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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson reveals United banned an agent

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed he has banned one agent from Manchester United's Carrington training complex for tapping up young academy prospects.

At a time when the role of agents within the game has been brought into question by Red Devils captain Gary Neville, Ferguson went public on his fears that talented youngsters are being preyed upon by unscrupulous agents aiming to make a fast buck.

The evidence comes from within, Ferguson claiming he caught the unnamed agent trying to make contact with young United players at academy games - when the attendance of parents at matches forces a relaxation of the normally ultra-tight security at Carrington.

``We had a situation recently with an agent coming to the academy and tapping up young players from 12 years of age,'' Ferguson recalled.

``We barred him - so he started to wait outside the academy picking out the cars of the parents, stopping them and tapping them up.''

Ferguson, whose son Jason used to be a licensed agent, has spoken out against the influence of that profession in the past.

However, even though he does his best to protect his young players, he realises there is virtually no chance of stopping agents making contact with parents - particularly on away grounds.

Most of the elder members of United's academy have agents - and while the Scot agrees with Neville that football would be better off without them, he accepts it is an unrealistic hope.

Instead, he wants more scrutiny of the amount of money being paid when deals are done.

United remain alone among the Premiership in publishing details of sums handed to agents in transfer and contract negotiations.

Last year, the figure was £1.8million - and the suspicion is many of United's top-flight rivals are shelling out much more, with some players now apparently being controlled by the agents themselves.

``Providing agents are professional and responsible, there is nothing wrong with players going to them for advice,'' said Ferguson.

``The thing that should be investigated is the payments that are made.

``It is obvious they are taking a lot of money out of football, so much so that they are now able to `buy' players.

``That is a really dangerous area to go into, because then the agents can control the markets.

``But if they are paid the same rates as lawyers and accountants and have a responsible attitude towards the industry, there is nothing wrong with that.''