Niemi on alert after talk of United move

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The Independent Football

Not surprisingly, Antti Niemi says he would revel in the chance to solve Manchester United's goalkeeping crisis.

With Roy Carroll and Tim Howard both having failed to impress this season many feel Sir Alex Ferguson will seek a new first-choice keeper in the summer, and the Finland international has impressed at Southampton since switching from Hearts in 2002. Although he says he is happy at St Mary's he admitted yesterday that he would welcome the chance to chase trophies with a leading club.

"I hope Saints don't have to sell me, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn't be ready to talk to Manchester United," the 32-year-old said. "If either United or Arsenal came in, I would want to talk to them."

Niemi, who has 50 Finland caps, joined Southampton from Hearts for £2m and the Saints manager, Harry Redknapp, sees retaining his services as vital to his side's hopes of winning their struggle against relegation.

Carroll has proved unreliable for United - as evidenced by last week's notorious goal-line incident against Tottenham at Old Trafford - and Howard has also failed to show the consistency required.

Niemi's current contract commits him to St Mary's until 2008, but he said: "Let's be honest, Manchester United and Arsenal are the clubs where you know you will win things."

The Finn said Sir Alex Ferguson had attempted to sign him when he was at Hearts. "Just after signing for Saints, I found out that Hearts had rung my agent telling me that Sir Alex wanted me up there to talk," he said. "He was even ready to lay on a plane. Had Mr Ferguson been two or three hours earlier with his phone call I'd have gone."

Another player to be linked with United over the weekend is Everton's Danish midfielder Thomas Gravesen. According to reports United made contact with his agent, the former United defender John Sivebaek, last week.

Gravesen is out of contract in the summer and United have said they will compete for his signature if he rejects a new deal and leaves Goodison for free at the end of the season.

They could be outmanoeuvred by Real Madrid, though, who are thought to be considering a £2m offer during this month's transfer window.