United players to accept pay cuts

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The Independent Football

Manchester United will move to cut the basic wages of their players by as much as a quarter and move them to performance-related deals.

Manchester United will move to cut the basic wages of their players by as much as a quarter and move them to performance-related deals.

The so-called "intelligent contract" that moves with a club's changing circumstances was pioneered by sides like Bolton, unsure if they would stay in the top flight. It would require a cataclysm for Manchester United to be relegated but at Old Trafford the size of the salaries would now depend on whether they made the group stages of the Champions' League.

"Getting to the Champions' League group stage is critical, and it is important that players contribute to that element," said United's chief executive, David Gill, yesterday. "Part of their remuneration would be dependent on them getting into the Champions' League. If we don't get in, then our income goes down. That would be mitigated by the players' wages going down. It would be good if we could get 25 per cent (of a contract) based on that second element. For the young players, we need to look at them having appearance-based money but they will still get a very nice basic by any stretch of the imagination." Alan Smith, who signed from Leeds in the summer, is already believed to be on this type of deal and those whose contracts expire at the end of this season - and they include Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and John O'Shea - will be expected to move to a similar arrangement if they accept fresh terms from United.

It is unlikely Sir Alex Ferguson's players will lie awake wondering how to pay the mortgage as United have not finished lower than fourth, which now secures entry into the Champions' League qualifiers, since 1991. However, Manchester United's early exit from last season's Champions' League, eliminated by Porto at the first knock-out stage, and the need to find £39m to fund the further expansion of Old Trafford has concentrated minds, even at a debt-free and highly-profitable club.

"We can't ignore what's happening with the income," said Gill. "Our money is down by £14m. The players need to understand that. We have seen with certain players this year that they haven't had rises. The economics of the game have changed. For footballers now, the most important thing is about the length of the contract and security but we are still talking about very attractive packages."

Gill announced to the United AGM yesterday that money would be recouped from Lazio for the sale of Jaap Stam three years ago. The Italian club had persistently defaulted on payments for a transfer of £16m and United's accounts showed a balance of £12m was still owing. Lazio have, however, agreed to pay half the debt now and the rest in six months' time, with interest.

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