Ferguson: Boro want Smith

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Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed Middlesbrough are keen on signing striker Alan Smith.

Smith is thought to be mulling over his options at Manchester United as he goes in search of regular first-team football next season.

With competition for places at Old Trafford likely to be fierce, Smith could find himself well down the pecking order.

Gareth Southgate has stepped up his bid to sign the former Leeds man and is offering him the chance of playing regularly in the Premier League.

Ferguson hinted recently that Smith may be allowed to leave United if a club comes in for him and that has reignited Boro's interest.

Southgate has requested permission to speak to Smith with a view of thrashing out a deal for the England international.

Meanwhile, United youngsters Giuseppe Rossi and Gerard Pique will not be leaving United this summer, according to Ferguson.

Rossi and Pique had spells on loan at Parma and Real Zaragoza respectively and both clubs wanted to sign the players permanently.

"The lads going away proved themselves," Ferguson told the club's official website. "Giuseppe scored nine goals in 16 matches for Parma and the consensus is that he kept them up. Everyone says that.

"Gerard played 24 games for Zaragoza and did exceptionally well. We got all the videos of the players and watched what they did in training. They will certainly come back.

"Hopefully now we have a strong enough pool of players. That's one of the reasons I was keen to get the young lads who were away on loan last year back at the club.

"They will develop better with us. They may play more regularly away on loan, but training with us and being part of the squad brings them on immeasurably."