Manchester United transfer news: Ed Woodward says club unlikely to strengthen in January

United transfer chief says his targets not likely to be available in January

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The Independent Online

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has played down the chance of the club making new signings in January despite concerns over the squad's strength in defence.

Woodward told investors United had targets in mind but almost certainly for next summer - and that it was unlikely they would become available in the January transfer window.

He was speaking after the club revealed figures showing income dropped by almost 10 per cent in the first quarter of their financial year due to the absence from the Champions League.

Revenue for the three months ending September 30 was £88.7million, down £9.8million on the £98.5million for the same period a year ago, a 9.9 per cent drop.

The fall in income could have been even greater but the cost of United's absence from European football has been partially compensated for by an increase in sponsorship money and a drop in the players' wage bill.

Woodward, speaking on a conference call to investors, said confidence was high under new manager Louis van Gaal.

He said: "There's a real feeling that we as a club are at the start of something special."

Asked whether United intended to strengthen the defence in January, Woodward added: "We are not looking to enter the market for short-term fixes. However we have targets we are looking at for next summer and should any of those become available in January we would consider acting but we all need to recognise that is a low probability."

United played two fewer matches in the quarter than in the equivalent three months in 2013-14 - one Champions League game and one Capital One Cup game - which led to a drop of £4.2million (21.8 per cent) in matchday income to £15.1million.

Broadcasting revenue was down £2.5million (13 per cent) to £16.8million with no TV money coming in from UEFA.

The club's debt, the source of much criticism from some supporters' groups, was very slightly up at £362.2million, while commercial income was up 5.2 per cent to £59.9million, thanks to new sponsorship deals.

United's spending on employee benefits for the quarter fell by £3.5 million, or 6.6 per cent, to £49.4million, "primarily to lower player wages", said the club in a statement.

The overall drop in wages is a combination of United not having to pay out bonuses for playing in the Champions League, as well as an exodus of highly-paid players from the wage bill including Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs, Danny Welbeck, Bebe, Javier Hernandez, Tom Cleverly and Shinji Kagawa.

Even though new manager Louis van Gaal has made a number of high-profile signings including Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao, he has still kept the wage bill lower than the squad under predecessor David Moyes.

Woodward also hailed the impact of United's academy in producing players and the success of the under-21 team, currently top of their league, as well as the continuing rise in interest from sponsors and broadcasters.

"There is the unique power of the club to transcend the industry," he said.

PA

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