United ready to defend Howard transfer


Manchester United are preparing to launch a vigorous defence against allegations that they made hidden payments to agents in the £2.3million summer transfer of goalkeeper Tim Howard.

A dossier on Howard's move from Metrostars in the United States has been handed to the Football Association for investigation after it was claimed money was passed from one agent to another after the deal had been completed.

Sir Alex Ferguson's son Jason is mentioned in the report as being a close associate of Monaco-based agent Mike Morris - the man to whom the second payment is alleged to have been made, raising a potential conflict of interest.

However, United officials are furious at the insinuation and insist they were perfectly satisfied with the job Swiss-based agent Gaetano Marotta did on their behalf.

Having paid what they state as "an appropriate sum" to Marotta, United feel they have acted entirely within FIFA regulations.

They also claim that, as a plc, they have one of the best business structures in the Premier League for dealing with transfers.

However, having received the documentation, the FA are now duty-bound to launch a full investigation into not just the Howard deal, but also those of Harry Kewell's move from Leeds to Liverpool and Ivan Campo's arrival at Bolton from Real Madrid, details of which have also been forwarded to Soho Square.

Anyone expecting a speedy resolution to the case will be disappointed though.

A similar investigation involving Bosko Balaban's £6million move from Dinamo Zagreb to Aston Villa in August 2001 has been in process for 18 months and there is still no sign of an end.

"We receive information from all kinds of areas making allegations surrounding transfer deals," an FA source told the Press Association.

"Clearly, as the governing body in this country we must investigate any allegation to ensure there is no wrong-doing.

"However, that does not guarantee action will be taken unless the wrong-doing can be proved.

The FA compliance unit has the power to interview anyone - agent, player, manager or official - connected with any alleged offence but even at this early stage it seems highly unlikely United will be the subject of any charge.