United step up Mexes hunt

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MANCHESTER UNITED are stepping up their interest in promising Auxerre defender Philippe Mexes.

The young Frenchman has long been admired by Sir Alex Ferguson, who remains in a strong position to sign the player, despite fierce competition from the likes of Roma, Internazionale, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Indeed, any deal brokered for the French Under-21 international could be a perfect parting gift from Ferguson, as it will mark a successful end to a prolonged transfer pursuit.

Martin Ferguson, United's chief scout, is understood to have been present at Auxerre's goalless draw with Guingamp on Saturday, as The Red Devils look to steal a march on their rivals for Mexes's signature.

Inter have also been tracking the central defender but his biggest idol is Old Trafford star Laurent Blanc, and Ferguson would love to tie up a deal before the end of the season, even if the 19-year-old was to remain with Auxerre until the summer.

Meanwhile, talk of a Lazio return for Juan Sebastian Veron will probably gather pace after the injured midfielder paid a visit to his former club's Formello training ground.

The Argentinian international has been socialising with his pals in Rome, but there are suggestions he will watch the Serie A encounter with Milan on Sunday evening, and any sighting of the South American in Stadio Olimpico would spark fresh speculation concerning his future.

Veron insists he wants to remain with United, but admits his heart is still with Lazio.