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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Lambert: Bent omission not down to money

Paul Lambert insists claims that Darren Bent is being left out of his Aston Villa side for financial reasons are "absolute drivel."

• Media grill Lambert over Bent

The Villa manager has made it clear he will continue to exercise his right to omit the club's £24 million record signing, if it is in the best interests of the club, as Bent's future remains under intense scrutiny ahead of facing Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

Bent claims he has been fit for the last four games, despite Villa claiming he had an ankle injury for the matches against Manchester City and Manchester United and his absence has generated fervent rumours Villa will have to pay Sunderland £3 million as the final instalment of his transfer fee when he reaches 50 appearances for the club.

Bent is currently stuck on 47 appearances, but Lambert insists there is no financial motivation behind his squad selection and has flatly denied speculation that a clause exists in the players transfer deal which would spark another payment to Sunderland.

When asked about suggestions that Bent is being left out to avoid costing the club a further £3 million, Lambert said: "It is absolute drivel. Have there been any enquiries for Bent? No. Has he asked to be put on the transfer list? No. Is there a clause? That's not true. I'm not sure where that came from."

Lambert is clearly becoming frustrated with the furore surrounding the apparent breakdown in relations between himself and Bent, but refuted any suggestions that Bent has asked for a transfer and denied any approach from potential buyers, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham.

He remains determined to nurture talent such as youngster Jordan Bowery, the £500,000 summer signing from Chesterfield, who has replaced Bent in the matchday squad for the last two games against Reading and Arsenal.

"The team I pick will be the team that I pick," Lambert said. "I know what happens in training and we will see what happens. Jordan Bowery's potential is extremely high and he is an unknown quantity which sometimes can work in your favour. I see every day what goes on. We've got 20-odd guys in the same boat together which I pick from."

It remains to be seen whether Bent will be included in the squad for the trip to Loftus Road as, but striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has offered his support for his team mate, saying: "Darren is a great pro, he shook everyone's hand before the game (against Reading) and he got on with it."

"There is not a player in the squad who has not gone through the stage where they've had to sit on the bench or have not been playing. I think everyone goes through that. He is still working hard in training and everyone is just fighting for places."

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