United cut their losses on Barthez

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The Independent Online

Manchester United have agreed with Fabien Barthez to terminate the France goalkeeper's contract from the end of the season.

Manchester United have agreed with Fabien Barthez to terminate the France goalkeeper's contract from the end of the season.

Barthez moved to Marseilles on a nine-month loan deal in October, although he was not able to start playing until January because he was not registered in the transfer window.

As they announced a 32 per cent rise in first-half profits, the club said there would be a charge of £5m to be included in the second-half results as a consequence of a write-off of the original cost and compensation, with Barthez receiving £2.4m.

The 32-year-old joined United in June 2000 for £7.8m but was dropped at the tail end of last season after a poor run of form. He was replaced this season by the American Tim Howard, who joined from New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

United reported pre-tax profits of £26.8m for the six months to 31 January on turnover of £92.4m.

The chief executive, David Gill, admitted that it may have been a mistake not to sign a new defender to cover for Rio Ferdinand's eight-month ban for failing to take a drugs test.

But Gill stood by the club's defence of Ferdinand, saying: "Never at any stage did we say there wasn't a case to answer. But what we were trying to do was protect our player. We felt the goalposts had moved because previously cases like this had been treated anonymously. It was a highly emotive case and we feel it was inappropriate that Rio's name came out in public."

United are lining up another move in the United States, for the highly rated midfielder Danny Szetela, in a deal that will put the Elite Sports agency back in the spotlight at Old Trafford.

Szetela was the outstanding US player in last summer's World Youth Championships in Finland and he is being courted by leading European clubs. Although Szetela is uncapped, he should be allowed to play in the UK as a Polish passport-holder through his mother.

Szetela's family was contacted by the American-based agent Antonio Calzado, who had been Elite's link in Howard's transfer. Elite's links with United have come under scrutiny because Sir Alex Ferguson's son Jason is one of the directors and the company has been involved in several deals in and out of the club.

* An independent report commissioned by Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council says fans who stand at Old Trafford ground are at risk as barriers are not designed to hold them back. Fans in the top tiers of the ground are most at risk, the report added.

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