United look to Miller as back-up for Keane

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to move for Celtic's Liam Miller after a tip-off from Roy Keane.

The Manchester United manager has been alerted by the former Republic of Ireland captain that Miller has yet to sign a new deal at Parkhead and can leave at the end of the season.

Keane is a big fan of Miller, the young Irishman who is tipped to take his place in the national side after his breakthrough season for Celtic this term. Ferguson is looking to sign a midfielder in the Keane mould, as his long-serving captain is no longer fit enough to play in all United's games, and Miller fits the role perfectly.

Miller is weighing up his options and, with his contract up in the summer, he can officially speak to United in the new year. He is expected to be offered terms at Old Trafford.

It is a big turnaround for Miller, who was loaned out to a Danish side and had problems with injuries in his early career at Parkhead before really making his mark. Miller's performances at home and in Europe this season, including a crucial goal against Lyon in the Champions' League, have proved he is ready for the highest level.

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, still does not pick Miller regularly, but his potential and low price make him a catch for clubs in England and further afield. However, United will win the race if they follow up their initial interest.

Another youngster apparently in United's sights is the Chinese teenager Dong Fangzhuo, who according to reports in China is set to agree a deal this week to join United from Dalian Shide.

"It's true," the club's general manager, Lin Lefeng, said. "The transfer of Dong Fangzhuo will be fixed this week." United would reportedly pay between £3m and £3.5m for the young striker.

There has been speculation for months that the 18-year-old Dong would move during January's transfer window, to allow United to broaden their presence in China. On Wednesday, they unveiled their first theme restaurant and bar in Asia in the bustling western Chinese city of Chengdu.

The Premier League powerhouse would also send two or three coaches to the northeastern coastal city to work with Dalian Shide's development squad. Dong emerged as the cream of a crop of youngsters sent by China's top clubs to England for trials in August and Ferguson let slip last month that the club was pursuing him.

Also emanating from China yesterday were reports that Southampton are in talks with Beijing Hyundai over the Chinese international midfielder Yang Pu, who claims he has been in talks with the Saints over a move.

However, the Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe, said he was mystified by Yang's reported remarks, saying: "I know nothing about it. It may be that he is a player being offered to us for a trial, in which case we might then have a look at him. But he is not a player we have had watched and there have been no discussions."