FERGIE CONFIRMS BARMBY INTEREST
By Adam Marshall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
It had been suspected that Walter Smith`s admisson of an approach from United was to help force Liverpool to increase their offer for the player, in order to grant Barmby his wish of a `dream` move to Anfield.
The Euro 2000 squad member would not be a popular arrival at Old Trafford, as he has previously pledged allegiance to bitter rivals Leeds and, more recently, Liverpool, despite playing his club football with Tottenham and Middlesbrough before arriving at Goodison Park.
However, Ferguson feels he needs cover for the left-hand side, and Barmby is a real steal if the price remains at around £3.5 million, the amount that Gerard Houllier is reported to have offered for him.
"We are going to lose Quinton Fortune to South Africa for three months at the start of the season," stated Ferguson.
"He`s got the Olympic Games and the World Cup qualifiers so he won`t be around for pre-season, and for a while. Jordi Cruyff has left the club and Jesper Blomqvist may not be back straight away after his knee injury all last term.
"So the competition on that left side has been reduced," he told The Manchester Evening News. "That is the reason why I have been showing an interest in Nick Barmby. He is a left-sided player who can play in two or three positions.
"You see Liverpool making a £3.5 million bid for him and you think that is a good buy at that price. I am sure the club would let me pay that for an international. So that is something we`ll be keeping an eye on."
However, United`s interest in Barmby still remains a little puzzling. Although Ferguson points out that Barmby is a versatile performer, the left side of midfield is certainly neither his best, nor preferred slot, and he was only used there by England due to an extreme shortage of players in that position.
The unhappy Evertonian is at his most effective in a link position between midfield and attack - an area well covered by Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham at Old Trafford. Indeed, Dwight Yorke has even showed that he is adept in playing in the `hole` when dropping deeper, as he did superbly against Watford towards the end of last season.
It could be further argued that, if Ferguson is concerned at his left side, the sale of Danny Higginbotham, one of the few left-footed first team squad members, goes against that belief.
The young full back completed a £2 million bargain switch to Derby this week, and, whilst he could not have been expected to play in any of the positions that Barmby could cover, his attacking instincts could have maybe justified him filling a midfield role in emergencies, as Phil Neville has managed in the past.