Blanc puts retirement on hold

Manchester United FC defender Laurent Blanc has signed a new one-year contract at Old Trafford.

Manchester United FC central defender Laurent Blanc has put thoughts of retirement on hold and signed a new one-year contract at Old Trafford.

Replaced Stam
The former France captain, who retired from international football following his country's 1998 FIFA World Cup triumph on home soil, joined the English club from Internazionale FC at the beginning of last season to replace Jaap Stam who had been transferred to S.S. Lazio.

Fine displays in Europe
The 36-year-old Blanc took a while to adapt to the pace of FA Premiership football but retained the backing of United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, a long-term admirer of the cultured defender. Blanc reserved his finest displays for the UEFA Champions League, playing in all but one of United's games as they reached the last four before being eliminated by Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

Illustrious career
The Alès-born defender started his career at Montpellier Hérault SC and was voted French footballer of the year in 1990. After a spell in Italy with SSC Napoli, Blanc returned to France to play for Nîmes Olympique SC, AS Saint-Etienne and AJ Auxerre, winning the first division title with the latter club in 1996. He then moved to FC Barcelona, where he won the UEFA European Cup Winners' Cup in 1997 before returning to France to join Olympique de Marseille.

Sir Alex 'delighted'
"Laurent Blanc has been at the World Cup and we have been waiting his return," Sir Alex said. "It has simply been a matter of agreeing with agents. We are delighted.'' Blanc added: "I am very happy and can't wait for the new season to start." United, who only finished third in the English top flight last season, will enter the Champions League in the third qualifying round.