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Five Aside: Di Maria a skillful crosser

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Serie A season preview: Inter Milan

Inter Milan about an hour ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 8, 2006

Fergie: Funds were in place for Hargreaves

Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted he had the money to buy Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich.

The transfer window closed last week with Hargreaves remaining with the German giants, much to the frustration of the Manchester United manager, who had made no secret of his desire to bring the England international to Old Trafford.

Another bid is expected during the January transfer window but there are some supporters who feel Bayern's refusal to let Hargreaves leave and a relatively quiet summer in terms of new signings by United's standards was more to do with budgetary controls imposed by new owner Malcolm Glazer.

Speculation continues to rumble on over the exact cost of the interest required to pay back the massive loans Glazer took on the buy the club and Ferguson has hardly endeared himself to the more militant members of the Red Devils support by attacking those who have been attracted to breakaway club FC United.

A handful of protesters erected a `Fergie out' banner on the road which leads directly to United's luxurious Carrington training base this morning.

As he usually enters Carrington by a less obvious route, it is doubtful Ferguson even saw the banner and, once inside, the Red Devils boss set the record straight on the cash made available to bring players in.

'The money was there,' he said.

'There is absolutely no doubt about that and there is a possibility we could pursue the transfer again at some point.'

By opting to chase Hargreaves so vigorously - much to the disapproval of Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness - Ferguson was obliged to drop his interest in Villarreal's Marcos Senna, who had been lined up as another potential reinforcement to a midfield the United boss admitted last season had been an area of relative weakness.

'Marcos was the alternative but we couldn't keep him or Villarreal waiting any longer,' said Ferguson.

'We had to withdraw gracefully from that because we felt Hargreaves was the important one. Unfortunately, we didn't get him but maybe another time.'

It means that, aside from goalkeeping understudy Tomasz Kuszczak, Ferguson's only summer recruit was £18.6million midfielder Michael Carrick, who will make his home debut against former club Tottenham at Old Trafford tomorrow.

With many pundits questioning the amount of cash Ferguson has paid for the 25-year-old, whose late substitute appearance against Macedonia on Wednesday marked only his eighth England cap.

The United boss feels Carrick can supply the killer pass which has been missing from his side's play throughout their barren three-year Premiership run.

And, while the Wallsend-born midfielder's integration into life with the Red Devils has been hampered by an ankle injury picked up during the ill-fated pre-season trip to Amsterdam, Ferguson is content with his progress so far.

'Michael has had no problems settling in,' observed Ferguson, who refused to be drawn on last weekend's fracas involving Wayne Rooney and Michael Gray.

'It is easy in a sense because there are so many English players here.

'His training has been great. He will definitely start tomorrow.

'He owes a lot to Tottenham but, like any player coming up against his old club for the first time, I am sure he will be glad to get it out of the way.'

Skipper Gary Neville should return after recovering from the calf problem which kept him out of England's Euro 2008 double-header.

However, Gabriel Heinze is still two weeks away from full fitness after finally getting maximum strength back in his legs following an exhaustive World Cup campaign with Argentina.

Alan Smith will not be considered for the Spurs clash either despite the former Leeds man insisting he would play if called upon after coming through his third reserve-team outing following the horrific injury he suffered in last season's FA Cup defeat to Liverpool.

'Alan has so much enthusiasm he would play with a broken leg if you asked him to,' said Ferguson.

'He has played three reserve games so far, so he is getting there but it is only when you see him in training, you realise how serious an injury it was.

'He is so chirpy about the whole thing and he has a fantastic never-say-die attitude but he is not ready to play tomorrow.'