Sir Alex Ferguson wants the Premier League to examine Tottenham Hotspur's signing of Ezekiel Fryers from Standard Liège, with the manager claiming there will be a mobile phone "trail" after the north London club failed to agree terms with Manchester United for the defender during the summer.
Had Tottenham pushed ahead with a move for Fryers at that time, a fee would have been set by a Premier League tribunal, which might have been expected to award United compensation of £5m-6m for the former England Under-19 defender, who was out of contract. Taking Fryers from Liège is thought to have cost Spurs around £900,000.
The Belgian club paid United £250,000 for the Manchester-born Fryers last summer, a fraction of United's target fee because the player was moving abroad rather than between Premier League clubs.
Of the transfer of Fryers, now 20, Ferguson said: "I am disappointed in Tottenham, I really am. I think it has been a blatant manipulation of the situation. They tried to buy him from us at the end of last season but we couldn't agree terms. They then took him on trial and took him to Portugal with the squad and came back and said that they couldn't afford him. And then all of a sudden he signed for Standard Liège and at that moment in time, when I heard that, I expected him to go to Tottenham in the January window.
"I'm disappointed in Tottenham. The Premier League should look into it and I think they should stop the registration until they examine it. There will be a trail, mobile phone [records] or something. It is obvious to me [what has happened]."
Ferguson namechecked the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, on MUTV: "It's a Daniel Levy deal. You know, it's his fingerprints all over it. It's the kind of thing we expected he was going to do."
Spurs deny any impropriety. A spokesperson told the Guardian: "Zeki was out of contract [with United] in the summer, we had looked into the possibility of signing the player but were unable to agree a deal on the terms Manchester United were asking.
"Zeki chose to go to Standard Liège, who paid compensation to Manchester United. Zeki enjoyed his time at Standard. However when they sacked their manager [Ron Jans] in November Zeki was not part of the new manager's plans, which he accepts and understands happens in football.
"Unfortunately, a combination of this and the fact he had become homesick meant he wanted to return to England. His representatives made contact with clubs in England and this afforded us a second opportunity to sign the player.
"As per Fifa's solidarity contribution mechanism, Manchester United will receive 5% of the transfer fee we have paid."
Whether United will make a formal complaint is in the balance. It is understood that they are considering their position, with the club yet to ascertain whether Tottenham have broken any rules.
Liège said in a statement on their website that Fryers "felt homesick and had difficulty acclimatising to life away from home and family. So when the London club became interested we understood the situation and were not opposed to the return of the player to England."
Ferguson's side travel to West Ham United for Saturday's FA Cup third-round tie without Wayne Rooney, who will be absent for at least two weeks more than first thought due to the knee injury he suffered in training on Christmas Day.
Ferguson said: "Wayne Rooney is still injured. We're surprised, it's longer than we thought. We expected him back training but he's not. It's nothing serious but it looks as if he'll be out for another two weeks or so."
On Sunday week United host Liverpool on what is a pivotal afternoon in the Premier League as Manchester City travel to Arsenal. But Ferguson will not be able to field the England forward. "He won't be fit for that, I don't think," the Scot said. "It's nothing serious, he just got clipped behind the knee. Hopefully two weeks will sort it but it's a loss and although we're in great form you want your best players available for the big games coming up.
"We've got West Ham, Liverpool and Tottenham the week after that, and the FA Cup hopefully after that. So it's a tough period and you want your best squad available. We've not had that all season anyway so it's not as if we can't cope; we will. Particularly with the defending all season we've had to do without key defenders.
"Now we've got [Nemanja] Vidic back, [Chris] Smalling back, Phil Jones will be available for [West Ham] so we're in good shape at the back and utilising the squad has been very good. We've worked it well over the last few weeks."
Ferguson stated that he is confident Rio Ferdinand will stay, despite the centre-half's contract ending in the summer and no new deal having been agreed. "I don't think Rio wants to leave and I don't think he is panicking about that," the manager said. "I think we are comfortable with that." Nani is back in training following a hamstring injury.