The inheritance tax on Roy Keane's shirt and a potential outlay of £18.6m on a midfielder with no European experience and only one competitive appearance for England perturbed neither Michael Carrick nor Manchester United yesterday, the 25-year-old insisting he can handle the pressure of Old Trafford and the chief executive, David Gill, asserting that the club had acquired a "great player at a great price".
Sensitive to suggestions that, at an initial £14m plus a further £4.6m in incentives, United have paid over the odds for a player who cost £2.75m when he moved from West Ham to Spurs two years ago, Gill joined Sir Alex Ferguson at the official unveiling of Carrick to defend the purchase on the grounds of the midfielder's nationality, impending Uefa regulations on the number of foreign players in European competition and, naturally, his ability.
Though Ferguson admitted Carrick was no Keane, despite handing the Geordie his former indomitable captain's number 16 jersey - "you can't get Roy Keanes, we've been trying for five years," Ferguson said - the United manager claimed he had paid a fair price for the former Spurs playmaker who, in time, would prove money well spent.
"I think we may have ended up paying two pence more than I would have paid but no more," said Ferguson, who could give Carrick his United debut against Porto in Amsterdam tomorrow. "It was almost exactly what David and I discussed we should go to at the beginning. Negotiations are always like this. Eventually you get to a point where neither side may not be happy, but they shake hands and get on with it. That's what we got to."
Despite the admission that he has been seeking a replacement for Keane for five years, Ferguson defended the decision not to sign Carrick from West Ham in 2004 on the confusing basis that "Keane and [Paul] Scholes were at their peak at the time".
In contrast to previous attempts to mould a new midfield at Old Trafford, however, the Wallsend-born Carrick arrives with the Premiership pedigree that his manager sought following the failure of Juan Sebastian Veron, Kleberson and Eric Djemba-Djemba to adapt to foreign climes.
"We're more comfortable with signing home-based players," said the Scot. "They understand the club, the loyalty factor, much easier. We have less problems with them over the years. It's worth paying that bit extra if you need to, like we did for Roy Keane and Gary Pallister. People thought we overpaid for them, but time proved we were right. Hopefully that will prove the case with Michael."
Gill added: "Top talent in England is difficult to obtain. There's also the fact that Uefa are changing the rules as well whereby, in time, there has to be a quota of home-grown talent in your squad. Players like Michael know what playing for United means, the history of the club, and we think that's a key attraction for us going forward."
Though Ferguson denied claims that the cost of his one summer signing and the loss of his prolific goalscorer Ruud Van Nistelrooy had caused disquiet among the Old Trafford faithful, he revealed he was keen to make "one or two" more purchases before the close of the transfer window.
Interest in Patrick Vieira was stifled by the more lucrative contract on offer to the former Juventus midfielder from Internazionale, leaving Villarreal's Marcus Senna as a viable, and cheaper, alternative. "I don't agree [that United need a second central midfielder] but we may be bringing another one in anyway," said Ferguson.
"You could say you'd need to replace Roy Keane with four players. You could go on and on and on. You have to accept that he was one of the best players of all time. We don't see any new Roy Keanes but we do recognise ability and that is why we bought Michael."
Carrick himself dismissed concerns that the pressures of replacing Keane, in position if not style, and of justifying his transfer fee will cause problems in his debut season at Old Trafford. The midfielder said: "Roy's a legend of the game, one of the greats and always will be. I can't stop people talking about him, but I'm my own man. I'm highly self-critical. I don't think anyone else will be more critical than me. So that's not really going to bother me."
United head for the Netherlands and two games at the Amsterdam Tournament today without Cristiano Ronaldo who, like Louis Saha and Mikaël Silvestre, only returned to pre-season training on Monday and will be rested for the matches against Porto and host club Ajax. Gabriel Heinze and Nemanja Vidic will also be left behind as they recover from injury.Reuse content