Keane plays down talk of move for former team-mate Solskjaer

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The Sunderland manager Roy Keane yesterday played down suggestions that he could try to land his former Manchester United team-mate, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, during the January transfer window.

Speculation has been rife on Wearside for some time that the 33-year-old Norwegian international could be a target. But Keane, who has also been linked with a move for the young striker Giuseppe Rossi, who is on loan at Newcastle United, said there had been no discussions.

"Ole is a good friend of mine who I talk to from time to time, but we have not discussed a move," he said.

Solskjaer has returned to action this season after a lengthy lay-off with knee ligament damage, although the presence of Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha, coupled with the impending arrival on loan of Henrik Larsson, has sparked rumours that he could be up for sale. Keane had earlier confirmed his interest in the Arsenal forward Anthony Stokes, who is playing on loan at Falkirk, but is giving little else away about his targets as he prepares for a New Year promotion push.

"As far as Stokes goes, there has been no contact made by us with Arsenal at this time. I do not really want to get into talking about every rumour that goes around. Last week, for instance, I was strongly linked with a player I have got no interest in. As far as I can see, a lot of this is just agents talking up potential moves to get themselves an early Christmas present.

"There are plenty of good agents out there who do a good job in representing the interests of their players, but there are some that just like to talk their players up in the hope of getting moves.

"I do not want to go down that road. If I am interested in a player, the club will go through the right channels. I will ring up the manager of the club concerned and speak directly to him. That is the right way to do it.

"If you go direct, you are speaking to the person in the position to make the decisions. You can get a straight answer and you know where you are going from the start. I am looking for players to bring in next month, but I do not want to talk about them until the deals are done."

Elsewhere, South Africa has dismissed concerns that it has fallen behind in 2010 World Cup preparations, saying it has made headway in modernising stadiums and making the streets safe for visitors.

"The preparation work has begun," the Deputy Minister of Finance, Jabu Moleketi, said. "Our eyes are on the ball and we are going to deliver... we are confident we are on time."

Moleketi said the companies that would carry out the majority of the World Cup-related work would be announced before the end of the year and that major construction work on stadiums would begin throughout the country next February. He added that 8.4bn rand (£610m) had been earmarked for construction and renovation of stadiums and nearly 6bn (£440m) rand on additional infrastructure projects for the tournament.

Moleketi's rosy forecast came as South Africa continues to reassure world football's governing body, Fifa, that it is on schedule to harness the resources and spirit needed to host the first World Cup finals held in Africa.