LONDON • Manchester United's players will be forced to take a pay cut next season if they do not qualify for the Champions League, The Times has revealed.
The players and coaching staff stand to lose about £14 million (S$26 million) if they fail to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season. That works out to about £500,000 a player.
Louis van Gaal, the United manager, heads to Tottenham Hotspur today knowing that defeat will leave his team four points adrift of the Champions League places if, as expected, Manchester City beat West Bromwich.
Failing to return to Europe's top table would be a blow to the credibility of the club and the manager, who would also likely be sacked.
It would hit the pockets of some of United's top players too. Many first-team players have clauses in their contracts which state that their wages would be cut if they do not qualify for the Champions League.
Most United players commit to two levels of payment when they sign their contracts, according to The Times. All players receive a "standard" wage packet and, with Champions League qualification, they receive a larger wage packet, known as the "standard plus" rate.
Van Gaal's hopes of saving his job will depend, to a certain extent, on Wayne Rooney, his captain.
The 30-year-old has missed United's past 11 games because of a knee injury he suffered in the 2-1 defeat by Sunderland in February.
The England captain trained twice with the United squad last week but will not be considered for today's key match at White Hart Lane.
Instead, van Gaal has decided that Rooney will follow the path taken by other senior players, such as Michael Carrick and Phil Jones, by playing for the Under-21 side against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford tomorrow.
It will be Rooney's first appearance for the club's U-21s, but he is said to be eager to prove his worth to van Gaal and Roy Hodgson, the England manager, who said recently that he could not guarantee the striker a place in his starting XI at the European Championship.
"He has trained with us two times but he has to build up his capacity in the Under-21s," van Gaal said. "I hope he will give us an extra spark for the run-in. I am counting on him. Wayne is a player who is always doing his utmost best."
Rooney's place in Hodgson's side has come under threat thanks to the emergence of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane. They have 41 league goals between them this season; Rooney has seven.
But van Gaal still regards his captain as England's best forward. "It always depends on the shape or the form of the players, but when you see Wayne's record, he is the best striker," the United manager insisted.
The Dutchman admires Kane, but pointed out that the Tottenham striker had not found the net in his three appearances against United.
"I cannot remember that he scored against us. When I say that, I am challenging him also, so it's not so smart of me," said van Gaal. "But we are never defending against just one player. We defend like a team and we defend the attack of Tottenham.
"We have analysed them. Of course, Kane is very important, but Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are also very important. So, it's the team you have to solve and not only Harry Kane."
The United manager will seek goals from his young strikers, namely Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, who also praised Kane, saying: "He had a great season last year and he has underlined just how good he is this time around. He's a quality player who is very entertaining to watch."
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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