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JUAN SEBASTIAN VERON has been officially unveiled as Manchester United's first ever South American signing.

The Lazio midfielder sealed his British record move, for a fee and "associated cost" of £28.1 million, and signed a five-year contract at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson managed to pull off a successful swoop for one of his long-term targets with the 26-year-old Argentinian passing a medical with flying colours, as the doctor examining him declared himself surprised by his level of fitness, particularly after coming straight from a lengthy flight.

'Brujita', which means 'The Little Witch', has signed a deal that includes a clause to obtain extra finance from a percentage of his image rights, something David Beckham's agents will ensure is written into his new contract at the club.

"This is terrific news for United and all our fans," said Peter Kenyon. "Sebastian is a world-class player and is a great addition to what is already a very strong first team squad."

Veron added: "I am very glad to be here. This is an important moment in my life to arrive in Manchester. I am going to try and do my best to make the fans of Manchester United happy."

Sir Alex Ferguson stated: "I think I've always searched for this. I never thought I'd spend this much money on a footballer, unless you're talking about yesterday!

"You've seen the escalation and it's unthinkable but it is a matter between clubs nowadays and the players have no say about the values placed on them.

"We have a great squad and we're improving on that. I think he's coming into great years of career and he will peak and we'll get the benefit of that. He is world class, fantastic footballer with a vision of the game we can use.

"I think the players we have brought in have adapted quite quickly because we have a settled team and settled way of playing.

"I think the team has done fantastic but there comes a point when they have to be challenged. That happened a few times last season when they didn't reach the levels we know they can.

"As when we bought three players a couple of years ago, we needed a kickstart. Everyone has sat up in the dressing room and are really impressed by this signing because they know we are getting a top player.

"I saw him play for Sampdoria first and we thought he was a fantastic player. He then went to Parma without telling me! He was obviously going to be a top player.

"I've always maintained there must be one player who can make a difference - Cantona, Keane, Barthez are three great instances of how a great player can make a difference.

"Over the years, my dream is always to make us the best. We spoke about Ronaldo when he was a young player. Now Peter Kenyon's determination has made Veron's move possible and make this happen. This is what United should do - not always because the market is ridiculous but, from time to time, a major signing lifts everyone at the club.

"The people outside the stadium want to see United be the best and I think we have tried to do that today.

 "I have options in the midfield. Wonderful options. I want to have a chat with Juan Sebastian. We have some ideas about how we can develop the team.

"I think the reason is we're bringing the best in and everyone has to compete with that. We have another standard now. I think Barthez is one of the best signings we have ever made - he proved he is a bigger winner than anyone else in the dressing room. It is great when someone has come from another country and culture to show this great desire, this is the same with Juan Sebastian. He will say 'I want to do it.'

"Mental toughness and physical toughness are shown in Argentina. Sensini, Simeone, Zanetti, Batistuta, Crespo are all physically tough and mentally tough. Playing in English football will never be a problem for him.

"Of course David Beckham's position is safe. Veron will be wearing number four next year."

Veron, speaking through an interpreter, added: "I'm absolutely delighted. My first impressions are very positive - the way I've been treated by everyone at the club. It is one of the best if not the best club in the world and I hope I can satisfy everyone's aspirations of me.

"I don't fear English football. It is going to be a great experience football-wise. I am hopeful I will do okay and it will be a good opportunity to sample a different culture and a different lifestyle.

"I think the main reason was what United represent in a worldwide context. It is a great club and the support they showed for me throughout the passport case and their confidence in my abilities helped me make my decision in favour of Manchester.

"It's more about the team than any individuals. What attracted me was the team itself. Whether or not one player is more famous than another does not bother me whatsoever. It is all about football.

"I had to undergo a similar situation when I had to go to Italy but I felt I adapted after six months and that was at the age of 19-20. I am concentrating on recreating the form I have shown in Italy and for the Argentinian national side.

"I think we have a better chance than Real Madrid of winning the European Cup.

"I will promise the fans that I will always do my best and do my best to provide entertainment as well.

"I remained positive throughout the passport scandal and I am happy with the positive result. I never doubted it for a minute.

"In Argentina, like elsewhere, United are just as well-known. A very famous club. Hopefully, if I am successful, it will open the door for other Argentinians to come the same way and also cement relations between Argentinian footballers and England.

"I'm looking forward to playing alongside not just Beckham but the whole squad which is packed full of quality players.

"There wasn't an exact recommendation from Sven Goran Eriksson but he did say I would enjoy English football, my style of play would be suited here and I will do well."

Peter Kenyon beamed: "This is a record for United and British football and we believe it is money well spent.

"He has agreed a five-year contract. This is something we have been working on for several weeks, he was always on our list and we identified him early.

"We have been looking to add quality rather than quantity - we won our third title in a row but want to do better next year. Now he has signed, and, with the Ruud van Nistelrooy purchase, everyone can't wait for the start of the next season."

Click here for our story breaking the news in England (10/6/01) that Veron could be heading for United
Click here for Passport Ban Key to Veron Move
Click here for our story back on March 28, 2000, revealing Ferguson's interest

Click here to register your thoughts on the signing

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