By Greg Stobart
Manchester United are making a fresh push to sign Fulham academy wonderkid Patrick Roberts.
Goal revealed in March that United and Liverpool had made enquiries for the highly rated 16-year-old, who is unable to sign professional terms with the Cottagers until he turns 17 next year.
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Roberts has earned a reputation as the most exciting attacking midfielder in academy football, mainly playing off the right or behind a main striker for the Fulham Under-18 side and England Under-17s.
Senior players at Craven Cottage have been stunned by his ability when Roberts has joined them in training, and his performance up against John Arne Riise in a practice match is understood to have been partly responsible for the Norwegian’s falling-out with former boss Martin Jol.
United are also hoping to prise teenage striker Moussa Dembele from the Cottagers, who signed his first professional contract in July and has been compared to Didier Drogba and Romelu Lukaku.
Roberts and Dembele have been the two stars in a Fulham youth team that sits top of the southern division of the Under-18 Premier League table.
Dembele, who joined in the summer of 2012 from Paris Saint-Germain and shares the same name as the Belgian midfielder Fulham sold to Tottenham the summer before last, has also featured prominently for the Under-21s.
Roberts' immediate future, however, is of more concern to Fulham. The west Londoners are trying to convince the teenager that they will fast-track him into the firstteam within the next two seasons to ward off United’s interest.
Roberts’ parents and advisors are understood to believe he will be better off staying at Fulham for now, but United are on the charm offensive and the lure of Old Trafford could prove too tempting.
The Premier League champions would be prepared to pay more than £1 million (€1.2m) in compensation for the teenager - as would Liverpool, the club Roberts supports, as both of his parents are from the city.