Nike favourites to beat Adidas and Puma and remain Man United kit supplier in 'billion dollar deal'
Manchester United must hand Nike the opportunity to match any deal offered by a rival sportswear manufacturer after giving Adidas, Puma and Warrior the chance to enter the race to supply the club's kit from the 2015-16 season.
With United attempting to secure a kit deal worth more than £65m-a-year to replace their current £23.5m-a-year agreement with Nike - the deal began in 2002 and expires in 2015 - it is understood that Nike remains in pole position to retain the contract due to pre-existing clauses handing the American company the option to match any offer submitted by another brand.
Discussions between United and Nike, which began with a six-month period of exclusivity in February 2013, have yet to result in a breakthrough.
But sources close to the discussions remain confident that Nike will ultimately strike an agreement with United due to the success of the partnership to date, which has coincided with the club dramatically elevating its brand and commercial earnings.
With the existing deal now regarded by both parties as outdated and undervalued, sources close to United's American owners, the Glazer family, believe the club is capable of a securing a 'billion dollar deal' - £600m - when they agree their next kit contract.
Real Madrid's £31m-a-year deal with Adidas is currently the world's biggest football kit contract and United are widely expected to at least double that.
And although Arsenal have this week announced the biggest Premier League kit deal with a £30-a-year agreement with Puma, that figure is regarded as modest by those close to the United talks.
United's decision to open the door for Adidas, Puma and Warrior - the football arm of the American company, New Balance - has led to the prospect of a bidding war for the kit contract.
Puma and Warrior are not regarded as serious rivals to Nike, however, leaving Adidas as the only credible competition, with the German giants keen to add United to a portfolio which already includes, Real, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and the German national team.
Richard Arnold, the head of United's Mayfair-based commercial operation, has met with senior figures from Adidas this week and representatives of Warrior, who are currently locked into a £25m-a-year four-year deal to manufacturer Liverpool's kit.
Discussions with Puma have also taken place, with the German company aware that any agreement with United would cost them more than double the £150m five-year deal with Arsenal that was announced on Monday.
With United recognised as the most powerful brand in world football, their success in securing a £53m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal with Chevrolet, which is due to commence this summer, has strengthened their prospects of dwarfing the kit deals of leading rivals such as Real and Barcelona.
Nike's £40m-a-year, seven-year agreement with the French Football Federation is regarded by United as the benchmark for negotiations due to the huge disparity between the global popularity of the United shirt in comparison to the France national team jersey.
Nike, who last month struck an eight-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain and a nine-year agreement with the USA national team, are understood to be determined to retain the United contract to keep the club alongside Barcelona and Brazil as their elite brands.
Biggest kit deals
£31 million per year - Real Madrid (Adidas 2012-20)
£30m - Arsenal (Puma 2014-19)
£26.3m - Barcelona (Nike 2006-13)
£25m - Liverpool (Warrior 2012-2015)
£23.5m - Manchester United (Nike 2002-15)
£22m - Bayern Munich (Adidas 2011-20)
£20m - Chelsea (Adidas 2010-18)
£12m - Manchester City (Nike 2013-19