Football: United in Swedish nursery club deal

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By Alan Nixon

MANCHESTER UNITED are to strike up a deal with Gothenburg to make them their next nursery club. United will have first call on all the Swedish side's best players and have agreed to send some of their most promising youngsters to Sweden on loan in return.

The United manager, Alex Ferguson,will also have the facility to sign Swedish teenagers and farm them back to Gothenburg for experience to make sure United are guaranteed the best talent from the country in future. Ferguson has already let the Norwegian striker Erik Nevland leave this week and more players could follow this season.

The Gothenburg president, Gunnar Larsson, has been at Old Trafford twice in the past fortnight to finalise the deal. United's money men will also be delighted as no cash has changed hands.

United have already brought the Belgian side Royal Antwerp under their wing, possibly to use them as a back-door route for young non-EU players who cannot get work permits in Britain. However, Gothenburg are a much bigger club, regularly in the Champions League.

Ferguson is keen on the Scandinavian market, having recently had a few youngsters from the area for trials, and Sweden has been the most prolific producer in the past 20 years. United's Jesper Blomqvist started at Gothenburg.

Ferguson has close friendships at Gothenburg after meeting them twice in Europe and winning the European Cup-Winners' Cup in the city with Aberdeen. He is also an honorary Goth, one of the highest honours given to foreigners.

United are also looking at clubs in South Africa and Australia to sign the best talent and earmark them for Old Trafford.

Denis Irwin will reluctantly quit United if he is not happy with his new contract offer, he said yesterday. Irwin would like to remain at Old Trafford when his current one-year deal expires in the summer and he has already had talks about a new agreement. But the 33-year-old defender knows he could cash in on a lucrative move to another club under the Bosman ruling and he will only re-sign with United if he is satisfied with the terms offered.

"Ideally nobody wants to leave here, but as things are being quoted on the back pages, whether it's Roy or me, we both want the right deal to stay. There's a lot of money floating around in football at the moment."