Press Watch: Ferguson ready to bring in new assistant at Old Trafford

Chelsea 'prepare summer bid of £25m' to lure Owen from Liverpool
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been working without a deputy at Old Trafford since his former assistant manager Carlos Queiroz left to become the Real Madrid coach, plans to find himself a new No 2. The question raised by weekend speculation is: who will it be? The Sunday Express and the People agree that moves are afoot to hire a new right-hand man for the Manchester United manager, even though Mike Phelan has impressed Ferguson since being temporarily promoted, but they differ over the identity of Fergie's target.

The former believes strongly that the Real Valladolid coach, Fernando Vasquez, is the man being pursued. Queiroz apparently recommended Vasquez before he left Old Trafford but United were slow in following up their initial contact and Vasquez, who has coached several Primera Liga teams, committed himself to Valladolid. Vasquez is thought to be tempted by the prospect of moving to Manchester, although he may have to wait until the end of the season.

However, the People reckons Ferguson has identified his assistant much closer to home. Its report claims United are set to snap up Eddie Gray's No 2 at Leeds, Kevin Blackwell. The former Sheffield United coach moved to Leeds to work with Peter Reid, whom Ferguson numbers among his close friends, and has apparently been recommended by Reid.

The Express says Ferguson is unlikely to increase his £8m offer for Fulham's Louis Saha and claims he has made a bid for Leeds' Mark Viduka. The People reports that United believe they can land both strikers, even though Ferguson reportedly will not match Leeds' £7m valuation for the Australian. Fulham's growing interest in the Preston forward Ricardo Fuller has apparently encouraged United to believe the Londoners will ultimately part with Saha in spite of their defiant stance on the matter. One player leaving Fulham, according to the People, is the defender Jon Harley, who has reportedly been told he can go after falling out with the manager, Chris Coleman.

The News of the World claims Chelsea have already made contact with representatives of the Liverpool striker Michael Owen to indicate they will make a summer offer for the England marksman if he is still stalling on a new contract at Anfield. Chelsea apparently reckon they might land Owen for a "cut-price" £25m, compared with his estimated £40m market value. However, the paper's sources say a move abroad is more likely if Owen quits Merseyside.

The Mail on Sunday reports that Sir Bobby Robson has given up on signing the Celtic striker Henrik Larsson after being told that the Swede wants to end his career in Spain. However, the People says Newcastle are planning a raid on Birmingham - with the intention of luring away their manager, Steve Bruce, to be Robson's successor.

Micky Adams and Nigel Worthington are top of Southampton's initial list to succeed Gordon Strachan at St Mary's, according to the News of the World, which also reckons Charlton Athletic are poised to offer Alan Curbishley a new contract worth £4m to stay at The Valley.

The People says "manager-in-waiting" Giovanni Trapattoni has given his blessing to a Tottenham move for Viduka but the News of the World says Barcelona is the likely destination for the Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids, whom Spurs had hoped to take on loan from Juventus.

The Express reckons Middlesbrough are another club interested in Viduka, having been given no encouragement after their approach for Celtic's Chris Sutton.