Manchester United look set to flex their financial muscle again with a record-breaking £30million offer for Rio Ferdinand.

United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, is rumoured to have the backing of the Old Trafford money-men to capture the young defender – even if it means breaking the British record fee they paid last summer for Juan Sebastian Veron.

Ferdinand, 23, is currently considering his options and after meeting with new Leeds boss Terry Venables, agreed to reveal his future plans within the next 24 hours.

Leeds United value their captain at around œ35 million – almost double the fee they paid West Ham 18 months ago – but should Ferdinand make it clear he wants to leave a figure in the region of œ30 million might be nearer the mark.

Any deal is unlikely to be straightforward. Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale is desperate not to lose his prized asset, despite the fact that the sale would ease the financial pressure on the plc board.

Leeds need to raise œ15 million – a figure that could be covered by the immanent sale of Lee Bowyer to Liverpool and on-off transfer of midfielder Olivier Dacourt to Juventus. However, Ridsdale is aware that the sale of Ferdinand to their Premeirship rivals will reawaken memories of Eric Cantona’s switch from Elland Road to Old Trafford. Cantona’s arrival at United is regarded as the catalyst for United”s subsequent domination of the Premer League.

Doubling their money on Ferdinand might be difficult to resist though. Ferdinand was one of the revelations of the World Cup and his calm, near-flawless displays would be welcome addition to United’s squad.

However, Ferguson will not be held to ransom, with Lazio’s Alessandro Nesta still a possible alternative. At œ25 million he is far from cheap, but that would then leave Ferguson with œ15 million to spend on a strike partner for Ruud van Nistelroy.