United sign up Forlan as Blanc prepares to bow out

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The Independent Football

Manchester United have completed the signing of the Independiente striker Diego Forlan for £7.5m after the 22-year-old Uruguayan passed a medical.

He will not be eligible for Saturday's FA Cup fourth-round tie against Middlesbrough – the club he rejected to join United – but should be available for the Premiership match against Bolton Wanderers next Tuesday.

United confirmed that Forlan had agreed a four-and-a-half-year contract. The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, added: "I am delighted that Diego has agreed to join us. He is an exciting player who has plenty of talent and a bright future ahead of him.

"We think he has good potential, two good feet, is quick and a good header of the ball. At 22 he represents a good future."

United's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, added: "We are delighted to have signed such a promising young player, allowing us to strengthen our squad at an important time of the season."

Forlan declared himself "very happy" to be a United player and said he wanted to make an immediate impression. "I will try to be useful for the team and if I can't score I will try and help the team to score," he said. "But I am very happy to be here – it is something when I was a child I dreamed about. When I came to see the match [on Saturday, when they beat Blackburn 2-1] I was surprised by all the people – I saw they are a very good team."

He watched Ruud van Nistelrooy become the first player to score in eight successive Premiership games and added: "He's a great player – I admire how he plays."

Ferguson joked that the Uruguayan's new team-mates might get a surprise if they challenge him to a game of tennis. "He didn't start playing football seriously until he was 16," he said. "He was a tennis player and apparently doing well when he decided to swap sports for some reason. There are a few budding John McEnroes in the squad here, so they'll get a bit of a shock when they play."

Forlan, who wanted to be a goalkeeper when he was young, could hardly have made any other choice and his father, Pablo, played for Uruguay in the 1974 World Cup, while his grandfather, Juan Carlos Corazzo, also played for Independiente. "My father was a footballer so it was better for me to play football," he said.

United's defender Laurent Blanc has hinted he will retire at the end of the season. The 36-year-old former France captain moved to Old Trafford from Internazionale at the start of the season and despite a shaky start to his United career he has played a key role in helping Ferguson's side get back on top of the Premiership.

But he told a French television channel: "I will probably retire at the end of the season. I still enjoy myself on the pitch but at some point I have to think about retiring because age is catching up on me."

After lifting the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship two years later Blanc retired from international football in September 2000 with a record 97 caps. He started his career at Montpellier where he had a prolific scoring record – including 18 in the 1986-87 season – before playing for eight clubs in 10 years including Napoli, Barcelona and Internazionale.