Ferguson scours globe for Keane's successor

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The Manchester United manager feels he has the basis of a squad capable of challenging Chelsea for the Premiership with a sound defence, Cristiano Ronaldo, Park Ji-Sung and Ryan Giggs on the wings, and Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha in attack. However, he needs to replace the backbone that has been broken by the disagreement with Van Nistelrooy that saw him walk away from Old Trafford before the final game of the season and, more importantly, Keane's move to Celtic.

"There is no one like [Keane] in the game," admitted Ferguson. "There are good players but not a Keane-type. When Bryan [Robson] came to an end, we looked for a new Bryan and were lucky to get Roy. That scenario is on us again.

"Even though Roy was from the Republic of Ireland, it was like he was British so there was no problem with culture or language," said Ferguson. "When we look abroad, we have to take into consideration that he is not going to be a Roy Keane in terms of his influence in the dressing-room because of culture, language, things like that.

"It will be a different type of player but hopefully it will be somebody who has the qualities that we need."

Ferguson has his targets. Lyon's £24m-rated midfielder Mahamadou Diarra is reported to be top of his wish list along with Juan Roman Riquelme of Villarreal, and Deportivo La Coruña's Aldo Duscher.