Fergie watches targets

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MANCHESTER UNITED boss Sir Alex Ferguson is understood to have taken advantage of his side's inactivity this weekend by travelling to France to watch Rennes tackle Auxerre.

The match provided an ideal opportunity for Ferguson to run the rule over several long-standing targets, although Rennes' Julien Escude, who has been troubled by a knee injury, did not play in the league fixture.

Defender Philippe Mexes, dubbed 'the new Laurent Blanc', and strike sensation Djibril Cisse were both in action with the former being booked during the first half of a disappointing goalless draw.

Although Mexes and Cisse, also a target for Liverpool and Arsenal, were the likeliest objects of Ferguson's attention, the Finnish media claims the Scot was eyeing Auxerre midfielder Teemu Tainio.

The midfielder had a trial at Old Trafford in 1997, but eventually signed for Auxerre, where his performances this term have led to the Finn being linked with a number of top European clubs.

"Interest from big clubs would not surprise me because he has already achieved the kind of reputation in France that he deserves," commented Tainio's agent Anders Falsten.

The agent refused to speak about the rumours linking his client with United, but it may well transpire that Ferguson's main focus was on a couple of his team-mates.

Meanwhile, the United boss has insisted that his trip was mainly to continue to further his club's partnership agreement with Nantes.

"The main purpose of the visit was not to look at players," he declared.

"We were trying to finalise our agreement with Nantes. I decided to watch a couple of games while I was there."