Football: United run risk with schoolboy plane trips

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED are bending Premier League regulations by signing the teenage prospect Kalum Mooniaruck.

The club's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has spotted the potential of the 15-year-old midfielder and he is appearing for United's Under-17 Academy team, despite the fact that he comes from Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire. United fly Mooniaruck from London on a weekly basis and put him up in digs in Sale in an attempt to circumvent the strict rules that any schoolboy must live within 90 minutes of the ground.

Mooniaruck clearly does not and the Premier League may ask United about the youngster, who strictly should be attached to a London club. The talented teenager is still at school but will go to Old Trafford permanently and is tipped to become a first-team regular.

United have gone to extraordinary lengths to sign him but Premier League rules state that the 90-minute distance between player and academy has to be travelled by car.

Adrian Cook, a Premier League spokesman, said: "You can get from Newcastle to London by air in an hour but the new rule relates to being able to drive in that time. Anything else would be illegal although nothing has been brought to our attention in this case. The rule is designed for clubs to bring through their local talent."

United do not want to lose Mooniaruck and may even buy a house for his family and find him a new school, a costly exercise but one the club considers worthwhile. The chairman, Martin Edwards, revealed recently that the Premier League Academy rules were potentially a problem for United and that going into the property market to put up their most-promising youngsters was the best way round it.

United's Swedish international, Jesper Blomqvist, has been ruled out of action until March after being told yesterday that he needs a second operation on his knee. The winger, who has not played a competitive game for United since starting in the European Cup final in May, damaged his knee during the pre-season tour of Australia.

United's Norwegian striker Erik Nevland has rejoined his former club, Viking Stavanger, in a pounds 250,000 deal after failing to claim a regular first-team place. The 22-year-old signed for United in July 1997 but made only six appearances for the Old Trafford side.

Nwankwo Kanu's contract renegotiations at Arsenal are set to continue into the new year, and may not be settled until he leaves Highbury next month for international duty with Nigeria in the African Nations' Cup.

The Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, had hoped that matters would be resolved before Monday's 3-1 FA Cup win over Blackpool, having said that the "best possible" terms within the club's wages structure are available for Kanu. When the former Ajax and Internazionale striker joined Arsenal nearly a year ago his wages were low - but he joined the club with the proviso that his salary would be reviewed if he did well.

There is no dispute about Kanu's level of performance and Wenger has already confirmed that an offer is on the table to raise Kanu's salary into the same category as Arsenal's top international players: Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams and David Seaman.

Wenger said: "Kanu's situation is not a big concern for me. He already has a contract that keeps him here until 2003 and he says he wants to play for the club. I am convinced he is happy here. After all, he has just bought a huge house in London and we certainly want him to stay at Arsenal."

In today's draw of the fourth round of the Uefa Cup Arsenal will meet one of the seeded teams in Group Two - Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna or Slavia Prague. Leeds will face one of the Group One seeds: Roma, Juventus, Parma or Monaco.

The groupings mean that no club will face a side from the same country in the fourth round. There will be no seedings for the quarter-finals.

UEFA CUP Fourth round: Group One: Seeded: Parma (It), Juventus (It), Monaco (Fr), Roma (It). Unseeded: Real Mallorca (Sp), Celta Vigo (Sp), Werder Bremen (Ger), Leeds (Eng). Group Two: Seeded: Borussia Dortmund (Ger), Atletico Madrid (Sp), Deportivo La Coruna (Sp), Slavia Prague (Cz Rep). Unseeded: Arsenal (Eng), Lens (Fr), Udinese (It), Galatasaray (Tur).