Ferguson to spend £30m on United's rearguard

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson will respond to Manchester United's exit from the European Cup by embarking on another spending spree, this time designed to strengthen the team's defence.

Ferguson will meet with the PLC board today and is expected to ask for £30m in transfer funds to enable him to bring in a world-class centre-half and one or, possibly, two full-backs.

In the wake of Tuesday's defeat by Bayer Leverkusen, Peter Kenyon, the United chief executive, is likely to sanction further investment despite the likely failure to win a trophy this season after spending £47m on Juan Sebastian Veron and Ruud van Nistelrooy last summer.

Lazio's Italian international Alessandro Nesta tops Ferguson's shopping list of central defenders with Valencia's Roberto Ayala his other option. Nesta would cost over £20m, while Ayala – whose disciplinary record is a slight concern – is valued at about £15m by the Spanish champions-elect.

Ferguson will spend heavily on a new central defender even if Laurent Blanc agrees to one more season. His age and Ronny Johnsen's vulnerability to injuries leaves the squad thin in that area.

The United manager might have more trouble in acquiring his long-term target at right-back. The French international Lilian Thuram has hinted he might leave Juventus for United, but he would command a big fee and huge wages.

If there is any money left from those two areas, Ferguson is also considering a revival of his interest in the French left-back Bixente Lizarazu, who may leave Bayern Munich.

Nicolas Anelka is facing the prospect of missing out on France's World Cup squad, thanks to the emergence of the young striker who is also threatening his chances of signing for Liverpool.

Auxerre's Djibril Cissé, who has been strongly linked with a move to Anfield, has been pulled out of the French Under-21 squad for the European Under-21 Championship because he will be included in Roger Lemerre's squad for the finals. That leaves Anelka fighting over the final place in the French party with the more versatile Youri Djorkaeff, currently on loan at Bolton, who is known to be a favourite of Lemerre's.

Ironically, Anelka's omission from the World Cup squad could help seal his move to Liverpool. So far his wage demands have proved too high for the Merseyside club, but the former Arsenal striker might have to lower his asking price if he is left at home by France this summer.

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