'Business as usual' at United despite AIG collapse

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The Independent Online

Manchester United insist it is "business as usual" at Old Trafford despite the near collapse of major sponsors AIG.

The US financial giant was saved by a multi-billion dollar cash injection on Tuesday night. What would have been the biggest bankruptcy America has ever known was only avoided due to the US Federal Reserve's active involvement by ploughing in £47bn, forcing 80 per cent of the company into state hands.

However, United, who have just embarked on the third part of a four-year deal with AIG worth a record £56.5m, remain calm about the situation. "It is business as usual," said a spokesman for the Glazer family.

Indeed, the Glazers, who have previously attracted a lot of criticism for the massive debt they took on to buy the club in 2004, are eager to confirm the European Cup winners remain on a stable financial footing.

Only last month United signed a massive £9.3m marketing contract with Saudi Telecom, giving it a major foothold in the cash-rich Middle East, with other deals in the process of being negotiated.

And, contrary to recent speculation, the club's corporate boxes are running at 96 per cent of capacity this season, higher than 12 months ago.

"Manchester United is financially strong," insisted the spokesman. "We have not been adversely affected by the credit crunch."

Having seen their previous deal with Vodafone terminated at short notice, United will be glad they have not found themselves in a similar situation, although there has been some suggestion that the club's recent on-field success could lead to an increase in sponsorship should AIG call time on the current deal.

Meanwhile, the former United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich is keen to prolong his career but accepts he may be forced back into retirement if no offers are forthcoming.

Bosnich, who was sacked by Chelsea after failing a drugs test in September 2002, came out of retirement last year and has recently impressed during a seven-week stint for Central Coast in Australia's A-League.

Despite some wonderful form, which included a "save of the season" against Wellington last weekend, the 36-year-old has no definite plans at this stage beyond a first family Christmas in his homeland for almost 20 years.

He said: "I would love to [keep playing]. I was out of football for a long period and sometimes you don't realise how much you love something until it is gone.

"I just need to keep working hard, performing well and hopefully those doors will open. I'm not thinking too far ahead. Hopefully it keeps going the way it's going but it can also go the other way and experience has taught me that. You just have to be humble, which I really am trying to be, and be happy where I am at the moment."

Asked if retirement was a possibility, he replied: "We will see when the time comes. For the time being I'm going to keep working hard and not look too far ahead. If you have one foot in the future and one foot in the past then the present suffers. I don't want that to happen."

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