United facing contract crux over Berbatov
Manchester United are facing a financial headache over the future of Dimitar Berbatov, which could result in them triggering a one-year contract option to prevent the £30.75m record signing leaving on a free transfer next summer.
Berbatov, who could be restored to the starting line-up against former club Tottenham as Danny Welbeck is suffering from a cricked neck, is the only senior player within the squad -- with the exception of 37-year-old Ryan Giggs -- to go into this season with less than a year remaining on his United contract.
Despite his omission from the United squad for last May's Champions League final defeat against Barcelona at Wembley, Berbatov has since repeatedly insisted he has no desire to leave Old Trafford.
The Bulgarian is understood to be prepared to run down his contract before securing a lucrative move as a free agent next summer.
United chief executive David Gill admitted last month that there was "no point yet" in opening talks with Berbatov over an extension to his contract -- due to the club holding a one-way option which enables them to add another 12 months on to the 30-year-old's deal at any time of their choosing.
But with Berbatov having lost his starting role alongside Wayne Rooney last season to Javier Hernandez, as well as Michael Owen's selection ahead of him as substitute against Barcelona, the value of retaining the player, who earns £100,000 a week, for a further season is yet to be determined by United.
Triggering the one-year option on Berbatov's contract would protect United from the prospect of his departure on a free next summer and enable the club to secure some financial return in the transfer market should he be sold.
Berbatov was overlooked in favour of Welbeck (20) against West Bromwich last Sunday, but manager Alex Ferguson has praised Berbatov's work ethic in pre-season and made it clear that last season's Premier League joint top scorer will have a role to play this season.
But with Hernandez and Owen due to return from injury following the forthcoming international break, Ferguson admits Berbatov faces a battle for a place alongside Rooney.
Ferguson said: "Wayne has been flying in pre-season. His fitness is terrific, he never stands still and he is a tremendous asset. It is interesting to see how he is combining with Welbeck at the moment. Both are doing very well together.
"When Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) comes back and with Berbatov, who has played very well in pre-season, I have a selection problem about the best combination.
"The boy Chicharito has goals written all over him, so it is not a bad position to be in actually."
Ferguson admits he expects a stern test against Spurs tonight and believes that Harry Redknapp's team could benefit from the sale of Chelsea target Luka Modric. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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