Football: United lead race for Silvestre

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED are poised to beat Liverpool to the signature of Mickael Silvestre, Internazionale's French Under-21 defender.

United were given permission to speak to the 22-year-old by his Italian club after they matched Liverpool's pounds 3.25m offer and are now favourites in the two-horse race. Silvestre is on international duty in Armenia, but his agent, Jacques Perais, flew in for talks with both clubs and said last night: "I will be able to give a decision in the morning."

Liverpool's manager, Gerard Houllier, picked up Perais at the airport and took him to Liverpool's training ground in an attempt to persuade him that Liverpool is still the best move. However, Perais then left to meet United's chief executive, Martin Edwards, and manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Both United and Liverpool want an immediate answer and there is even the possibility that Silvestre could play for one against the other at Anfield on Saturday.

Mark Bosnich remains officially United's No 1 for the Champions' League campaign despite the pounds 4m signing Massimo Taibi. United have registered Bosnich at No 1 and the Italian at No 26 in the squads filed with Uefa, European football's governing body, for their defence of the trophy.

The lists have been lodged at Uefa for the squad names and the only surprises with Arsenal and Chelsea are early recognition of some of their young talent. The teenager Jermaine Pennant is in at No 21 on the Arsenal list, and Chelsea give their two Italian prospects, Samueli Dalla Bona and Luca Percasi, places in the squads for the group matches.

Huddersfield are close to completing the pounds 400,000 signing of Dean Gorre from Ajax. The Terriers' manager, Steve Bruce, has tracked the former Feyenoord midfielder for a month and is optimistic the 28-year-old Dutchman will join his compatriot Clyde Wijnhard at the club.

Everton officials have distanced themselves from speculation that they could walk out on from the troubled club because of the continuing row over its future ownership. Suggestions that the manager, Walter Smith, could lead a revolt over the reluctance of the former chairman, Peter Johnson, to sell his shares to Bill Kenwright, and leave Goodison, have been denied.

It is almost a year since Johnson was forced to resign as chairman in the wake of the Duncan Ferguson sale to Newcastle behind Smith's back. Ever since then the Bill Kenwright, the vice-chairman, has been trying to put together a consortium to buy Johnson's 68 per cent holding in the club.

Kenwright has not made a formal bid, although he now has backers to come up with around pounds 30m, because if he does put his money on the table and it is refused, Stock Market rules dictate that he cannot bid again for a year.

The club is in limbo with Smith bitterly frustrated. It had been claimed that Smith, the chairman, Sir Philip Carter, and the club secretary, Michael Dunford, could be on the point of standing down to force the situation to a conclusion. But Carter said: "The story is simply the figment of someone's fertile imagination. We haven't worked as hard as we have done since last November to re-establish the club to simply walk away from it all now.

"It is our intention to keep going and hope that the situation regarding the sale of Peter Johnson's majority shareholding will be concluded in the near future."

Johnson also owns a controlling interest in Tranmere, but despite warnings from the FA, the Premier League and the Nationwide League, has made no moves to dispense with one or the other as he is required to under football regulations.

Southampton to sell the Dell, Business, page 16

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