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Young and Downing planning Villa exit

While talks continued yesterday over a resolution to end Gerard Houllier's short reign as Aston Villa manager, both Ashley Young and Stewart Downing signalled that they will be leaving the club this summer.

Houllier, who has not managed since he was diagnosed with another aortic dissection in April, is understood to be in talks over a severance deal. Fulham manager Mark Hughes is thought to be the chosen successor, but the delay in appointing him means he will cost about £2m in compensation to leave his contract with Fulham.

In the meantime, Steve McClaren is understood to be another possibility for Villa if a deal for Hughes falls through. However, the Welshman is the club's first choice and would have liked the job when Martin O'Neill quit in September -- but had already agreed a deal with Fulham.

A deal for Young to Manchester United for £15m is thought to be all but done. He has one year left on his contract. Young, on duty with England ahead of Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland, commented when asked if he enjoyed watching United in the Champions League final against Barcelona: "I did find myself sat there thinking: 'I wish I was out there'. I think it is great for the neutral to watch such a great game.

"(On Villa) I've always said I am going to talk to the chairman, talk to the manager after this game. That's where we are. I've always said the same thing. I have given 100pc in every game I have played for Aston Villa.

"It's always nice to have speculation. But I just have to concentrate and focus on England's game and prepare as I always do for a game. We know it's going to be a massive game."

As for Downing, linked with Arsenal and Liverpool, there is no chance he will be signing a new contract at Villa. He has two years left on his existing deal and, like Young, the likelihood is that he will leave in the summer.

Downing said: "I'm not sure (about my future). We had the meeting with the club, we expressed our feelings and they said they're going to improve the team and the squad. So, as far as I know, I'll still be reporting back for pre-season because I've heard nothing.

"If I don't move, I'll get on with the job as normal. I'll do my best and give 100pc. It's up to the fans and their opinions of me. If they want to be loud and clear with what they think of me then that's fine."

•West Ham are expected to appoint Sam Allardyce as their new manager at a press conference today. The 56-year-old replaces Avram Grant and is expected to sign a two-year deal. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent