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Why Fergie wants Man Utd to beat Inter Milan for David Henen

For some, he's the best teenage talent Belgium has ever produced and has Europe's biggest clubs chasing his signature.

Yet, David Henen, for all the buzz swirling around him, is considering a move from Anderlecht simply because he can't force his way into coach John van den Brom's first team plans.

The 17 year-old's frustration has alerted clubs across Europe, including Inter Milan and long-term suitors Manchester United, who he turned down when first moving to Anderlecht.

"Before signing pro, I could've gone there (United) on attractive financial conditions," Henen recalls.

"I will not deny that it was tempting, but my agent, Leonel Silva Batista, advised me to first succeed in Belgium. So I refused Manchester. The club wanted to at least show me the training center, but I refused, out of respect for Anderlecht.

"The English understood and said they would continue to monitor my development. This motivates me even more and sharpens my ambition."

But Anderlecht management have their concerns. The hype around Henen, including a sportswear endorsement battle, is being blamed on his inability to break into Van den Brom's squad this season.

"Too much too soon," says Anderlecht U21 coach Rene Peeters when discussing his protégé. "I have never said he should automatically be promoted.

"All his stories with Nike and foreign clubs have not helped. And it has nothing to do with his qualities."

As Peeters states, there can be no doubting Henen's ability. United scouts have drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo when discussing him with manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been delighted this season with the progress of Henen's former Anderlecht teammate, Adnan Januzaj.

Ferguson had his talent spotters earlier this season at both the AEGON Cup in Amsterdam and the Viareggio tournament, which were both won by a Henen-inspired Anderlecht.

United first made their move for Henen when he was on the books of Standard Liege. It was at Standard, at 14, when he came to Belgian football's attention. Henen was blocked by UEFA from making his first team debut under former coach Dominique D'Onofrio.

One coach at Standard's academy recalls: "There are many great players here, but he was a phenomenon. Someone we see every twenty or thirty years."

Henen says: "I know I made the right decision. I spent two wonderful years (at Standard), but Anderlecht was the logical step in my progress. "

D'Onofrio has followed Henen's progress closely and says the comparisons with Real Madrid star Ronaldo are warranted.

"Relatively speaking, it is not wrong to compare him with the Real Madrid player. He is tall, slender with great technique. He moves well and easily dominates a game with his personality.

"Personally, though, he makes me think of Frederic Kanoute, the great former striker of Sevilla."

Anderlecht are now bracing themselves for a summer approach from United, though there's sure to be big competition, with Benfica scouts spotted at Anderlecht's recent U21 game against Mechelen. Inter Milan also asked to be kept up-to-date on Henen's situation after seeing him dismantle AC Milan in the Viareggio final earlier this year.

Anderlecht rate the teen at €4 million and are now becoming increasingly resigned to losing their best prospects to bigger clubs, as Peeters concedes when discussing Januzaj's departure:

"I think Anderlecht did everything to keep him. You cannot imagine the number of people who revolve around young players these days."

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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