Football: Keane pronounces a preference for Old Trafford: Manchester United are invited to make their bid for Forest's playmaker

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The Independent Online
ROY KEANE, the much coveted Nottingham Forest midfield player, has made it plain that he wants to join Manchester United, in preference to Blackburn Rovers or any of the other wealthy Premier League clubs chasing his signature.

The 21-year-old Republic of Ireland international had been expected to announce a move to Blackburn before his trip to Lithuania, where his country won a World Cup tie on Wednesday. However, a planned press conference was cancelled, and yesterday Keane told a newspaper in his home city of Cork that Old Trafford is where he hopes to start next season. 'Manchester United are my personal favourites,' he said. 'I am facing the toughest decision of my life, but everybody wants to play for them.'

The Premier League champions must now better Blackburn's bid of pounds 3.5m, which was pounds 1.5m less than Forest's valuation. Kenny Dalglish, the Blackburn manager, had offered Keane a four-year contract and reached a verbal agreement over personal terms.

Frank Clark, the Forest manager, has reminded Keane that he is still an employee at the City Ground. 'Roy seems to be under the misapprehension he can join any club he likes, but he is still our player and won't be going anywhere until somebody matches our valuation of him,' Clark said earlier this week.

David O'Leary, Keane's Republic of Ireland colleague, is expected to join Leeds United today - as long as his family agree to a move to Yorkshire. The Elland Road club have offered the 35-year-old defender, given a free transfer by Arsenal, a three-year contract which may include some coaching responsibilities. Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers are also in the hunt for his signature.

Wolves, along with Derby County, are keen on Peter Beardsley, Everton's former England forward, who has been given permission to talk to two clubs who have tabled pounds 1.5m bids for the 32-year-old. Howard Kendall, the Everton manager, has not named the clubs involved, but he said: 'I'm looking forward in the interests of the team and I may be tempted to sell, especially with that amount of money involved. Hopefully, it will give me the scope to bring in a player I see as a priority.'

Newcastle United, one of his former clubs, had been linked with Beardsley, but the Magpies have now moved for Sergei Yuran, a Ukrainian who plays international football for Russia. The Tyneside team have agreed a fee of about pounds 1.5m with Yuran's club, Benfica, and the 24- year-old striker will arrive in the North-east to discuss personal terms this weekend.

Everton's top transfer target may be the Dundee United striker, Duncan Ferguson, but Kendall looks likely to lose out to Leeds United, who have offered pounds 3.2m for the 21-year-old Scottish international. Bayern Munich, Aston Villa and Rangers are also interested in Ferguson, although Jim McLean, the chairman at Tannadice Park, is not keen to sell his main asset to another club in Scotland.

Norwich City have signed Spencer Prior, Southend United's 22-year-old central defender. The initial fee for the Essex-born player is pounds 200,000, which could rise to pounds 650,000 depending on future appearances for club and country.

Burnley have had an offer of pounds 140,000 accepted by Stoke City for Kevin Russell, the winger signed from Leicester last summer for pounds 95,000. Steve Perryman, the Watford manager, has named his former Tottenham team-mate, Phil Holder, as his assistant manager. Holder was sacked last month as manager of Brentford.

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