant to the club, and he is a very influential player - if not the most influential - in our team," Costley said.

"He is the playmaker of our side and despite suffering the injury back in June while playing for Scotland he is still unable to play for Kilmarnock."

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