United face Barca battle over Spanish starlet - reports

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Manchester United face competition from European conquerors Barcelona in the race to sign full-back Jordi Alba.

The 22-year-old Spaniard has been linked with a move away from Valencia in January, with a string of clubs across Europe thought to be interested in the left-sided defender.

Sir Alex Ferguson is claimed to be one of those keen on signing the player, but reports in Spanish publication Sport claim Pep Guardiola is keen on bringing the player back to the Nou Camp at the expense of Manchester United.

Alba was part of the club's academy before leaving in 2005, making his way to Los Che in 2007, where he has since spent four years as a professional.

With reports in the player's homeland that Alba has refused to open fresh contract talks, Manchester United have been linked with a potential cut-price deal for a player whose contract expires in 2013.

However, the La Liga champions' interest is likely to add to the player's market value, meaning the Red Devils will need to pay a decent figure to bring the player to England.

Alba would compete with Patrice Evra and Fabio Da Silva for the starting spot at Old Trafford, with the French international coming in for criticism over his recent Manchester United performances.

Ferguson questioned his senior defenders in the recent 6-1 derby defeat to City, and the Manchester United manager could be looking to strengthen his side at the next opportunity in January.

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