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FERGIE'S £100m war chest

LOCK up your strikers -- Alex Ferguson has a war chest. Manchester United chief executive David Gill has moved to counter speculation that the club is short on transfer cash by throwing £100million into the pot.

Amid widespread rumours that Fergie will not be able to compete in the market because of United's huge debts, Gill's words are intended to calm fans' fears that next summer will be quiet around Old Trafford.

Supporters have seen the vast majority of the world record £80million fee received from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo remain under lock and key and even a £12 million deal for Fulham's highly-promising defender Chris Smalling will not go through until the summer.

And with debts, excluding the controversial and highly expensive payment-in-kind notes owed by the Glazer family now nudging over £500million, the worry is the situation is not going to get any easier.

But Gill has insisted Ferguson has plenty of cash at his disposal and can enter the market any time he chooses.

"The owners understand that they will only get value back by ensuring the team continues to be successful and continues to attract exciting players and produces results off the pitch as well," said Gill. "They are in it for the long term.

"I do not have a clue about how many players we would buy in the summer. We do our planning throughout the year but the money will be there and it might be more than £55million.

"We have well over £100million in the bank, so we will assess the squad over the next few months and go into the market as appropriate."

One man who definitely will not be sold is Wayne Rooney. Gill is adamant a new contract will be offered to the 24-year-old hitman, who scored his 22nd goal of the season in yesterday's astonishing demolition of Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

"We would hope Wayne would stay with us until he has finished playing," said Gill. "He has a contract to 2012 and that will be addressed during the close season because we would want to put him on a new long-term contract.

"We have not got round to those discussions yet because Wayne is focussing on the football and the World Cup. But he is 24 and has his best years ahead of him. For obvious reasons, very few UK-based players want to leave Manchester United."

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