Football: Edwards' cash warning

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The Independent Online
THE REPERCUSSIONS of the blocked BSkyB bid to buy Manchester United are coming home to roost at Old Trafford. This summer they will be able to replace the departing Peter Schmeichel but that could be the limit of their expenditure, write Guy Hodgson and Alan Nixon.

Manager Alex Ferguson had hoped to emulate last year's pounds 27m investment on players in order for United to compete at home and abroad in the expanded Champions' League but chief executive Martin Edwards has said that is unlikely.

"We are spending pounds 44m over the next two years developing the Stretford and Scoreboard Ends to expand the capacity to 67,000 and also on the new training complex at Carrington," Edwards said. "We have to make sure we don't go heavily into the red. It isn't a bottomless pit. We will have to replace Peter Schmeichel but that might be the end of our summer spending."

Ferguson's sights have now returned to Aston Villa's Mark Bosnich to replace Schmeichel. The Australian was a United target earlier in the season, but his wage demands of around pounds 60,000 a week scared them off. However talks have begun again to persuade him to lower his demands.

BSkyB's bid of pounds 623m, which was blocked 10 days ago by the Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, was made on the understanding that Ferguson would be allowed to buy players in the close season. That potential money has now been denied a club whose recently announced interim profit of pounds 11.08m was down on the pounds 15.39m of the previous year.

"There were no figures mentioned about how much money Sky would pump in," Edwards said. "However, we believed within reason that they would have supported the board with what they wanted to do. Obviously no one is going to write you a blank cheque but the resources would have been better."

Ferguson said: "He [Edwards] hasn't said anything to me about money and in fairness I haven't asked. But the demands of the Champions' League will be enormous."

In Saturday's match programme Edwards wrote: "We thought with the backing of one of the world's most able media companies we could have underpinned our domestic position and increased our ability to do more than just challenge for European honours.

"We believe the `silent majority' of United fans were supportive of the bid - we certainly know that supporters of other clubs were delighted that our plans were thwarted."

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