Last updated : 08 July 2007 By Editor

Sunday Times:

You can't beat them, at least not normally, but you can join them if you impress. Sir Alex Ferguson says he has "known more scouts than Baden-Powell" but a player's best chance of signing for Manchester United is to do well against Ferguson's team. He has preferred spotting talent with his own eye ever since blowing his first budget at East Stirlingshire, all £1,000, on a striker named Billy Hulston who had stood out whenever Ferguson faced Clyde as a player.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Smith and Louis Saha are current recruits who recommended themselves to Ferguson when they were in opposition to him. Carlos Tevez is poised to become the next. The robust opportunism of Tevez's goal at Old Trafford in May could prove not only to have clinched West Ham's Premiership survival, but a £100,000 per week United contract for its 23-year-old scorer. Tevez has agreed personal terms with United and, despite adopting a contrary public position, West Ham have accepted tacitly they are about to lose the player.

Both clubs are talking to the Premier League about how to structure a deal that would not breach transfer rules. As West Ham assured the League in March that they had ended all third-party agreements with Media Sports Investments (MSI) and Just Sports Inc (JSI), the companies who retain what they call Tevez's "economic rights", the League will be looking for West Ham to act in a way that would be expected of a club in sole ownership of a valuable player. This effectively means West Ham retaining a large part of the transfer fee, which must reflect his market value. It will be possible to pass some money on to MSI and JSI, perhaps in the form of an "agents' commission", but it would be considered suspicious if this exceeded £4m-£5m.

This could be a stumbling block. The Tevez camp have questioned why the Premier League did not make the same demands when Javier Mascherano left West Ham for Liverpool in January. It is understood Mascherano signed the same kind of deal at Liverpool — an initial loan with a view to a permanent move — that United have agreed for Tevez. The League did not insist on West Ham receiving anything for Mascherano but the crucial difference is that the player's West Ham contract was ended when he moved to Anfield.

In the case of Tevez, West Ham opted to unilaterally terminate the third-party clause in his contract, allowing him to play a key role in their fight against relegation. Kia Joorabchian, Tevez's agent, had expected the United deal to go through this week and a statement issued through his lawyers yesterday said: "Personal terms have been agreed . . . [and] the process for finalising the player's registration with United will be undertaken in accordance with appropriate procedures."

Now matters aren't so clear and Joorabchian is unhappy with the Premier League's stance. United are frustrated at the delay, but Tevez will be worth the wait. He has been in Ferguson's mind since his first visit to Old Trafford, with Boca Juniors in 2002, when he enlivened a drab friendly with his hyperactive efforts that comprised an impressive display of running and dribbling but also the planting of an elbow in Paul Scholes's face, for which he was sent off.

Another time United were opposed memorably may have fuelled Ferguson's desire for Tevez, and indeed much of his team-building in recent years. United's 3-2 and 6-5 aggregate defeats in the Champions League by Real Madrid in 2000 and 2003 made a mark on Ferguson. He has occasionally seen his sides outplayed over the course of a 33-year management career, but rarely out-attacked. The Real Madrid forward who made the greatest impact was not Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo or even Ronaldo, but Raul. In Ferguson's view, Raul was Real's greatest danger because, brilliant as they were, you could predict where Zidane, Figo or Ronaldo might receive the ball. Raul, in his prime, was impossible to track.

This has been the blueprint for United attackers since. Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney were bought for their flexibility and unpredictability, and Ferguson has taken Ryan Giggs, Smith and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and encouraged them to develop new positions. Tevez comes with the multiple facets already carved, a forward in the South American tradition of being equally happy to dribble, pass or shoot, and who is used alternating between striker, winger and No 10 because that is how Argentina use him.