Silvestre criticises United's erratic team spirit

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The Independent Football

The Manchester United defender Mikaël Silvestre has insisted his future remains at Old Trafford despite widespread criticism of his recent performances but he did point to a lack of "collective spirit" within the club when they play the "smaller" teams.

The 28-year-old has produced a series of below-par performances this season and was heavily criticised for his poor display in Saturday's Manchester derby defeat to City.

Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to spend £12m on defensive reinforcements in Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra has only heightened speculation over Silvestre, whose current contract has 18 months to run.

There has been speculation that the former Internazionale defender may leave the club this month, with the French league leaders, Lyon, believed to be interested. However, Silvestre claims he is going nowhere and is determined to retain his first-team place despite the extra competition.

"I am not on the transfer list and I am not going to leave Manchester during the winter break," he said.

"I don't care what people say. I feel I am efficient. I play almost all the matches. My future is at Manchester United and that is where I am planning to stay." Silvestre has made 314 appearances for United since his arrival from Inter in 1999, initially at left-back, then alongside Rio Ferdinand in central defence. During that time, he has collected three Premiership titles and an FA Cup winner's medal, although his chances of adding to his haul are now limited to domestic cup competitions following United's early elimination from the Champions' League and Chelsea's 16-point advantage in the League.

Silvestre admits that overall performances this season have been no better than average, a situation which is not good enough at a club of United's size. "Bowing out of the Champions' League before the last 16 was a huge failure," he said.

"We display good performances against big sides and we lack collective spirit against smaller teams. But we have two competitions to win [the FA Cup and the League Cup] on top of doing well in the League. We can still save our season."

While Sivestre is eager to stay at United, Mahamadou Diarra, the Lyon midfielder, is keen to join him according to his agent. Diarra has made an outstanding contribution to Lyon's rise to the top of the French league, as well as their smooth passage into the knock-out phase of the Champions' League. But the 24-year-old is hoping to find a fresh challenge in the summer, his adviser Frederic Guerra suggesting that a move to Spain or Italy is a possibility. However, it is the lure of England which most attracts the Malian - and with Chelsea potentially looking for back-up to Claude Makelele and United ready to step up their interest after making an initial inquiry last summer, Guerra thinks a move to the Premiership is most likely.

"The Premiership is, by far, his favourite league," Guerra said. "I can't confirm that he will play there next year, but he would like to. Mahamadou is the best defensive midfielder in Europe. We know that Chelsea are looking for a player to replace Claude Makelele, who is getting older. Last summer there was contact with Manchester United, and we also know that Manchester United are looking for a defensive midfielder to replace Roy Keane.

While Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to confirm any interest in Diarra, at least until the summer, the player does fit the age profile of his most recent signings.

Ferguson has already ruled out Thomas Gravesen and Michael Ballack because they are too old, yet it is known the manager is looking for a midfield reinforcement after arrival of Vidic and Evra.

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