Ferguson infuriates Celtic by paving way for Miller move

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Manchester United have moved a step closer to signing Liam Miller after inviting the young Celtic midfielder on a tour of Old Trafford.

In a whirlwind visit on Wednesday - similar to the controversial trip to United's stadium by the PSV Eindhoven forward Arjen Robben earlier in the week - Miller was shown the facilities and was introduced to some of the club's leading lights he could play with next season.

Celtic, like PSV, were unaware that Miller had spent his day off in Manchester looking to sort out his future. United did nothing wrong talking to Miller in this way because he is out of contract and was free to negotiate a deal outside Scotland from the start of January. But it is normal etiquette to inform a player'sclub that discussions are under way.

Now Miller is expected to follow his hero, Roy Keane, to Manchester. Should Miller sign a pre-contract agreement with United there will be no fee payable to Celtic as he is under 23 years of age, further angering Martin O'Neill's club. Miller does not turn 23 until next month.

Celtic have offered Miller around £12,000-a-week, but he is asking more in the region of £1m a season and is more likely to get that in England.

Ferguson sees Miller as an understudy to Keane. He is a box-to-box midfielder who prefers to play on the right and and is highly rated. United's interest comes as something of a shock as O'Neill does not pick Miller regularly, partly because he has refused to sign a long-term contract. But Miller has sufficiently impressed the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, particularly in the Champions' League this season.

A Celtic spokesman said: "We have had no conformation from Manchester United of any pre-contractual agreement. We made an extremely generous offer to Liam Miller, the biggest salary deal ever put on the table for a young Celtic player who has come up through the ranks.

"This offer was made following detailed consideration of Liam's contribution to the team to date during his 16 first-team starting appearances as well as eventual potential. It is a salary package which would make him one of the very best-paid young players in Scottish football history."

If Miller does join United, it would leave a sour taste in the mouth of O'Neill, who had been in contract talks with the player and his agent. The 22-year-old had indicated that he did not want to leave Celtic when speculation linking him to United first began.

The signing of Miller would also be another major coup for Ferguson.