Ferguson wants Smith to take up loan move to Cardiff

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The Independent Online

Manchester United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has confirmed he wants Alan Smith to go to Cardiff on loan to improve his match fitness, but yesterday the striker was undecided. Cardiff contacted United on Thursday to ask if the former Leeds player was available on loan Ferguson responded positively despite United being short of forwards.

Smith, 26, has made only four appearances this season - two in the Carling Cup and two as substitute in the Champions' League - and has not reached the level he was at when he broke a leg and dislocated an ankle against Liverpool in February. "Because we are no longer in the League Cup I thought a short-term loan would have been ideal for him to get games," Sir Alex said. "I put that to him and he has spoken to Cardiff but I think he is uncertain about what to do - he's not sure whether to take it or not. He really needs football matches, there's no question about that. The reserves are really an extension of youth football and it's not the same challenge for an experienced player like Alan."

Ferguson admitted sending Smith on loan was a gamble - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is out for up to three weeks with a hamstring tear and United are short of cover for Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha. Ferguson added: "There's a bit of a risk but we feel Alan needs games quickly, some good competitive matches. He's still a bit short for us and only by playing games is he going to get it back."

Dennis Wise, Leeds' new manager, would also like to take the player back to Elland Road, while Stoke City were also reported to be interested.

Ferguson yesterday also confirmed his interest in Freddy Adu. The 17-year-old midfielder is due to come to United for a two-week trial and could sign in the January transfer window. "He's only a young lad, but we have known of him for a long time," Sir Alex said.

Chelsea have also been linked with Adu, whose Major League Soccer season has been brought to an end by DC United's failure to qualify for the end of year play-offs. If Adu does enough to persuade Ferguson to offer him a permanent contract, a fee would have to be negotiated with MLS who, as with all US-based players, own Adu's registration.

* A planning inspector has ruled that the Southend striker Freddy Eastwood - whose goal knocked Manchester United out of the Carling Cup this week, can remain in his mobile home. Eastwood was facing the threat of eviction from the property in Wickford, Essex, because Basildon Council said it was built on greenbelt land without planning permission.

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