Manchester City and Manchester United do battle over £40m Eden Hazard
The fight for supremacy between Manchester's two Premier League sides continues beyond last night's title clash at the Etihad Stadium, with the clubs now vying to sign the Lille attacking midfielder Eden Hazard – one of the most promising talents in Europe.
Manchester City, who are digesting suggestions from Carlos Tevez that he may be willing to stay at the Etihad next season, are hoping that their executive Patrick Vieira can be key to persuading the £30m-rated 21-year-old to select them above United. But Vieira found himself in the company of United's scout Martin Ferguson, the manager's brother, as he watched Hazard flourish on Sunday evening in the 2-1 win over their rivals Paris St-Germain. The Belgian playmaker declared after the game: "I want to play in England. My objective is to go to the Premier League, because I have had my time in France."
Sir Alex Ferguson acknowleged last week that Hazard was one of the player he had scouted in a visit to see Lille play Lyons recently. "Hazard is a very good player. He has many qualities. He is particularly rapid in the first  yards," said the manager, who has told Dimitar Berbatov's agent that he is ready to jettison the Bulgarian because he wants more pace in his side.
Ferguson's brother's presence bears out United's interest, even though the view from France is that City are the club most likely among the clutch of possible suitors – also including Tottenham Hotspur and perhaps Real Madrid – to meet an asking price which could be as high as £40m. The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, won't pay that price, while Liverpool, who have also been interested, are bound only for the Europa League.
That leaves United and City as the prime British contenders. Lille are willing to cash in, 15 months after strengthening their bargaining position with a new contract for Hazard. The question mark over United's interest relates to their preponderance of wide players like Hazard, with Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young already in their stable. As The Independent revealed earlier this month, one of Hazard's prime objectives is to play frequently, which points to City. The club, who beat United to Samir Nasri last summer, have only Adam Johnson as a genuine wide player and his attitude to his career has frustrated City at times in the last year.
Tevez's habit of equivocating about his City career means that the club will not be banking on him desisting from seeking a move to Italy this summer. But he made the most positive noises for months in an interview before last night's crucial game.
"My relationship with the manager [Roberto Mancini] is totally fine, he's been as good as gold with me and there have been absolutely no problems," the Argentine said. "He wants to win games and be successful and, if I can play a part in helping to do that, then that's what I will work hard to do.
"Yes, there's been a lot said and written this season but that's in the past. Everybody at the club shares the same goal: Roberto, me, the other players and all the staff. I'm an ambitious person, I want to work hard and win things with City. That's all that matters to me as a player and a person. This club has been building something special for the past few years. It was the project and the dream that made me come to City in the first place.
"I've been here since the start of that project and I share the same vision as Sheikh Mansour. He has always been brilliant with me and I want to repay his faith and stay here as long as it takes to make the project a success."
Tevez returned from his three-month unauthorised leave of absence after his advisers told him that he risked throwing away his career and the suspicion has been that his motivation in losing weight and regaining his energy for Mancini has been a realisation that he might yet secure the move to Italy which disappeared when a Milan deal fell through in January. The Argentine said he was trying to help team-mate Mario Balotelli in his development. "Mario is young and has everything you need to be a great, great player," he said.