Football: Ferguson transfer budget is still pounds 10m

European Cup: Manchester United's captain refuses to curb combative instincts as Juventus meet an irresistible force
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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED'S success in reaching the final of the European Cup will not increase Alex Ferguson's summer transfer budget, which was cut after the collapse of BSkyB's attempted takeover, despite the prospect of earning pounds 16m from the competition.

Ferguson had been told he will be given a maximum of around pounds 10m, most of which will be earmarked for Peter Schmeichel's replacement and, said the club's chairman Martin Edwards yesterday, that remains the board's position.

"Financially, reaching the final won't make a lot of difference in the short-term," said Edwards. "Most of the money you make from this competition you make along the way. The rewards for reaching the final, and possibly winning it, are largely swallowed up by bonus payments."

Edwards recognised that the pounds 28m invested last summer in Dwight Yorke, Jaap Stam and Jesper Blomqvist has been crucial to the European Cup campaign. "The players we've brought in have been outstanding," he said. "I think Stam has been superb, and Yorke made his contribution with the goal - and even Jesper Blomqvist standing in for Ryan Giggs did his bit. All three players that we brought in have featured in our campaign and made a contribution."

However, United are already committed to spending heavily on the further redevelopment of Old Trafford, taking its capacity to 67,000, and a new training complex. This has been partly financed by their cup run. While United could make around pounds 16m from the competition, most of this had been earned prior to Wednesday. They were already in line for a pounds 5.2m share of the Champions' League prize-money pool, around a pounds 1m share of TV revenue, and should have taken about pounds 7m in home gate receipts. Arsenal, incidentally, earned around pounds 6m from the competition.

Reaching the final will bring United another pounds 2m from Uefa plus more than pounds 500,000 in gate receipts. Since winning it will only bring in an extra million Swiss francs (pounds 420,000), which is unlikely to cover the bonuses, the club may well be financially better off in the short term if they lost the final.

However, long term, they will profit from a win as the enhancement of the club's profile would have spin-offs in terms of sponsorship and merchandising. In addition, noted Edwards, while there may not be any more money it may be easier to attract players.

He said: "At the end of their career players want to look back on what they have won and if we are doing well in competitions like this they will be more interested in joining us. There are many great players who have not won the medals their ability and status warrants. Bryan Robson was sadly coming to the end of his career with us when we began winning championships while Alan Shearer has not won as much as his ability would merit."

Shearer, of course, has another chance to pick up an FA Cup winners' medal when his Newcastle United team play Manchester United at Wembley on 22 May but, four days later, he will only be a television spectator as the club he twice spurned contest the European Cup final.