Fergie admires African ace

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MANCHESTER UNITED'S imminent link-up with Nantes has led to suggestions in France that Sir Alex Ferguson is planning a long-term swoop for Eric Djemba-Djemba.

As details of United's co-operation with Portuguese giants Sporting emerged, the English side were believed to be hatching a plan to bring either Cristiano Ronaldo or Ricardo Quaresma, or both, to Old Trafford.

Now a similar situation is happening with the French media confirming the recent planetfootball.com story regarding Nantes' talks with a view to joining United's expanding list of 'partners'.

Djemba-Djemba fits the bill as the sort of powerful performer Ferguson has been coveting after he recently lamented the lack of presence in his side when looking at the likes of Salif Diao and Patrick Vieira in his chief rivals' midfields.

Although not the tallest of players, the Cameroon international is a muscular midfielder who could cope with the physical demands of The Premiership.

The left-sided African played against England in the World Cup warm-up match in Japan last May, after earning his first cap back in January, against Tunisia.

A winners medal from the African Cup of Nations followed, and the 21-year-old has emerged as a player of great potential with Nantes, holding his own in the Champions League.

French sources claim Ferguson took time out to watch Djemba-Djemba personally in action recently.

The Scot is said to have been spotted at Paris Saint Germain's clash with Nantes back on November 22, when Les Canaris won a stormy encounter 1-0.

Yet the matchwinner on that occasion, Sylvain Armand, is another player who has been attracting attention from United.

The talented left back is one of several names on Ferguson's list in case Mikael Silvestre fails to end protracted contract negotiations by signing a new deal.

The former Internazionale defender has been outstanding at centre back in recent weeks, and still seems likely to prolong his stay at Old Trafford, despite the attractive proposition of being able to name his own price as a Bosman free agent in the summer.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that keeper Fabien Barthez will not face any action after an alleged incident during the defeat to Leeds United at Elland Road.