Pearce hints at Distin transfer problem

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The Manchester City manager, Stuart Pearce, said yesterday that Sylvain Distin's proposed £4.5m move to Middlesbrough may have hit a stumbling block.

City have given permission for their former captain to speak to the Teessiders knowing he is about to enter the final year of his contract. "We have accepted an offer from Middlesbrough but I am led to believe he cannot agree personal terms with them," Pearce said. "If he ends up staying at Manchester City I would be delighted and he will be part of our squad on Sunday."

The manager of Fulham, Chris Coleman, said that the midfielder Steed Malbranque - who wants to run down his contract and leave for free next year - will never play for the club again, leaving Jimmy Bullard to make his debut tomorrow at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

"We've done everything we can to keep Steed happy, offering him a long-term and short-term contract," Coleman said. "He's turned down everything. We can't let players who we have invested a lot of money in walk away for nothing ... Steed won't play for Fulham even if he's fit. His future lies elsewhere."