Souness in £8m pursuit of Cole

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The Independent Online

Graeme Souness became the leader in the race for Manchester United's Andy Cole last night. The Blackburn Rovers manager hopes to agree a £8m deal with United this week after finding out that Cole is for sale and being given the go-ahead to spend by his board.

Souness plans immediate talks with Cole, if United agree, as the chase for the Old Trafford striker intensifies. Blackburn have the money available, which puts them in front of Aston Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland.

Villa would have to sell the Colombian Juan Pablo Angel, which their manager, John Gregory, is reluctant to do, while Newcastle have yet to commit and Sunderland are awaiting developments.

Souness needs at least one new striker. He has missed out on several targets, but is putting all of his effort into this signing. Cole's name has been quietly circulated, but the final decision will be the long-serving striker's own.

Cole has found himself squeezed out at United and now faces the biggest decision of his career, with the England World Cup squad also in his thoughts. Cole has fought off contenders for his jersey in the past, but the crushing news that United are willing to sell him may help him make up his mind.

The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, would also like the issue cleared up fast as he needs a sale to finance two new signings. Ferguson wants a centre-back and also has a young striker in his sights, but the board would rather he brought in money first.

United plan to do both deals before the deadline for the Champions' League next month. They have identified a couple of players who are eligible for that competition.

Cole is the unlucky sacrifice, but he will have the final word. However, matters have moved so fast that he must reach his decision quickly.

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