Football: United move for McClaren

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The Independent Online
ALEX FERGUSON is to make an approach for Steve McClaren to become Manchester United's new first-team coach. Ferguson has decided that McClaren, currently first-team coach at Derby County, is the ideal candidate to replace Brian Kidd at Old Trafford.

McClaren fits Ferguson's bill perfectly. He is a clever tactical thinker, as illustrated by Derby's performance against United on Wednesday. Informal discussions have already begun and a formal request to Derby is expected over the weekend.

If McClaren joins United, Jim Ryan, who has filled the assistant's role at Old Trafford in a caretaker capacity, would retain a senior post. Ferguson had been considering the Preston manager, Davie Moyes, but he is considered a future manager in his own right, whereas McClaren is regarded as a pure coach.

Ruud Gullit took his spending to pounds 15m in five months yesterday when he signed Croatia Zagreb's World Cup midfielder, Silvio Maric, for pounds 3.3m.

The 24-year-old is due to fly to Tyneside today to undergo a medical and complete the deal - a three-and-a-half year contract worth pounds 20,000 per week, according to reports in Croatia.

The move is dependent on Maric receiving a work permit, but both clubs are confident that there will be no hitches. The deal includes a sell- on clause and the promise of a friendly between the two sides later this year.

Maric is Gullit's third major signing since taking over at St James' Park last August. The former Chelsea manager, who made it clear from the start that he would be looking to bring in new players, signed Duncan Ferguson for pounds 7m from Everton and Didier Domi from Paris St-Germain for pounds 4.5m.

Maric's signing indicates that Gullit is happy to keep looking abroad for new players - as he did at Stamford Bridge - even though this might not bode well for some established players at Newcastle.

Maric's arrival might cast doubt over the future of the club captain Rob Lee, who has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks.

The England international has not started a game since the 3-0 home defeat by Leeds on Boxing Day after suffering a troublesome Achilles injury. He has been linked with moves to his former club, Charlton, as well as West Ham and Southampton, and yesterday's signing will have done nothing to make him feel more secure.

Zagreb agreed the transfer reluctantly after Maric, who played four times in the World Cup as Croatia reached the semi-finals, took advantage of a clause in his contract which allowed him to move if the right offer came along.

"We didn't want to lose him," admitted Damir Vrbanovic, Croatia Zagreb's executive director. "Silvio Maric is absolutely one of the best players in the Croatian league."

Maric - who impressed during his club's two-leg European Champions' League qualifier defeat by Newcastle last season - is a strong-running attacking player. He is likely to be given a creative role in midfield to create chances for Ferguson and Alan Shearer, whose partnership has yet to produce much evidence that it will be as devastating as touted.

"We have been watching Silvio Maric for three years," the Newcastle director, Freddy Shepherd, said. "He will be a valuable member of the squad."

Another player who is likely to remain in the Newcastle squad a while longer is John Barnes, who has returned to the Magpies after a brief trial at Charlton Athletic. A permanent move has not been ruled out but the south London club's manager, Alan Curbishley, has yet to decide whether to make a bid for the 35-year-old, saying that he would be watching a few matches this weekend before making a decision.

Tim Sherwood finally completed his move to Tottenham from Blackburn Rovers yesterday, in a four-year deal for a fee believed to be around pounds 3m. He is likely to go straight into the squad for tomorrow's home game against Coventry.

Sherwood, 30, is ineligible to play for Spurs in the Worthington Cup semi-finals, having played out for Blackburn in the competition but is available for the London team's FA Cup campaign, which reaches the fifth round stage against their manager George Graham's old club, Leeds United, at Elland Road a week tomorrow.

Graham said: "I'm delighted to get a quality player who will be a tremendous asset to the club. I believe he will form a great partnership in the middle of the park with Allan Nielsen and my other recent signing, Steffen Freund."

Bolton's Arnar Gunnlaugsson will join Leicester City in a pounds 2.5m deal today after requesting a transfer because of a contract dispute. The Icelandic striker is expected to accept terms and sign in time to be eligible to face Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow.