united tighten purse strings

ENGLAND - Alex Ferguson says Manchester United won't be signing any more players this off season because of inflated transfer fees.

ENGLAND - Alex Ferguson says Manchester United won't be signing any more players this off season because of inflated transfer fees.

The United manager says the champion's transfer activity has "concluded" after capturing Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan.

Ferguson said Monday that fees have been inflated by the likes of Real Madrid, which bought Cristiano Ronaldo from United for a world record of R1billion.

Ferguson says it is "difficult to get value" and pulled out of a move for France striker Karim Benzema, who joined big-spending Real Madrid.

Madrid have spent $300million (R3,4billion) on five players, taking bank loans to afford the likes of AC Milan's Kaka as well as Ronaldo and Benzema.

Meanwhile, Chelsea's Michael Ballack believes English champions United, weakened by the inter-season departure of goal-scoring stars, will cede the title to the Blues next season, according to a newspaper interview published yesterday.

The arrival of new manager Carlo Ancelotti at Stamford Bridge has prompted hopes by fans Chelsea can win their first domestic championship since 2006. The German playmaker believes Chelsea head into the campaign equipped to give them a head start over United, who have lost both Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez this summer.

"We are confident about winning the title," said Ballack, quoted in the London Evening Standard after his appearance at a Chelsea charity event, Right to Play. "I think we had a good season last year, but United have played at a really high level the last few years.

"They made it really difficult for us to win the league in 2007 and 2008, but we were really close behind and last season we also finished behind Liverpool, who had a strong season.

"There are a few moments which decide every championship but we are confident it will be different next time. We have a very experienced squad."

The Blues head out to the US on a four-match tour later this week, by which time they hope the future of skipper John Terry, the subject of interest from cash-rich Manchester City, will be resolved. - Sapa-AFP

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