United look for quick Diarra deal

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Reports in Spain suggest Manchester United are trying to push through a quick deal for Mahamadou Diarra, in order to fend off interest from Real Madrid.

Lyon are insistent that Diarra will not be allowed to leave Stade Gerland, but supremo Jean-Michel Aulas was saying the same about Michael Essien this time last year - and he went on to join Chelsea.

Aulas admitted this week that an offer similar to that of Essien would probably mean he might have to let Diarra leave, although he was not expecting one - so United's reported move could very well come as a shock.

It is claimed that United are putting together a package that could be worth over ‚é¼27 million (£18 million) - and Lyon could very well be prepared to do business at that price.

Internazionale have also been long-term admirers, but they would struggle to match United's financial muscle - leaving just Real as realistic opposition.

Spanish sources, though, claim Real have a trump card in the race - as it is also being reported that the Malian star wants to move to the Santiago Bernabeu ahead of Old Trafford.

But the turmoil behind the scenes at Madrid, as they need to appoint a new president and coach this summer, means any move for Diarra would have to wait and United are looking to take advantage.

Should United push forward with their interest - as seem likely, then Diarra would be left with a tough decision - as there would be no guarantees that Madrid would even firm up their interest, or indeed whether they would be willing to match the offer from England.

United will obviously have a number of irons in the fire, but Diarra is emerging as Sir Alex Ferguson's main transfer target - as he looks to sign the world class midfielder that The Red Devils have been crying out for, for much of this season.