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3 September 2008

United 'relaxed' over Manchester City's Dimitar Berbatov bid

In the corridors of power at Old Trafford they have never quite embraced the idea of Chelsea as a superpower, so it will require more than the imminent takeover of Manchester City by Arab billionaires to convince the Manchester United hierarchy that they have serious competition on their doorstep.
Sir Alex Ferguson referred obliquely yesterday to an “increasingly competitive game”, but while the United manager was as staggered as anyone by City's signing of Robinho for £34.2million before the transfer window closed on Monday, neither he nor anyone else at Old Trafford was unnerved by City's audacious attempt to steal Dimitar Berbatov from the clutches of their neighbours.
Ferguson's decision to collect the Bulgaria forward from Manchester airport may have been interpreted as a panic measure, but David Gill, the United chief executive, suggested that new money was never going to entice Berbatov towards City, rather than United.
“The takeover at City and the subsequent release of funds meant they were always going to be pretty active on the last day,” Gill said. “But the fact that the player had made it clear that he wanted to leave Tottenham to join Manchester United for playing ambitions was enough for us. He had talked about his desire to play in the Champions League and to join a club that was challenging for major honours, so we were relaxed about it.”
Nevertheless, United could not have expected their £30.75million signing of Berbatov, a club-record deal, to be overshadowed by developments at City. Two subsequent announcements from Old Trafford have struggled to make the same impact but Ferguson will hope that confirmation yesterday of Mike Phelan's appointment as assistant manager will bring stability and that Manucho Goncalves can provide cover for Berbatov and Wayne Rooney after finally receiving a work permit to start his United career.