Ferdinand dismisses pay reports as 'rubbish'

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The England defender agreed a four-year deal with the Old Trafford club on Monday and will sign it before their Premiership opener against Everton on Saturday.

Ferdinand wants to repay the loyalty shown to him by the club throughout his lengthy ban for a missed drugs test, and hopes to stay beyond the end of his n ew deal.

The 26-year-old has become a target for United supporters, who have not forgotten how the Red Devils stuck by Ferdinand - and paid his contract in full - throughout his eight-month ban for a missed drugs test, and they turned on the defender during the summer.

The centre-back was jeered during friendly appearances at Clyde, Peterborough and Antwerp, as well as on the club's recent Far East tour, and he admitted it hurt.

He said: "It's not nice when you are getting stick from some supporters, particularly over something that was never true. I will never forget how the club stood by me during my eight-month ban last year and of course it hurts to suggest I would throw that loyalty back in their face. I have got a thick skin and have always accepted that criticism is something which comes with the territory. You are up there to be shot at when you play for a club like Manchester United and it's up to you to deal with it.

"But the supporters were reading all sorts of stuff about me that was totally wide of the mark and that has made things difficult in recent weeks."

Ferdinand rejected suggestions he had turned down a £100,000-a-week offer from United and demanded £120,000.

"I don't know where those stories came from, but it was a load of rubbish. I can't blame the fans for wondering what was going on. I would have asked the same questions if I was reading some of that stuff.

"The other United players were naturally asking me about developments. But I told them I would be staying at United and that was always my intention. I will be signing a new contract this week. The deal runs until 2009 but, hopefully, I can stay on beyond that."

Ferdinand has now set his sights on adding more medals to the single Premiership title he won during his debut campaign with United. "I said all along that I wanted to stay at the club and this has now put that issue to bed," he said. "I am looking forward to the start of what I expect will be a great season."

Although United's injury problems are nowhere near as extensive as last year, their manager Sir Alex Ferguson begins the new campaign with a few worries. Ryan Giggs has a chest infection, and Louis Saha is also absent following a recent knee operation.

The latest setback in Saha's injury-plagued career at United is thought to have provided a major obstacle to any bid for Michael Owen.

Real Madrid have stated Ferguson has inquired about the England star, although while the United manager has refused to discuss the issue, club officials have rejected the claim.

Instead, Ferguson preferred to laud the virtues of Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored 110 goals in his first three seasons at Old Trafford, form he is eager to rediscover after last term's injury-ravaged campaign.

If United maintain their policy of playing two wide men off a single striker - which saw Wayne Rooney shunted to the left and right flanks during his debut season for United - it would appear there is not enough room for Van Nistelrooy and Owen in the same side.

And while Ferguson is known to be an admirer of the England striker, he is equally clear in his opinion Van Nistelrooy has no superior in the goalscoring stakes.

"Ruud is the best finisher I have seen in my time as manager," said the Scot. "In that respect, he is absolutely incredible. He had a fragmented season last year and his goalscoring ratio was nothing like it has been in previous campaigns. But he is fit and looking terrific.

"We expect and we know he will deliver and when he hits that goalscoring form, it will make a massive difference to us," Ferguson insisted.

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