BLANC PLAYS DOWN UNITED RUMOURS

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INTERNAZIONALE defender Laurent Blanc has played down rumours that he is bound for Manchester United to replace Jaap Stam.

Stam completed his shock £16.5 million switch to Lazio on Monday and it was reported that former French international was being lined up to replace the Dutchman at Old Trafford.

United had been linked with a move for Blanc last season, but the player decided to stay at Giuseppe Meazza.

The World Cup and European Championship winner, who is a close friend of United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, admitted that he had heard nothing of United's new interest.

"There have been rumours that I was in England this week to discuss a move to United, but I can assure you that I was in Milan," Blanc told L'Equipe.

"I've had contacts with them United, but it was a long time ago, in February or March this year.

"Since then I have not heard from them, nor my agent.

"At the moment it is pure utopia to talk about a transfer to Manchester."

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that he is looking to bring in a new defender before the Champions League deadline on Friday and that he had decided to let Stam go as he was close to bringing a new defender to Old Trafford - believed to be Blanc.

Ferguson has been linked with moves for French starlet Philippe Mexes, who is rated as one of the best young defenders in Europe.

The Scot is also thought to be keen on Valencia duo Roberto Ayala and Maurico Pellegrino, after both impressed against United in the Champions League and Parma's Fabio Cannavaro, who is being linked with with a move away from Ennio Tardini after their shock Champions League exit.

There have also been suggestions that United have made an approach for wild-haired Real Madrid defender Ivan Campo.

Should United sign Blanc he would be seen as a short-term replacement for Stam as the former Marseille ace is 35 and United would presumably move for other targets later in the year.