Manchester United join Arsenal and Liverpool in race to secure £10m 'buy to loan' deal for Southampton star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Sir Alex and Comolli both watch teenager who supports Reds
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

Southampton teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is poised for a move to Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester United in a £10 million deal this month but is likely to be loaned back to the League One club for the rest of the season, UK can reveal.

The three Premier League big guns have all made clear their interest in the England Under-18 attacking midfielder and are ready to begin charm offensives to lure the son of former England international Mark Chamberlain.

Liverpool appear to be in the box seat as Oxlade-Chamberlain is a Liverpool supporter and believes he would get more opportunities in the short and long-term in the Merseysiders’ set-up.

Anfield director of football strategy Damien Comolli watched the 17-year-old for the second time in a fortnight on Tuesday night as he scored in Southampton’s 6-0 drubbing of Oldham, but the Frenchman was joined in the Boundary Park stands by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who was also keeping a close eye on Ben Amos, on loan at Oldham from Old Trafford, and Southampton - United's opponents in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Southampton will demand in excess of £10m for a player who club insiders rate as a better prospect than Theo Walcott at the same age. The south coast club are not desperate for a financial lifeline and are ready to wait and secure the best possible deal for the player, who is not 18 until next August.

“He will get sold, probably this month, and will be loaned back to Southampton,” an insider told UK. “Every club in the country is looking at him but Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United are the most keen.

“He is a Liverpool supporter and, if that means anything, it would make them slight favourites. His Dad is a bright fellow and very influential in the final decision and he wants Alex to go somewhere where he will get a chance.”

Red-hot prospect | Sir Alex Ferguson has joined race to sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain UK understands that Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United would all be willing to buy Oxlade-Chamberlain this month and loan him back to Southampton for the rest of the season.

However, the Saints, who are pushing for promotion to the Championship, are concerned that the fans could turn against the teenager and accuse him of not trying if he suffers some poor form. It was a similar scenario that prevented Walcott being loaned back to Southampton when he was bought by Arsenal in the January transfer window of January 2006.

Oxlade-Chamberlain became the second youngest debutant - behind Walcott - in the League One club’s history in March when he made his first Southampton appearance aged 16 years and 199 days. He has established himself as a first-team regular this season, starting 17 of his 26 games and scoring seven goals.

He is being used by Southampton on the flanks but the coaching staff believe his vision, technique, directness and eye for goal mean he will eventually mature in to a playmaker.

“He is the best young player in the country of his age,” added the source. “He can beat people for fun, he is technically excellent, he has goals in him, he is bright as a button and is getting stronger. He is a real talent.”

Walcott was signed by Arsenal for a fee initially worth up to £12m in January 2006, with £5m paid up front, but Southampton’s financial troubles two years later resulted in the clubs agreeing a settlement fee that amounted in a reduced final bill of £9.1m.

Any deal for Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to be structured in a similar way consisting of an initial fee, with further payments based on appearances and future success.

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