United wary of 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.

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 £110m turnover. The total wages figure of £36.9m is over £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. "We would obviously like to put it to bed, but Roy has said that he doesn't want to do it until the end of the season."

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.

Zinedine Zidane believes Scholes' United colleague David Beckham is the best choice for European Footballer of the Year. Zidane, last year's winner, said yesterday that after a year of injuries he did not expect to be in contention for the award, which will be announced next month. "There are players who have produced much more than me. I am thinking of (Christian) Vieri, (Luis) Figo and Rivaldo but above all of David Beckham," he said.

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