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2006-01-11 00:00张海山,CRI

United Tie up 5.5m Pounds Deal for Evra

    Manchester United's chief executive David Gill was in Monaco last night to complete the transfer of the France defender Patrice Evra. In two hours of talks at the Louis II Stadium he agreed a fee of about ?5.5m and finalised the financial terms of the contract.

    Evra, a 24-year-old left-back, will be available to make his debut against Blackburn Rovers in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final at Ewood Park next Wednesday provided he passes a routine medical examination when he arrives in England next week. Gill had set up the deal on Tuesday during the first negotiations with Evra and his agent Federico Pastorello and when yesterday's talks concluded just before 6pm Monaco's vice-president Gérard Brianti said the clubs had reached a good understanding.

    With Nemanja Vidic, United's ?7m recruit from Spartak Moscow, training with his new team-mates for the first time yesterday Sir Alex Ferguson has two players competing for every position in defence, just like Jose Mourinho. While Gabriel Heinze is injured it seems likely his first-choice back four will consist of Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and the new recruits. Heinze will return to challenge for the left-back spot next season, by which time Mika?l Silvestre may be on his way out. Evra's arrival also means John O'Shea and Kieran Richardson will be shunted down the pecking order.

    Ferguson's decision to make reinforcing his defence his priority is surprising given his need for new midfielders but the deal confirms that Malcolm Glazer is willing to back him in the transfer market. Glazer may be unable to compete on level terms with Roman Abramovich but his net expenditure since taking control in June is ?15m with the promise of more to come. By backing Ferguson, Glazer would appear to regard the 64-year-old as the best man to take United forward next season.

    Next on Ferguson's wish list is a central midfielder to replace Roy Keane but in the meantime he is facing calls for an apology after joking that he was hoping for an outbreak of malaria at Chelsea. His comment in the aftermath of United's scoreless draw against Arsenal was clearly tongue in cheek but it was condemned by the Malaria Foundation International.

    It was obviously an off-the-cuff remark but it was also highly insensitive and inappropriate and an apology is due. It's making light of a killer disease and a major worldwide disaster, Dr Mary Galinski, who runs the Atlanta-based organisation, said last night. My first reaction when I heard it was: 'Oh my God!' He may as well have said: 'Wouldn't it be great if a tsunami hit where Chelsea are playing?' People would be outraged but it's effectively the same thing.

    Malaria is not just a statistic. When we talk about numbers - 3,000 kids dying every day and one to three million every year - these are real children we are talking about. I wonder how they would feel in the village schools in Africa to hear that someone in Britain has come out with something so extremely offensive.

    Ferguson made the remark on television as he talked about Chelsea's 13-point advantage at the top of the Premiership. You never know - malaria might hit the camp, he said. We've got to hope something like that happens.

    This comes on top of worrying new reports that a growing number of people in England are coming back from abroad with malaria and dying from the disease, said Galinski.

    It is highly unlikely Ferguson's joke was well received within Stamford Bridge either. Gérémi, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba come from three of the countries worst affected by malaria - Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast respectively. Portsmouth's Congolese international striker Lomana LuaLua suffered an attack this season and Ferguson is probably better off not repeating the joke in front of Evra either, given that the new signing was born in Senegal, another badly affected country.

[Chinese Translation]

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