Football: Ince must sign or leave: United warn pay rebel

PAUL INCE, arguably the best midfield player in England over the last two seasons, was given a warning by Manchester United yesterday in language that stopped only just short of an ultimatum. Stripping away the diplomatic facade, it said: sign a new contract or leave.

Ince, the only senior United player not to tie himself to Old Trafford on a long- term basis, has a contract until the end of the season but has spent nearly a year negotiating an extension and yesterday the club's chairman and chief executive, Martin Edwards, appeared to be running out of patience.

'I don't want to be confrontational,' he said, 'but we have done all we can. I must emphasise that we don't want to lose Paul Ince, but he's putting me in a difficult position.

'We have made him a big offer. . . and I cannot break our wage structure for one player. If I were to agree to what I understand he is asking for, I would be breaking faith with the players who have already signed on a certain understanding.'

Coventry also found an offer less than irresistible when they turned down a pounds 3.5m bid from Tottenham for their Republic of Ireland international, Phil Babb. The deal would have wiped out the club's debts and made Babb Britain's most expensive defender.

The Coventry chairman, Bryan Richardson, said: 'We were tempted, anyone would be, but we had other considerations. We told our supporters we wanted to keep our best players.'

The identity of the player Sheffield Wednesday hope to sign for pounds 1.3m was revealed yesterday. It is the Romanian defender Dan Petrescu, 26, who plays for the Italian side Genoa. He flew to Britain last night to discuss the move.

Bournemouth have sacked their manager of two years, Tony Pulis, a week before the start of the new season. The decision paves the way for a possible return to Dean Court of Harry Redknapp although that move would be resisted by West Ham, where he is assistant manager.

Bounemouth are also ready to agree the pounds 300,000 transfer of goalkeeper Vince Bartram to Arsenal, who announced a pre-tax profit for last year of pounds 5.3m.