Manchester United are ready United to launch spending spree on new players as commercial revenue rockets

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward plays down impact of any failure to qualify for Champions League

Manchester United are preparing for a summer of heavy spending in the transfer market after Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal left them 11 points adrift in the race for a Champions League place.

Needing a victory to reignite any realistic chances off finishing in the top four, Robin van Persie came closest to breaking the deadlock against his former club when his header was brilliantly saved by Wojciech Szczesny. But, despite denying Arsenal the opportunity to go back to the top of the table in place of Chelsea, United found Liverpool’s late win at Fulham stretched the gap to fourth place into double figures. David Moyes will now be given significant funds to rebuild his squad in the summer after the club’s latest financial results showed another hefty jump in commercial revenues in the second half of last year.

United’s chief executive, Ed Woodward suggested on Wednesday that despite smashing the club’s transfer record to sign Juan Mata for £37m last month, they intend to step up their activity in the transfer market “in a way we perhaps haven’t seen in recent years”.

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“We wouldn’t necessarily be looking to churn a huge number of players, because that can have a destabilising effect, but we aren’t afraid of moving in the market,” said Woodward, on a conference call with City analysts. “If you look at the historical churning of players by number, we’ve had roughly three sales and three purchases each year, and it’s possible we would do more than that.”

The club, 10 per cent of which is partially floated on the New York Stock Exchange, reported yesterday that its commercial revenues rose 30 per cent year on year in the six months to December, hitting £102.2m. Those figures were lifted by new sponsorship deals with Unilever, the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Fuji TV.

But the club’s share price has been battered as the team’s fortunes on the pitch have declined. The stock is around 22 per cent down on its peak of $19 last May. There was an initial jump in the price on Wednesday, but it soon fell back to around $14.8 (£8.97). Some hedge funds have taken up a short position, betting on further declines.

 

Unveiling the results, Woodward exhibited concern at United’s poor season, noting that “everyone from the team manager down has acknowledged [it] is disappointing”. Analysts estimate that United’s revenues could take a £15m hit if they miss out on Champions League football next season for the first time since 1995.

The results show that United’s debt pile – which alienated many fans in the wake of the Glazer family’s leveraged buyout of the club in 2005 – continues to fall. Gross debt declined to £356.6, down from more than £716.5m in 2008-09.

Wednesday night’s draw maintained Moyes’s record of never having won at Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool – a run of 38 games over 12 years. But the embattled manager has refused to throw in the towel just yet. “We have a lot of catching up to do. We have to win games and keep plugging away,” he said.

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