Age 'no barrier' for Blanc says Ferguson

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson finally signed Laurent Blanc at the fourth time of asking and insisted he has not done so too late.

The centre-back, capped 96 times by France, is 36 in November but his best days are not yet behind him, according to the Old Trafford manager. Blanc has signed a one-year deal with United, having joined on a free transfer from Internazionale just 24 hours before the deadline for participating in the Champions' League.

Blanc is Jaap Stam's short-term replacement ­ the Dutchman was sold to Lazio for £15.25m on Monday ­ but Ferguson says age is not a problem.

"People keep going on about this age thing. Steve Bruce was 35 and Bryan Robson was 36 but they both played important roles," he said, "I see a young midfield player at Liverpool who played I don't know how many games for them last season," Ferguson said, in reference to Gary McAllister."Players who are prepared to look after themselves ­ their careers carry on much longer than we think."

Ferguson added: "This is maybe the fourth time we have tried to get him [Blanc]. I tried in the past to do it, even last season, but it has always been the wrong time. Now we are delighted he has joined us.

"The first time I tried, he was at Auxerre, then Barcelona and now Inter Milan."

Liverpool have agreed a £4.85m fee with Feyenoord for the goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek but face a race against time to complete his transfer before today's Champions' League registration deadline.

Steve McClaren was given special permission from Sven-Goran Eriksson to leave the England camp in order to wrap-up three transfers for Middlesbrough.

He first headed for The Riverside to sign the Scotland winger Allan Johnston from Rangers for around £1m and then set up the loan deal that will see the South African striker Benni McCarthy arrive from Celta Vigo for the rest of the season.

Before Wednesday night was over McClaren saw his reserves draw with Manchester United and found time to negotiate with Sturm Graz's Austrian striker Markus Schopp, who is on a four-day trial, before returning to the England camp.

The Frenchman Bruno Ngotty is ready to join Premiership leaders Bolton in a £2.5m deal. Ngotty, 29, flew in from Marseilles for talks yesterday.

West Ham insist there is "a long way to go" before they sign the Czech Republic defender Tomas Repka from Fiorentina despite reports that they have agreed a £5m fee with the Serie A club.

Paul Bracewell has resigned as the manager of Third Division Halifax Town along with his assistant, Richie Barker.