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A report in a British tabloid claims that Fergie is planning to upset his neighbours by attempting to snatch their prize midfielder...

Manchester United are reportedly keeping an eye on Stephen Ireland and are contemplating making a shock bid for the midfielder in the summer.

The News of the World claim that the Premier League champions are plotting to stun their city rivals by bidding for the 22-year-old, who they see as the perfect replacement for Paul Scholes.

The tabloid claims that manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been impressed with Ireland this season and is willing to try and lure him to Old Trafford.

Manchester City are well aware of their neighbours’ interest, the report goes on to say, and are keen to conclude contract talks with the player which have stalled in recent weeks.

Whilst Ireland has always insisted he wants to stay at City, the club he joined as a teenager, he has apparently been unimpressed by the club’s lack of urgency in offering him a new deal.

The midfielder reportedly believes that his performances this season should have been rewarded with a lucrative contract, however this has not as yet been forthcoming.

United’s interest, however, may change this situation as the Citizens would be loathe to allow Ireland to leave, particularly to their neighbours and bitter rivals United.

Furthermore, Ireland’s performances this season have been a high point in an inconsistent season for the Citizens.

The midfielder has been a virtual ever-present for the Sky Blues, scoring nine Premier League goals, and was crowned the club’s Player of the Season.

Gill Clark,