Nugent next on Keane's agenda


SOCCER/Transfer news:One day after signing the full-back Greg Halford from Reading for £3 million Sunderland have offered Preston North End £6 million for the striker David Nugent. It is not known if Sunderland's bid will be successful as they face rivalry from Everton and Portsmouth, and with Nugent in the Netherlands with England's under-21s until Sunday it is unlikely the 22-year-old would wish to make a decision this week.

"My future won't be decided until the end of the tournament," Nugent said on BBC Radio Five last night, "but I realise that I've got to play in the Premiership if I want to play for England at senior level."

Nugent has spoken previously of his boyhood support for Everton but that will be irrelevant should Everton not match Sunderland's bid.

Sunderland manager Roy Keane has seen Nugent at close quarters this season. The striker scored Preston's winner at the Stadium of Light in December and Keane obviously has no doubts that Nugent will make an impact in the Premiership.

Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson's desire to find a new striker has been heightened by further bad news about Louis Saha's seemingly endless injury problems. The Frenchman has had a knee operation and Manchester United's doctors do not expect him to play again until November at the earliest.

Saha had surgery in the United States after damaging knee cartilage in training in late April. His wretched run of knee, ankle and hamstring injuries has restricted him to only four starts this year and Ferguson has been increasingly frustrated by the forward's inability to stay fit.

United's manager has already asked his chief executive, David Gill, to explore the possibility of tempting Carlos Tevez away from West Ham, and David Trezeguet is regarded as a back-up option after announcing that he will leave Juventus.

Saha will spend the rest of his summer working with United's medical staff on a special rehabilitation programme, the success of which will be key to whether he has a future at Old Trafford.

The France international has made it clear that he would like to remain at the club and, ideally, Ferguson would like to keep a player whom he regards, when fit, as being as penetrative and influential as any other centre forward in England. But the manager is known to have misgivings about relying on a player who is so susceptible to injury and there were times last season when it strained their relationship.

Saha's advisers clouded the issue last night when they insisted he would be fit for the start of the season, but Ferguson's information is that the 28-year-old will miss the first three months, if not longer.

Fellow United striker Alan Smith has admitted he will "consider his options" unless he is given assurances over his future at Old Trafford. The former Leeds frontman made a good return to first-team action towards the end of last season after severe injury problems, and was recalled to the England fold.

Now the 26-year-old is adamant that unless Ferguson is ready to promise him a starting berth for next term, he will turn his attentions elsewhere.

"If they are going to sell me, I'd like to know. But I won't find out unless I get to speak to the manager," Smith said. "If you're no longer wanted, then you have to consider your options."

Guardian Service