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Tactics: How do Egypt beat Russia?

By ESPN Staff

Sir Alex insists he has no spending restrictions

Sir Alex Ferguson insists Manchester United's massive debt is having no impact on his team-building plans.

With talk of a £600 million bond issue being launched to part repay the colossal loans taken out by the Glazer family to complete their controversial takeover of the Old Trafford outfit going unchecked, it has been widely assumed United are in a period of financial strife.

Of major concern are the £175 million worth of payment-in-kind notes that are currently attracting 14.25% interest, which are partly responsible for the overall debt mountain of £790 million and urgently need to be refinanced to lower overall outgoings.

Given such a backdrop, it is hardly a surprise the Glazer family are being held responsible for the fact Ferguson has so far spent only £20 million of the world record £80 million fee received from Real Madrid last summer for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Yet the United boss is adamant such conclusions are unfair.

"I don't have any concerns about the financial situation,'' he said. "There is absolutely no issue at all. I am really confident about that. Concerns of the supporters are down to the fact that I haven't moved in the transfer market. But that is nothing to do with the Glazers or with David Gill.

"It is simply because I am not going to pay £50 million for a striker who is not worth it.''

While Ferguson could easily be accused of toeing the party line, he does actually feel the idea of a bond issue is sound.

His reasoning for doing so goes against the oft-repeated claim from the Glazers that debt is not in itself a bad thing.

"There has been talk about a bond issue and I think that's a good thing for the club. Anything that helps with the repayment of the debt is a good thing,'' he said. "There is debt there but it has never interrupted my plans for the team - at any stage.''

The statement is unlikely to receive a favourable response from the vociferous anti-Glazer faction, who are currently looking on in a degree of envy at the huge amounts of money being spent by Manchester City's Abu Dhabi-based owner Sheikh Mansour, who is apparently willing to cover any cost to achieve his own Premier League ambitions.

Yet, as Ferguson accepts, at the back of his mind is the knowledge that stalwarts such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville cannot go on forever, even if it sometimes appears that is the case.

"That is possible,'' replied Ferguson, when asked whether he would have to spend to replace aging players. "But it could be possible at any time. But I don't see it as an issue.

"For starters, we have plenty of cover, especially in midfield. We have Rafael da Silva, an excellent prospect, at right-back and we have another youngster in Ritchie de Laet.

"In addition, Ryan Giggs has been unbelievable. I think he can still play for another two seasons. There isn't an imminent threat to the squad.''

Of more obvious concern is the need for extra firepower.

"It's true that we don't have great options if Rooney were to get injured, in the sense that we don't have top quality like Ronaldo, who could play anywhere,'' Ferguson said.

"But I can't see any real diamonds. I just don't see that player who can make a difference for us in terms of value or ability.''

Sir Alex feels new-boy Mame Biram Diouf could get off to a flying start.

United signed Diouf from Molde in the summer but opted to let the Senegal striker remain in Norway before he returned to England in December to join the Red Devils on a full-time basis.

The 22-year-old has now broken through all the necessary red tape and is available for selection at Birmingham.

And, having cast doubt on Diouf's ability to make his debut in what turned out to be a postponed Carling Cup semi-final at Manchester City on Wednesday, Ferguson has no such concerns about St Andrew's.

"We are looking to involve Diouf at Birmingham,'' said Ferguson. "It is a good time to do it and he may just do well straight away.''

Ferguson had certainly been impressed with Diouf prior to the bad weather which has wrecked preparations for the trip to Birmingham.

In handing Diouf Carlos Tevez's old number 32 shirt, Ferguson has presented his newest recruit with a bit of history to live up to.

But the Scot is adamant Diouf has the ability required to live up to any expectation.

"In training he has done very well,'' he said. "He is quick and has magnificent spring in the air for someone of 5ft 10in. He has a good intelligence and a good feel for the game.

"He has attributes that are suited to us. He is a bit different to what we have at the moment and we have done well to get the kid.''


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