MIDDLESBROUGH have refused Adam Johnson permission to speak to Manchester City despite the Premier League club stepping up their pursuit of the in-demand winger.

On the day they finally completed the loan capture of Celtic defender Stephen Mc- Manus, Boro officials informed their counterparts at the City of Manchester Stadium that they would not be granting permission for a formal approach to Johnson and his representatives.

Despite making renewed contact yesterday, City are still to increase the £5m offer they tabled late on Wednesday night, and Boro continue to insist that is far too low a fee for a player likely to command a compensatory fee of around £5m if he leaves when his contract expires in the summer.

Johnson is understood to be keen to hear what City are willing to offer him, but that will not happen unless the Manchester club increase their offer significantly over the weekend.

City boss Roberto Mancini confirmed the club’s interest in the player yesterday.

‘‘He is a good, young player but we have respect for him and the club. We will see (what happens),” said the City boss.

The likelihood of Johnson leaving the Riverside this month will increase if he is excluded from the starting line-up for this afternoon’s Championship home game with Bristol City, but all indications last night suggested that Strachan was poised to select the England Under-21 international in his side.

He is also expected to name McManus in his squad after the 27-year-old signed on loan until the end of the season yesterday, for a fee that is understood to be in the region of £300,000.

McManus joins Barry Robson, Chris Killen and Willo Flood to become the fourth former Celtic player to sign for Middlesbrough this month, and his arrival brings an end to a fortnight of fraught negotiations.

“We’re delighted to have Stephen join us,” said Boro boss Gordon Strachan. “He has achieved a lot in his career, winning trophies, playing in the Champions League and captaining club and country.

“I think the world of Stephen as a player and as a man. He’s a leader and an organiser and will be a great asset to the club.”

It wasn’t all good news on the transfer front yesterday though, as Blackpool turned down Boro’s £2m offer for attacking midfielder Charlie Adam.

With his pursuit of Celtic striker Scott McDonald hitting a succession of snags, Strachan turned his attention to Scotland international Adam, who has scored 12 goals this season following a £500,000 move from Rangers.

Blackpool rejected Middlesbrough’s initial offer, and their boss, Ian Holloway, feels his club’s prize asset would achieve little by swapping Bloomfield Road for the Riverside.

“I’ve told Charlie about the offer,” said Holloway. “We have a bit of a pact that I want to get him to a club that – if I’m allowed to say it – is in a much, much better situation than us.

“Why leave Rangers to come to Blackpool and then step sideways? Why do that when I think he can step up?

“I think he will still be here at the end of the season. It is normally after 18 months that I lose them.”

Adam is not the only attacking midfielder interesting Strachan, as the Boro boss has also inquired about the availability of another of his former Celtic charges, Shunsuke Nakamura.

Nakamura, who made more than 150 appearances in his four seasons at Parkhead, is currently playing for Espanyol, although he is struggling to hold down a place in the Spanish side’s first team.

Boro are understood to have proposed a six-month loan deal, which would enable Nakamura to play regular football as he attempts to cement a place in the Japan squad for this summer’s World Cup finals.