Manchester United chief executive David Gill has rubbished suggestions he “rewarded bad behaviour” by handing Wayne Rooney a huge pay rise.
Gill also denied he had encouraged players and agents to demand ever-more astronomical wages by doubling Rooney’s salary earlier this season.
Rooney looked certain to leave Old Trafford back in October when he handed in a shock transfer request after questioning United’s ambition.
But, days later, he signed a new five-year deal reportedly worth £200,000 (€233,000) a week, sparking claims the whole saga had been about money.
While giving evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee inquiry into football governance yesterday, Gill was accused of “rewarding bad behaviour” over the Rooney deal.
But he said: “I don’t think it’s particularly outrageous.
“We’ve done deals with certain players recently and the impact of what we paid Wayne never came up.
“I don’t think we should hone in on Wayne Rooney is this particular situation.”
Meanwhile, Gill declared he would continue to snub fan groups who were “at war” with United’s owners.
Gill leapt to the defence the Glazer regime at Old Trafford, insisting the Americans had made United stronger since their 2005 takeover and claiming the debt they had saddled on the club had had “no impact” on Alex Ferguson’s ability to buy players.
The United board have refused to enter into dialogue with groups such as the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) and the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA), who are fundamentally opposed to the Glazers’ ownership.
This policy was challenged by MPs yesterday, with Gill asked whether he was simply avoiding engaging with those who disagreed with him.
But he was unmoved, saying: “If we’re going to be castigated for not speaking to one or two groups who have particular, very clear agendas, then so be it.
“We’ll take the castigation.”
Gill was adamant United did respect the opinions of their fans and held forums with them three to four times a year to gauge – and often act upon – their concerns.
“We’d be naive and stupid if we didn’t understand what the fans think, what they want, and reflect that in our business policy,” said Gill, who insisted he had no problem with MUST and IMUSA members attending such forums as individual United supporters.
But he added: “At the same time, we’re not going to engage in structured dialogue with organisations like that.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate or sensible.
“They’re at war with the owners.”
The battle lines have been drawn largely over the issue of United’s ownership being leveraged by debt, for which the club pay annual interest in the region of £45m (€52.4m).
Critics argue that is money which could otherwise be spent on players or reducing ticket prices at Old Trafford.