As Manchester United face up to the reality of life after Sir Alex Ferguson, their long-serving manager, who retires at the end of the season, their chief executive, Peter Kenyon, has no fear of the kind of change in fortunes that followed the Matt Busby era.
"There is a fundamental difference between the days of Sir Matt and now and that is the age and quality of the squad," Kenyon told delegates at the Football Expo trade fair in Cannes yesterday. "Now we have a squad that is recognised by any coach around the world as being of the highest quality. It has an average age of 25 or 26. It's a young squad, but a big squad with vast experience."
Kenyon added: "We now have 50 million fans around the world and eight million in China alone, while, in the United Kingdom, 25 per cent of all under-14s support the club."
United expect David Beckham to remain at Old Trafford despite speculation over his future. The England captain has been linked with a move overseas after being regularly left out of the starting line-up recently. But Kenyon said: "David has 18 months of his contract still to run and although I think we said we would like to have a new one signed by Christmas, I don't think anything should be read into the fact it has not been done yet. I am certain that it will be done soon and that he will be staying with the club."
Independiente confirmed they are willing to sell Diego Forlan to United for the right price. The Argentinians deny receiving an offer for the 22-year-old Uruguay striker, but say they have been approached by a third party with interest from a number of European clubs, including United.
"We have not received an official offer, but we know through third parties that there are clubs that are interested in the player, including Manchester United," said the club's vice-president, Fernando Sciacalugga.
Forlan, who joined Independiente in the 1998-1999 season, has expressed a wish to move to Europe.
The Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, has banned alcohol from the team coach. "The players here don't drink alcohol after games any more in the players' lounge," he said.
"We don't have any alcohol on the bus to and from games like we used to. We tell them not to consume alcohol at all and if they do, make sure it is at the right time and in moderation."
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