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Darth Maul
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Fabien Barthez has thrown down the gauntlet to Mark Bosnich by agreeing to start pre-season training a week before his French Euro 2000 colleagues.

Manchester United have confirmed Barthez will join their squad on July 25. In contrast, Arsenal's European Championship-winning trio Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Petit aren't wanted by Arsene Wenger until early August. Didier Deschamps and Marcel Desailly won't reunite with their Chelsea colleagues until July 31.

The £7.8million French goalkeeper - signed by Sir Alex Ferguson to fill the boots of Peter Schmeichel - is eager to impress his club colleagues after helping France beat Italy in the Euro 2000 final.

He will report for duty at United's Carrington training ground while Arsenal’s and Chelsea’s French cavaliers will still be soaking up the sun.

Barthez, 29, sealed his move from Monaco on the eve of the European Championship, with Ferguson stating the Frenchman’s personality and character as significant in his courting of the player.

Laurent Blanc, his international team-mate and close friend, said: “For me, Fabien is one of the best in the world. He is a great person and a big character, but it should not take away from his ability.”

All Chelsea's Euro 2000 performers, including England's Dennis Wise, have been told by manager Gianluca Vialli they don't have to return until July 31 - a fortnight after the rest of the Blues squad.

At Highbury, members of Roger Lemerre’s squad have been given special dispensation to join up with Arsene Wenger at Amsterdam 2000, Ajax FC’s centenary tournament that includes the hosts, Arsenal, Lazio and Barcelona.

The event starts on August 3, just 14 days prior to Arsenal's opening fixture at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland.

When Barthez arrives for his first day with United, he will join goalkeeping coach Tony Coton, Raimond van der Gouw and Mark Bosnich for individual training under the watchful eye of Ferguson and Steve McClaren.

However, Bosnich, his rival for the Old Trafford goalkeeping jersey, will be more than ready for him as he returned on the July 12.
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