Ferguson poised to complete £5m deal for Senna

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The Independent Football

Villarreal are still awaiting an official offer for their influential midfielder Marcos Senna from Manchester United but Manuel Pellegrini, the Chilean coach who last season guided the unfashionable Spanish club to the semi-finals of the Champions' League, gave the clearest indication of Sir Alex Ferguson's next transfer priority last night when he resigned himself to the 30-year-old's departure from El Madrigal Stadium.

While the scrutiny of Michael Carrick begins in earnest this evening when the £18.6m playmaker makes his United debut against Porto in the opening game of the Amsterdam Tournament, the question of who will provide the steel to complement the former Tottenham man's silk at Old Trafford this season is something that Ferguson remains anxious to address. Senna is understood to be at the top of his list.

Ferguson disputed suggestions that United urgently require a defensive midfielder at Carrick's unveiling on Wednesday. But after confirming that he was interested in the former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira but was unable to match the contract on offer from Internazionale, he said yesterday: "We may be bringing in another one anyway."

With personal terms believed to have been agreed, only Villarreal's valuation of the player stands in the way of the Brazilian-born midfielder moving to the Premiership.

The Spaniards want at least £5m for Senna, although their bargaining position is weakened by the fact he has only 12 months left on his existing contract with the club.

His coach Pellegrini, however, held out little hope of retaining the now Spanish-nationalised Senna in an interview with the sports newspaper, Marca, yesterday. "In the case of Marcos, nothing is 100 per cent finalised," he explained. "I understand that this is a great opportunity for him but, for us, it is going to be a great footballing loss if he does end up going. If he leaves, I'll be happy for him but I will be sad for the team."

Pellegrini added: "I am very happy for him because he deserves it. He is a player who has proved his class and I have always found it very strange that nobody came in for him sooner as he is a great player."

Senna has proved a formidable foil for the more polished talents of Juan Roman Riquelme at Villarreal, a partnership Ferguson would no doubt love to replicate with Carrick despite his insistence that: "I'm happy with the squad I've got, I must say. I think we've got a good bunch of players and if we don't get the injuries we've had in the last two years we'll have a great chance [of the title] this year."

Should Senna come on board Ferguson will be left with the issue of replacing Ruud van Nistelrooy before the end of the transfer window, with Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt under consideration from both United and Liverpool, who have had a £10m bid rejected for the Dutch international and are now weighing up their next move. United have an additional £12m to spend above their transfer budget this summer, money received from Chelsea for the Nigerian teenager John Obi Mikel and which their chief executive, David Gill, has promised Ferguson will be reinvested in the squad, although the manager, never one to discuss a weakness, insists his existing forward line is equipped to sustain a championship challenge this season.

The United manager explained: "We have one or two decisions to make about the strikers, [Giuseppe] Rossi, for instance. It's more likely that he'll stay now that Van Nistelrooy's left. We've got Ole Gunnar Solskjaer back and doing quite well. The more games he gets now will be good for him. We'll have some alternatives for attacking roles in Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha. And, of course, we have Alan Smith doing fantastically well in training. That's been a real surprise for us, how well he's come on."

Ferguson added: "He's actually not that far from taking part in a real football game now. I would think that, in three weeks' time, he'll be back in the lion's den again as a centre-forward with real guts and determination. He's a different option for us. But, after that, you look around and there aren't that many centre-forwards who you'd go for."