Ferguson rues failure to sign Africans

Both clubs boast a proliferation of some of the continent’s best talent and Ferguson, whose side have not had an African player since Cameroon’s Eric Djemba-Djemba underwhelmed, says it is a situation he is looking to rectify.

“I wish we could sign more African players, but somehow we don’t seem to capture the ones we want to get,” Ferguson said, using Chelsea star Michael Essien, his Ghana team mate Sulley Muntari and Nigeria’s John Mikel Obi as examples of his African failures. “Essien, for instance, was with us at 16 years of age and Muntari. But we could not get work permits for them.

“Then they both went back to Ghana, and then Essien went to Bastia as a centre-half. He came to us as a centre-half way back then. And Lyon signed him as a centre-half and then made him a midfield player.

“Then Chelsea came for him and the price they were prepared to pay for him, we couldn’t agree that kind of price.

“There was also the situation with John Obi Mikel, who we fought hard to have but who chose to go to Chelsea in the end. And there was nothing we could do about that.

“So there’s been cases where we have tried to get African players in the past and we’ve failed.”

United’s rivals Arsenal have built a squad including several top-notch African internationals and Ferguson attributes it to the Gunners’ superior scouting network in the continent.

“I know that Arsenal are very strong in their African and French connection. They are very good at that. Because they have a far better scouting network than us in maybe say Ivory Coast and places like that.

“But we have a scout now in Ghana, and we are trying to develop that part. It’s not easy because it’s such a big continent.

“We also now have a scouting network in Angola and within a few weeks of that, they recommended Manucho.”

Ferguson also pointed to the strict work permit regulations in the UK as a stumbling block.

“And also, other countries have a better work permit status than England. They have easier access to getting players from all over the world than England. For instance, if you want to sign an African player, he needs to have played 75 percent of his international games in the last two years. And to bring in a young player, you have to pay him a salary equivalent to your top earners.

“And it’s not just African. We have the same problem with Brazilian players and those from other continents.

“It’s tough but we’ll keep looking for the best players from all over the world, including Africa.” ‘ Kick-off.

August 2008
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