MANCHESTER UNITED are set to fire the starting gun in the battle for Chris Rigg by tabling a formal offer for the Sunderland teenager.

Rigg’s future will be one of the key narratives on Wearside this summer, with the Black Cats hoping to be able to persuade the 16-year-old to sign his first professional contract at the Stadium of Light.

Last summer, Rigg signed a two-year scholarship deal with Sunderland, but FA rules mean he cannot sign his first professional deal until after his 17th birthday, which falls on June 18.

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Sunderland officials are understood to have discussed the potential terms of a professional contract with Rigg and his representatives when they signed off on the scholarship agreement, and are hopeful the Hebburn youngster will opt to remain on Wearside.

He finished the season having made eight Championship starts and 13 substitute appearances, and was a first-team regular under Mike Dodds in the final month of the campaign. The hope amongst the Sunderland hierarchy is that his positive development to this point will persuade him to commit the first part of his professional future to the Black Cats.

However, while the existing scholarship agreement still has one more year to run, it does not prevent Rigg opting to sign professional terms elsewhere once he is 17.

A host of clubs have been monitoring his development over the last 12 months, with Newcastle United and Arsenal both known to be extremely interested in securing his services. German giants Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen were also linked with a possible summer move for Rigg over the weekend.

At this stage, however, it is Manchester United that are poised to make the strongest move for Rigg, with the teenager understood to figure prominently in the new Old Trafford regime’s attempts to overhaul their academy set-up and begin rivalling the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in the battle for the best domestic teenage talent.

With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group enacting a series of major changes at all levels of Manchester United following their successful takeover of the footballing operation of the club, there is a desire to make a flagship youth signing to signal their intention to shift their transfer approach.

Rigg, a member of the England squad at the Under-17s World Cup who has established himself at Championship level despite only being 16, fits the bill and Manchester United have had a scouting presence at the vast majority of Rigg’s games for both Sunderland’s Under-21s and first team in the last couple of seasons.

If Manchester United make a formal move, it is likely to be followed by competing offers from rival clubs. Sunderland are unlikely to be able to match the financial figures offered by other clubs, but will hope their ability to offer a season of regular first-team football in the Championship will tilt things in their favour.


If Rigg was to move on this summer, his status as a scholar will at least ensure Sunderland will receive a decent level of compensation, which would not have been the case had he moved on last summer.

Any club wanting to sign Rigg would have to make a financial offer to Sunderland. If that was rejected, but Rigg decided he wanted to move and a compromise could not be reached, the fee would be determined by an independent tribunal.

A tribunal would take a number of factors into account including first-team appearances, the time spent within a club’s academy set-up, contract offers made and international caps won at various youth levels.