Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Dong impresses Ferguson in South Africa

AFP AND AP , CAPE TOWN

Manchester United striker Dong Fangzhou, left, protests to the referee during the Vodacom Challenge friendly between Manchester United and Kaizer Chiefs at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday. Manchester United won 1-0.

PHOTO: EPA

Alex Ferguson has backed Dong Fangzhou to emerge as a Manchester United player within the "next nine months" after the Chinese striker's late goal sealed a 1-0 friendly win against Kaizer Chiefs in Cape Town on Tuesday.

The English Premier League club played the second match of a preseason tour of South Africa at Newlands Stadium, and battled to duplicate the high-scoring 4-0 victory over Orlando Pirates last weekend.

United manager Ferguson, who suggested that Ruud van Nistelrooy's looming transfer to Real Madrid was still not finalized after claiming that Real's opening offer, reportedly of ?10.5 million (US$19.2 million), had been rebuffed, is currently unable to select Dong in the Premiership due to his inability to secure a British work permit.

Dong, a ?3 million buy from Dalian Shide three years ago, has been loaned out to Belgian club Royal Antwerp over the past two years to build up his experience.

But with the 21-year-old set to be eligible for a European passport later this year, Ferguson is hopeful that Dong will emerge as a possible long-term addition to United's attacking options.

"The goal Dong scored to win the game was a great example of a young player showing composure and taking his time with a chance when he could have taken it first time. He waited and picked his shot," Ferguson said.

"Dong has improved a lot in the three years he has been with us and on loan at Antwerp. He has speed, a great physique and desire and he is improving all the time. He will be eligible for a European passport in December and that's good news for us. Although he may not get a permit straightaway, we can appeal and he could be a United player in nine months," he said.

"He has now played four times for China, so that may give us grounds for appeal and he could become a good option for us," Ferguson added.

United and England midfielder Kieran Richardson was forced to limp out of the Chiefs clash at Newlands with a shin injury sustained following a hefty challenge by Cyril Nzama, but Ferguson insists that the injury was not serious.

"Kieran took a knock, but it's not a problem and he should be fit for the final game of the tour in Pretoria on Saturday," he said.

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