Yorke moves to Old Trafford in £12.6m deal

Christopher Davies
Date Published: 

DWIGHT Yorke's ambition to play for Manchester United finally forced Aston Villa to accept a £12.6 million bid for the Trinidad and Tobago striker yesterday.

Yorke, 26, had made no secret of his desire to join United and it was this that forced Villa to accept there was no point in keeping an unhappy player.

On Wednesday, United manager Alex Ferguson said the deal "was all but dead". However, United got their man yesterday in a club record deal which pushed their summer spending to £27 million following the purchase of Dutch defender Jaap Stam and Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist.

Yorke was not the only departure from Villa Park yesterday. David Unsworth, who joined Villa from West Ham a few weeks ago, went back Everton for £3 million.

Unsworth joins the elite group of players to sign for a club and leave without playing for them. His wife preferred to live in the Merseyside area but his brief stay at Villa and Yorke's transfer adds to the growing feeling in football that what a player wants, he invariably gets.

The arrival of Yorke at Old Trafford gives Ferguson the sort of striking selection problems other managers would love to have - apart from the new man, United also have Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes, while Ryan Giggs has also proved effective down the middle. Goalscoring should not be a problem for United this season.

For all Yorke's domestic goals - 63 in 201 League games for Villa - the striker is relatively inexperienced at European level, while being born on a small Caribbean island has restricted his internaional career to almost local tournaments. He is unproven at the highest level in Europe and on the world stage.

So in some respects the transfer of Yorke, who has signed a five-year contract, is a gamble for United, whose main ambition is to regain the European Cup.

Yorke is eligible for Europe's premier club competition but as he started his United career the striker was quick to praise Villa.

He said: "Coming from Tobago, football is second on the list to cricket, so it is a dream opportunity to play here.

"But I was in the right place at the right time. Aston Villa have given me the opportunity and turned me into the player I am.

"I know a lot of people will scrutinise every touch I make. But I believe in my ability and I'll continue to play with a smile on my face.

"If I had any doubts about myself, I wouldn't have come here. I felt I needed to take my career in a different direction. This is my new life and I'm delighted."

While United, who will give Yorke his debut at West Ham tomorrow, were celebrating the capture of a striker they have been chasing all summer, Villa last night defended themselves in the face of mounting criticism that they are a club lacking ambition.

The sale of Yorke and Unsworth came in the wake of the departure of Steve Staunton (Liverpool), Savo Milosevic (Real Zaragoza) and Fernando Nelson (FC Porto), with Bolton's Alan Thompson the only notable arrival at Villa Park.

Villa chairman Doug Ellis said: "We were prepared to resist all of Manchester United's efforts to sign Dwight until recent events made us change our mind.

"I know Dwight very well and it became obvious to me that while we could keep him physically, we had lost him mentally. I share [manager] John Gregory's view - we only want players at Villa Park who are committed to the club and our supporters.

"We all know that passions run high in football and for Dwight to have said earlier in the week that he would have liked to have gone to Old Trafford meant that he had lost the support of the majority of our fans."

Ellis maintained that Villa still want a place among the elite, and said: "Our aim now is the same as it has always been - to bring success to Villa Park. And we intend to ensure that our right to be in football's elite is unquestioned."