United's pounds 1m a year offer to Ferguson

Football
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The Independent Online
Manchester United have offered Alex Ferguson the opportunity to double his income, with the potential to bring him pounds 1m a year. The deal, which was put to him at a board meeting of Manchester United plc yesterday, would make him the highest paid manager in England. But it is only for four years - not the six which the double Double-winning manager wants.

Under the new offer, Ferguson would be paid a basic annual salary of around pounds 500,000, twice his current salary. This could double again with bonuses and, even in a relatively poor year, is likely to reach pounds 650,000.

In the past Ferguson has felt undervalued compared with managers such as Kenny Dalglish, Howard Wilkinson and George Graham but this deal would put him on a par with his counterparts across Europe. The basic salary matches that of Fabio Capello, the former Milan coach who is about to join Real Madrid.

"The money will not be problem," said a United source yesterday. But the contract's length is. Ferguson, 54, wants a commitment which would link him with Old Trafford until he is 60. He feels that he has earned it. In his nine-and-a-half years at the club, United have ended 26 years of fruitless championship-chasing with three titles in five seasons, won three FA Cups, a League Cup, a European trophy, and built a youth system which is the envy of the country.

However, six years is a long time in football and the club are reluctant to make such a commitment - even Capello has only a three-year contract. Yesterday's offer was an increase on United's original three-year deal, but it does not go far enough for Ferguson.

Both Alan Shearer and Blackburn Rovers have denied that the England centre- forward could be heading for Old Trafford - the emphasis was, however, tellingly different.

Speaking at England's Bisham Abbey training camp, Shearer said he knew nothing of the transfer and said his agent, Tony Stephens, had not been in touch with United. Shearer then went on to say: "I am very flattered to be linked with such a great team as Manchester United who have done so well over the last few years." He added: "I am contracted to Blackburn. I signed an extension last year and have three years still to go." The 25-year-old striker would not discuss details of his contract which, it has been suggested, has an escape clause in it.

Robert Coar, the chairman of Rovers, was far more forthright. "These are stories without any foundation whatsoever," he insisted. "It is frivolous fiction and the reports are completely and utterly untrue."

No-one would have expected him to say anything different, especially as the deal, if it is done, is unlikely to be concluded until after England return from their tour of China and Hong Kong.

One club which definitely has been in touch with United is Liverpool. Their chief executive, Peter Robinson, has written to them to apologise for the incidents at the end of Saturday's FA Cup final, when Eric Cantona was spat at and Ferguson punched. The gesture has been well-received at Old Trafford.

FOOTBALL'S BIG EARNERS

Managers (excluding Alex Ferguson)

1 Ruud Gullit (Chelsea) pounds 1.2m

2 Kevin Keegan (N'castle) pounds 450,000

3 Bryan Robson (M'boro) pounds 400,000

4 Ray Wilkins (QPR) pounds 350,000

Players

1 Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal) pounds 1.1m

2 Eric Cantona (Man Utd) pounds 1m*

3 Alan Shearer (Blackburn) pounds 800,000

4 Stan Collymore (L'pool) pounds 750,000

5 Chris Sutton (Blackburn) pounds 720,000

* with bonuses (figures show annual salary)

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