Louis Saha may have finally landed the move to Old Trafford he wanted, but the French striker maintained he is not at ease with the methods he used to engineer his exit.
Fulham's prized asset spent yesterday discussing personal terms with Manchester United in what is thought to be a deal worth £12m, despite repeated claims from the Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, that he was not for sale. Four weeks ago, Coleman said Saha would leave the club "over my dead body" but the player's determination to join the Premiership champions was matched by Sir Alex Ferguson's resolve.
The French press provided the platform for Saha to air his grievances as he complained of Fulham's refusal to grant him his wish, declaring that he was "appalled" by the resolve shown by Coleman and the chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed. Saha's outbursts soured his relationship with Coleman, his former team-mate, and although reports that the pair were no longer on speaking terms proved wide of the mark, the whole saga had taken its toll.
Threatening that he would see out his contract and leave on a free transfer, Saha forced Fulham's hand and will be a Manchester United player by the end of the week. His departure will have left a bitter taste in the mouth of Coleman, who earned praise for his stance against Saha's demands, and the player says he did not enjoy manipulating the situation.
"I have been waiting for a month and a half to join Manchester United," he said. "I had to put pressure on Fulham, which did not please me because I love the club. My coach believed that because of our situation in the League, I had to stay and finish the season with them. But I knew this was my only chance to sign with Manchester United. I had to make sure the transfer would happen now."
The lure of Champions' League football was a factor behind his determination to leave, as was the chance of winning a place in France's Euro 2004 squad, and he believes United's profile will help him.
"I was thinking about playing for France when I was with Fulham," Saha said. "If I play well [for United] then I might get the opportunity to win my first senior cap. Of course Les Bleus are an objective for me."
France may have an embarrassment of riches up front but Saha is in fine form after 15 goals from 23 matches and a good start at Old Trafford could nudge him on to the fringes of the French set-up.
Ferguson will be pleased to have signed back-up for Ruud van Nistelrooy, while Coleman must now find a suitable replacement. He already has a small transfer kitty available but with less than two weeks to go before the transfer window closes, time is against the Welshman.Reuse content