Football: Even United struggle to pay spiralling salary bill

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The Independent Online
THE MANCHESTER UNITED board claimed yesterday that they need to make even more money than they already do in order to afford increasing wage demands.

It was revealed at the club's annual general meeting that wages now take up 33 per cent of the club's pounds 110m turnover. The total wages figure of pounds 36.9m is over pounds 10m up on the previous financial year.

Shareholders expressed concern at the possibility that the club could lose the inspirational Roy Keane and the PLC chairman, Sir Roland Smith, said: "We are going to do whatever needs to be done to keep him. But until he has made up his mind, we can't do anything."

After the Annual Meeting the club chairman, Martin Edwards, said he would begin new talks with Keane over his future before the 1 January deadline after which, under the terms of his contract, Keane can talk to any other European teams. "Sir Alex is going to have another chat with Roy," Edwards said.

Juventus denied last night that they plan to sign Keane. The Juve vice- president Roberto Bettega was responding to a report that a deal had been agreed for the summer.

It was also announced yesterday that Paul Scholes is to have a hernia operation next month, after the Champions' League game against Valencia.

Scholes is likely to find himself up against Craig Burley again tomorrow following their encounter in the England-Scotland play-off games. Burley is on his way to Derby County in a pounds 3million deal - and could make his debut against United.

A fee has yet to be agreed, but the Derby manager Jim Smith is hopeful of agreeing terms with the Scottish midfielder. However Derby's bid to sign another Scot, Colin Hendry, is stalling over personal terms.

The Fulham manager, Paul Bracewell, is trying to rush through the pounds 2m signing of Michael Hughes from Wimbledon in the hope that the Northern Ireland international can make his debut at Blackburn tomorrow.

Hughes has not found a place in the system favoured by Wimbledon's new Norwegian manager, Egil Olsen, who would rather realise the asset and spend the money. Fulham are close to agreeing a price and Hughes will sign if he proves his fitness. The midfielder did not play for several weeks after an operation but has turned out for Wimbledon reserves ahead of his pending departure.

Thailand's answer to the Brazilian legend Zico is swapping steamy Bangkok for life in northern England after signing for First Division Huddersfield. Kiatisak Senamaung, Thailand's captain and greatest player, known by fans as Zico for his regular overhead kicks, has signed until the end of the season.

Aston Villa have been told by a Football League appeals committee to make a pounds 50,000 down-payment to Brighton for the midfielder Michael Standing. Villa will also have to pay a further pounds 50,000 for every 10 first-team games the teenager plays up to a maximum of 40. The fee will rise to more than pounds 350,000 if Standing is capped by England.

Stoke City's new Icelandic manager, Gudjon Thordarson, made two of his former charges in the national side his first signings yesterday. The midfielders Sigursteinn Gislason and Einar Thor Danielson arrived on loan from KR Reykjavik, followed by a Swedish right-back, Michael Hansson, on a free transfer from Norrkoping. Thordarson hopes to make another Icelandic international, Rikhardur Dadason, his first cash recruit, but faces competition for Lillestrom's pounds 350,000-rated striker from Sheffield United.

Coventry City have sent their on-loan goalkeeper Raffaele Nuzzo back to Internazionale following the return to action of Steve Ogrizovic, six months after neck surgery.

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