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Saha completes United move
January 24, 2004 12:42 IST
French striker Louis Saha has completed his move to Manchester United from Fulham after signing a five-and-a-half year contract with the English champions.
The 25-year-old cost a total of 12.825 million pounds, of which Fulham will receive 11.5 million.
Saha is ineligible for United's FA Cup fourth round match against Northampton Town on Sunday but should make his debut in the home Premier League game against Southampton six days later.
"The first and most important thing is that he has a great enthusiasm to play," United manager Alex Ferguson told a news conference. "He's two good feet, he's quick, aggressive in the air and (has) a lot of great assets.
"He's different from the players we have at the moment and without question a developing, quality player. I feel the next few years will hopefully bring the best out of the boy and improve him to the top level."
Ferguson hopes to pair Saha, who has scored 15 goals this season, with Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy in a bid to re-create the prolific partnership of former United forwards Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke.
"That's what we are going to work at, to get them as a partnership," Ferguson said. "We will see how they respond to the challenge of playing with each other. I feel that they will be able to do that.
"Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole played an integral part in winning the European Cup (in 1999) and, hopefully, we will be as successful as that again."
Paris-born Saha joined Fulham from Metz in 2000, scoring 27 goals in his first season to help the west London club win promotion to the Premier League.
Saha, who will wear the number nine shirt vacant since Cole left two years ago, scored twice against United at Old Trafford in his first game in England's top flight.
Despite Fulham's reluctance to sell he was determined to get his dream move once he was aware of the champions' interest.
"I have been wanting this for months now," Saha said. "Everything has been a bit hard and under pressure but everything has been done now.
"I have to say thank you to Fulham for bringing me here and giving me the opportunity to play in the Premiership. But I think I have done a good job for them.
"When I had the chance to play for the biggest club I was very excited about it. I had to make them (Fulham) understand I was determined to join a big club."
Saha will compete for first team places with Van Nistelrooy, Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has been injured since September, and Uruguayan Diego Forlan, and the Frenchman's arrival has been welcomed by United defender Gary Neville.
"It's a big lift and I think we've signed a really top player," Neville said. "We've had first hand experience ourselves over the last four seasons (of) how good he is.
"He's really caused us as many problems as any player that's played against us and I think everybody is delighted to have him here.
"It's certainly given us a big boost to the forward department where because of injuries we were maybe a bit light."
United, seeking their ninth Premier League title in 12 seasons, are two points behind leaders Arsenal with 16 matches remaining.
They face Portuguese side Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League and Saha will be eligible to play in European soccer's most prestigious competition.
As part of Saha's transfer fee, United will pay a further levy of 575,000 pounds to the Premier League and 750,000 pounds to the agents involved in the deal.