Manchester United are to maintain their pursuit of Owen Hargreaves, confident of signing the England midfielder before the transfer deadline, despite Bayern Munich's refusal to consider selling the 25-year-old for less than the £18.6m the Old Trafford club paid for Michael Carrick.
Hargreaves returned to Germany yesterday to tell the Bundesliga champions that he wished to end his nine-year career at the club and join United. Though Bayern are reluctant to sell a player they have under contract until 2010, and value Hargreaves at a similar price to Carrick, United hope that an offer of around £13m - combined with agitation on the player's part - will soften their stance.
The midfielder's agent, Roman Grill, said last night: "It is not a question of whether the club want to discuss a transfer. It is obvious they need players like Owen and they don't want him to leave but, on the other hand, the player wants to talk. Owen wants to tell the club how he sees his future... He has been here for nine years without any complaints but the time has now come to evaluate where he is in his career."
A previous transfer target for the troublesome central-midfield void at Old Trafford, Marcos Senna, is prepared to commit himself to Villarreal today having grown tired of United's prolonged negotiations.
Senna's agent, Eli Coimbra, said: "For about 20 days we have been negotiating with Manchester United... We understand United's situation, but we also understand that Villarreal are unhappy because they want the situation resolved. If by noon [today] there is no definitive agreement, the player's decision will be clear: he will stay."
Hargreaves' international midfield partner, Chelsea's Frank Lampard, has pledged to follow David Beckham's example in how to handle criticism he has received since his disappointing World Cup. Beckham was sent off against Argentina at France 98 but returned to club and international football with a consistently high level of play.
Talking at the launch of his autobiography Totally Frank, Lampard said: "In modern-day football you have to be big enough to take stick... The only way to react well is to think positively and think this is part of being a footballer. I could have hidden away in the World Cup and not kept trying to get forward and score goals but I didn't. That's the attitude I'll take now."