Manchester United have agreed an eight-year deal worth £180million to rename Carrington as the Aon Training Complex.
Having bought out their £10million-a-year training-kit deal with DHL last year, United have given further evidence of their huge commercial appeal by striking the lucrative agreement with Aon, whose £25million-a-year shirt sponsorship deal is set to be replaced in 2014 by a £53million annual package with Chevrolet.
United are also understood to be close to announcing a deal worth £100million with a leading airline following the end of their agreement with Turkish Airlines ahead of tonight's Manchester Derby.
None of the signed nor planned deals will affect Old Trafford, which “will not be sold”, said Ed Woodward, the United executive vice-chairman who replaces David Gill as chief executive in the summer.
The timing of the training ground and kit deal with Aon coincides with the prospect of United edging closer to a 20th domestic title with victory at home to City on Monday evening.
Roberto Mancini’s team currently trail United by 15 points, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad within three victories of reclaiming the title lost to their neighbours last season.
Ferguson has admitted that the manner of City’s last-minute title success in May last year provided the primary motivation for Manchester United to reclaim the Premier League trophy this season.
United can edge closer to claiming a 20th domestic title tonight by defeating City at Old Trafford and moving 18 points clear of Roberto Mancini’s team.
Having lost the title on goal difference last season following City’s injury-time victory at home against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the campaign, United could ultimately respond by winning the title by a record margin if they surpass the 18-point advantage they posted over runners-up Arsenal in 1999-2000.
Chelsea’s Premier League record haul of 95 points, set in 2004-05, is also within United’s reach, but Ferguson admits that the seeds of his team’s title challenge were sown on the final day of last season. “The way we lost it resonated with a lot of people in the club,” the United manager said. “The only thing you can do after that kind of thing is do better.
“That’s what the players did. They focused, their team spirit was terrific and there was a definite purpose in terms of getting the title back. They have achieved a lot this season and their approach to win the next match has been very positive.”
“We’ve improved. That’s the difficulty for [City]. Even if their points tally was as good as it was this time last season, it wouldn’t have matched ours anyway. So you have to give us credit for that – 25 wins out of 30 shows the conviction of the players’ performance.”
On the occasion of City’s last visit to Old Trafford, in October 2011, Mancini’s team inflicted a humiliating 6-1 defeat on the home side — the heaviest of Ferguson’s 26-year reign as United manager. “It’ll be different on Monday,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson is waiting on the fitness of Nemanja Vidic, Rafael da Silva and Wayne Rooney before selecting his team, but Robin van Persie is certain to start tonight, despite failing to score in his past nine games.
The 29-year-old forward has proven to be the key signing of the season in the title race, having rejected a move to City in favour of United when deciding to depart from Arsenal.
However, despite claims by Mancini that the season could have been different if Van Persie had chosen City, Ferguson insists that was never going to happen. “He was never going to go to City, so it’s hypothetical. But he has been fantastic for us, a really good footballer,” Ferguson said of the Dutch international. “We needed someone with a bit of maturity up front and he’s been terrific.
“His anxiety over not scoring recently will vanish. He was unlucky at Sunderland, he hit a fantastic shot which was deflected in. It will change and he’ll get goals.”