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United go after Fulham star Smalling

Manchester United have expressed an interest in the Fulham defender Chris Smalling whose remarkable rise from non-league football now looks likely to continue with a battle for his signature between two of the biggest clubs in English football.

It has been widely anticipated that Arsenal would make the first move for the £7m-rated defender who was playing for Maidstone United when he was signed by Roy Hodgson in March 2008.

However, Manchester United have let it be known that they are interested in the 20-year-old who in a short space of time has broken into the Fulham side and the England Under-21s.

Smalling is highly regarded for his pace and strength and his ability to play on the left side of the central defensive pairing.

Meanwhile Sir Alex Ferguson has done his son Darren, the new Preston North End manager, a significant favour by loaning him the striker Danny Welbeck who was sought by a number of clubs this month. Welbeck, 19, joins Preston until the end of the season.

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