Scottish Football: Rangers bid for Ferguson

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RANGERS were last night reported to have offered pounds 2.5m for Duncan Ferguson, the 21-year-old Dundee United and Scotland striker. Ferguson is in dispute with his club after being dropped from the first team for alleged breaches of club discipline and has been a prime target for Rangers for some time, writes David McKinney.

It is thought he remained the preferred option for signing before last week's European Cup deadline despite the Glasgow club's enquiries over Gordon Durie, the Tottenham striker.

Jim McLean, the Dundee United manager and director, has been unwilling in the past to sell star players to Scottish rivals. But Ferguson - who plays for United's reserves today as the first team tackle Falkirk at Tannadice - is one of the outstanding talents north of the border and one Rangers appear determined to capture.

Last night McLean agreed a pounds 170,000 fee with the Dutch First Division club, Emmen, for Michel van Oostrum, a 26-year-old striker who has scored 46 goals in just over 90 games for his club. He may ultimately prove to be a replacement for Ferguson.

At Ibrox today Rangers face an Aberdeen side still without Duncan Shearer, who has failed to recover his fitness in time for the crucial Premier Division encounter.

The 21-goal former Blackburn and Swindon striker, out of action since hitting hat-tricks against Partick Thistle and Heart of Midlothian in November, will continue his comeback with the reserves.

However, Aberdeen are hardly short of strike power as they attempt to cut into Rangers' five- point lead. The Dons have scored 31 goals in their last nine games.

'Of course the game could have a significant bearing on the championship,' Willie Miller, the Aberdeen manager, said. 'If we win, it would open things up and even if we lost, we still have two games against Rangers at Pittodrie to do something about the situation.'

A hamstring injury to Andy Payton means that Frank McAvennie makes his return to Celtic's side at Airdrie. 'It's my last chance with a big club and I'm thrilled to be back in the first team,' the 33-year-old former West Ham striker said. 'I don't feel any pressure. When you can't pay the mortgage, that's pressure, but I am enjoying this chance and don't intend messing it up.'