United's victory in £5m pay deal with Ferdinand

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The Independent Football

Ferdinand, 26, had originally held out for £120,000 a week, a salary that would have taken him well clear of the club's highest earner, Roy Keane, although it is understood that he eventually settled for a figure much closer to the £100,000 a week proposed by United. Ferdinand will be in the United side to face the Hungarian team Debrecen tonight in a Champions' League qualifier after enduring a summer of abuse from fans for refusing to sign a new contract.

The player has been barracked by supporters for his reluctance to agree to a deal that would make him the best-paid player in United's history following his £30m move from Leeds in the summer of 2002. Ferdinand said yesterday that he hoped that his new four-year deal would show his commitment to United after a difficult summer tour of the Far East when it was alleged that he made an abusive gesture to fans who questioned his loyalty.

The negotiations over Ferdinand's new contract began in April, before the takeover of United by the Glazer family, and have been complicated by pictures of the player in the same London restaurant as the Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, appearing in newspapers. Ferdinand's determination to hold out for better terms saw him targeted by militant United supporters, a group of whom visited him at home in Manchester to voice their disapproval.

The player's representative is the Israeli agent Pini Zahavi, who has built a reputation as the highest-profile transfer fixer in world football - a title he earned first under Kenyon, when he was still United chief executive, and then with Roman Abramovich's Chelsea. It is understood that Zahavi did not have a provision written into Ferdinand's original contract that his agent would be entitled to a payment when his client signed his second deal at Old Trafford.

United stopped that policy when it was disclosed in their financial results last year that Rodger Linse, Ruud van Nistelrooy's agent, was due £1.2m over the course of the Dutchman's current deal simply for the player signing again. Ferdinand's delay in signing the deal is believed to have centred on Zahavi's cut of his client's new wages, which had to be raised to £120,000 a week to accommodate his agent's commission.

The United chief executive, David Gill, has been uncompromising over the new policy of refusing to pay agents for renegotiating deals for existing players and no fees were paid in the recent new contracts for Wes Brown, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. .

The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said it was "great news" that Ferdinand had signed a new contract. "We are pleased with the outcome. We can look forward to the future."

Ferdinand said: "I'm delighted to be signing a new deal... I am looking forward to what I expect will be a great season. It's good to get this matter out of the way to allow me to concentrate on playing for United."

The player will find out tonight whether fans have forgiven him for temporarily rejecting what so many considered a vast salary at a time when many ordinary supporters were concerned about rising ticket prices under the Glazer takeover. Tonight will see another major fans' protest at Old Trafford against their American owners - the Glazers can at least regard Ferdinand's promise as a small victory.

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