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Fergie demands Man Utd outbid Chelsea for Berbatov

The Mail on Sunday says Ferguson has made Berbatov his No 1 transfer target and the Manchester United manager is determined to beat off competition from Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

But although Ferguson knows he may have to go close to the British transfer record of £31 million to land the Bulgarian international, he is adamant that he will not inflate the transfer market to absurd levels to accommodate Tottenham's demands.

Ferguson's admiration for the player whose 27th birthday is on the penultimate day of the transfer window is long-standing, but previous inquiries about his availability have been met with a uncompromising 'hands off' response from White Hart Lane. tough regime under new Dutch coach Ronald Koeman and is ready to move.

Chelsea's imminent £10m signing of Nicolas Anelka will not stop them pursuing Berbatov, particularly given Didier Drogba's equivocal expressions of commitment beyond the summer.

Manager Avram Grant will be backed by Roman Abramovich, with the Russian owner having set the previous British transfer record in paying £31m for Andriy Shevchenko in 2006.

Real Madrid have also expressed an interest in Berbatov, whose value is increased by his availability to play in the Champions League.

There is also genuine interest from Manchester City, whose manager Sven Goran Eriksson will be supported by Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra in a bid to secure a Champions League spot in the second half of the season.

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