Bosnich given little cheer in fight for jersey

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The Independent Football

Manchester United returned from their pre-season trip to Munich with a debate raging over the pecking order of goalkeepers at Old Trafford.

Manchester United returned from their pre-season trip to Munich with a debate raging over the pecking order of goalkeepers at Old Trafford.

While their new signing Fabien Barthez escaped criticism after the French international conceded three goals in Saturday's final of the Bayern Munich Centenary tournament, Mark Bosnich was returning from a trip to Essex with United's third team.

Bosnich turned down a loan move to Celtic last week and said he would fight to regain the No 1 spot - but manager Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to make him play in a 3-1 win over Chelmsford City at Billericay Town's ground suggested he may have a tough task.

Ferguson was reported at the weekend as having said: "If Mark says he wants to stay and fight for his place, that's his decision. But Barthez will be my No 1 and Raimond van der Gouw is my No 2. I am settled on Barthez as first choice - he has the personality, character and record that I want in my keeper."

Barthez, the French World Cup and European Championship-winning goalkeeper who cost £7.8m from Monaco this summer, was beaten by a penalty from Mehmet Scholl and two headers from Alexander Zickler on his debut at the Olympic stadium, where United were beaten 3-1 by Bayern.

"He wasn't at fault for any of the goals," Ferguson said. "Obviously you'd like to win your first match, but I'm sure that this won't affect Fabien becoming a very good keeper for Manchester United."

Ferguson insists David Beckham will remain at Old Trafford as long as he is manager but that negotiations over a new contract will not take place until next summer. "There is no reason to panic," he said. "Beckham will certainly be at Manchester United as long as I'm there. He's not pushing for any new negotiations on his contract and he's looking forward to the new season."

United are reported to have made an unsuccessful approach to Lazio for the Chilean striker Marcelo Salas. Elizabetta Cragnotti, Lazio's managing director and daughter of the club president, Sergio Cragnotti, said: "Mr Ferguson was down here three or four months ago to try to sign Salas. He came personally to speak to my father. We couldn't help Mr Ferguson then because we needed to hang on to Salas in order to sign [Hernan] Crespo. The only Manchester United player we have ever been interested in signing was Jaap Stam, but Mr Ferguson said he wasn't for sale."

Salas, who scored two of Lazio's goals in a 3-3 draw against Barcelona in Amsterdam on Saturday, said he had not heard of United's interest but welcomed the prospect of talks with Ferguson. "To say whether I would go and play for a club like United, you would need something real in the way of a proposal. If Mr Ferguson wants to come and talk, I will be happy to talk and consider what he has to say," he added.

The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, is looking forward to challenging for the title. On the evidence of Saturday's 2-2 draw with Benfica in Belfast, the Anfield defence has been strengthened immeasurably by the acquisition of the German Markus Babbel, signed on a Bosman free transfer from Bayern Munich.

The 28-year-old Babbel, who was outstanding in the Carlsberg Tournament in Northern Ireland, said: "Manchester United are the best, everyone respects them. But from what I have seen at Liverpool, I believe the club is geared up now to challenge United. Liverpool have many good young players, and that is good for the future. I believe we have a good chance to achieve our aims."

Houllier will be hoping this week for an end to the saga of the transfer of Christian Ziege. Liverpool still claim they have not been given permission to talk to the player and they have had no word from Middlesbrough since their £5.5m bid was made a fortnight ago.

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