Ferguson poised to make summer move for Lampard
Free transfer tempts United boss as he looks to bolster midfield options
Alex Ferguson is poised to make a summer move to take Frank Lampard to Manchester United following Chelsea's decision to allow the midfielder to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of his contract.
Although Ferguson rejected the chance to sign Lampard last January, after being sounded out about the possibility of taking the 34-year-old to Old Trafford, the prospect of signing him on a free transfer at the end of this season has prompted the United manager to identify the England international as a potential target to bolster his midfield options.
Ferguson, who is also planning a £16m summer move for Borussia Dortmund forward Robert Lewandowski, has been a long-term admirer of Lampard, with his interest in the three-time Premier League winner dating back to a failed attempt to hijack Chelsea's £11m deal with West Ham in 2001.
In 2009 he went on record with his respect for Lampard, saying: "He is an exceptional player and a huge asset to his team."
Lampard has repeatedly stressed his desire to remain at Chelsea beyond the end of this season, and he has been in impressive recent form, scoring four goals in his past five appearances to take him within nine goals of Bobby Tambling as the club's all-time leading goalscorer.
Chelsea supporters have called for the club's owner Roman Abramovich to reward Lampard's service with a new contract, but the Russian has made it clear to the player and his representatives that there will be no offer of a contract to stay at Stamford Bridge and the player is resigned to leaving.
It is understood that the prospect of playing for United would greatly appeal to Lampard. The move was ruled out by Ferguson 12 months ago due to the costs involved of paying a fee to Chelsea and also matching Lampard's £150,000-a-week wages. The Scot had also already persuaded Paul Scholes to come out of retirement by the time the Lampard proposal was put to United.
However, Ferguson believes that Lampard will be a much more attractive proposition when he becomes available for free this summer, particularly as there are issues surrounding several of his midfielders. There are doubts over the 38-year-old Scholes' future beyond the end of this season, and concerns over the fitness of Darren Fletcher and Anderson.
Although Lampard will be 35 in June, the player's age is not regarded as an issue by Ferguson, with his recent performances for Chelsea emphasising his fitness and continuing ability to perform at the highest level.
Ferguson has shown in the past, when recruiting the likes of Laurent Blanc, Edwin van der Sar, Michael Owen and the short-term signing of Henrik Larsson, that he values experience ahead of youth when the right player becomes available.
The Scot has also spoken of his admiration of AC Milan's approach to senior players and the Italian club's readiness to invest in players in their mid-30s due to the qualities that they can add to a squad.
United's success in prolonging the careers of Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who is expected to be handed a contract that will see him play on beyond his 40th birthday later this year, also highlights their willingness to utilise players beyond the stage when rival clubs perceive them to have surpassed their usefulness. Ferguson would also expect Lampard to provide guidance for Tom Cleverley, whose performances this season have made him one of the most highly rated English talents in the top flight.
United will face competition should Ferguson pursue his interest in the player, particularly from overseas, with LA Galaxy particularly keen to recruit a high-profile replacement for David Beckham. Arsenal have also been widely reported to be interested in him.
Crystal Palace's highly rated forward Wilfried Zaha is also being monitored by United, although Tottenham have emerged as their biggest rival for the 20-year-old. (© Daily Telegraph, London)