Kanchelskis deal close to solution

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GUY HODGSON

The messy and acrimonious divorce between Manchester United and Andrei Kanchelskis is likely to become permanent today when the month-long saga of his pounds 5m transfer to Everton draws to a close.

Representatives from both clubs meet in Belfast today along with officials from Shakhtyor Donetsk - Kanchelskis's previous employers - where a compromise is expected to be reached over Donetsk's cut of the transfer profit.

"I can just see the light at the end of the tunnel," United's director and solicitor, Maurice Watkins, said yesterday. "Everton and ourselves are trying to come to resolve the outstanding issues. It is looking a bit more hopeful."

United will have Andy Cole on the substitutes' bench tonight for their home game against West Ham. The pounds 7m striker has been given clearance to play after recovering from a shin operation.

"He did his first real intense training session on Monday," his manager, Alex Ferguson, said, "and was absolutely shattered. But his finishing was brilliant and the thought of him coming on will be a threat to the West Ham defenders."

Steve Bruce, who missed United's 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday, returns from suspension while Ben Thornley, the 20-year-old winger newly recovered from a cruciate ligament injury that kept him out of action for 18 months, is added to the squad.

Manchester City also received encouraging medical news yesterday: their captain, Keith Curle, has made an unexpectedly quick recovery from a fractured ankle sustained in a pre-season friendly at Wolves. He is expected to resume training next week and could be playing in three weeks.

Jeff Kenna and Mark Kennedy have been ruled out of the Republic of Ireland's crucial European Championship qualifier in Austria on 6 September. Kenna, the Blackburn defender, is expected to miss another five League games after sustaining a fractured ankle in the Charity Shield against Everton; while Kennedy remains out of action for a similar period with knee problems.

Stan Collymore, Kennedy's Liverpool team-mate, expects to be out for a fortnight after suffering ankle ligament damage in Monday's defeat at Leeds.

n Andy Booth scored twice, his first goals of the season, to help Huddersfield Town into the second round of the Coca-Cola Cup at Port Vale's expense. Huddersfield won 3-1 at Vale Park for a 4-3 aggregate victory after Port Vale missed a first-half penalty.

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