United, backed by record revenues, plan to spend big on signings

LONDON • Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward did not address Louis van Gaal's future yesterday but promised that there will be a war chest available to whoever is managing the club in the summer.

"I do think there'll be more activity in the summer," Woodward said on a day when United announced their second-quarter results.

"Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority - success on the pitch."

United expect to become the first Premier League club to make more than £500 million (S$1 billion) in the 2016 financial year, despite underperforming on the pitch.

Second-quarter revenues rose by 26.6 per cent to a record £133.8 million, with commercial revenues up 42.5 per cent to £66.1 million and broadcasting revenues climbing 31.3 per cent to £37.3 million.

Sponsorship revenue also rose by £1.6 million, keeping the club on track to generate between £500 million and £510 million in revenues for the current financial year.

Despite Woodward's upbeat message, uncertainty continues to swirl around van Gaal, who has battled speculation about his future for several months.

United limped out of the Champions League in the group phase and face a battle to qualify for next season's tournament as they currently lie six points below the top four in the Premier League.

They remain alive in the FA Cup and Europa League but were knocked out of the League Cup by second-tier Middlesbrough.

Reports emerged last week that United have opened talks with Jose Mourinho, sacked by Chelsea in December, to replace van Gaal. But Woodward was not asked about van Gaal's position in a conference call with investors yesterday.

One investor asked about the difference between the recruitment strategies of United and Leicester City, who are flying high at the Premier League summit despite operating on a relative shoestring budget.

"Leicester is a fantastic reference point for everyone," Woodward replied. "Some players are bought by other clubs with an eye to them developing into something special, whereas there's more pressure on the bigger clubs to bring in players who'll hit the ground running."

He added that United were operating in a "slightly different market" and needed to sign players who will be "world-class almost immediately".

He said it was "difficult to predict" what impact the emergence of the Chinese Super League would have on the close-season transfer window, but said: "If nothing else, it's a useful market if we're looking to sell players."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'United, backed by record revenues, plan to spend big on signings'. Print Edition | Subscribe