The Manchester United chief executive, David Gill, has taken a swipe at local rivals Manchester City by claiming that his club develops world stars rather than buys them.
Gill, speaking at the opening of a Manchester United Soccer School in Abu Dhabi, also insisted that his club was still able to compete with the likes of City and Chelsea for the best players. "We can compete for top players. People say we don't, but we have bought well, and our goal at Manchester United is to make sure we develop our own players and also buy good players," he said.
Responding to a question whether United could compete should a player like Kaka become available, he said: "If we wanted to. Over time, if you follow Manchester United, you will know we have rarely bought the world star. We have made them world stars by playing for Manchester United, and that will continue."
United's purchase by the Glazer family in 2005 left the club with debts of more than £500m. Supporters, outraged that the Glazers had to borrow heavily to buy the club and left it so deeply in debt, set up their own football club in response, FC United. Nonetheless, Gill says he is comfortable with the club's financial situation.
"Now, in terms of our business model, we have got debt that we didn't have before. The debt levels we have got are roughly £500m in bonds; the interest costs on that are roughly £45m, and our EBITDA [measure of operating cash flow] is in the order of £100m, and growing. So we can easily service our debt. So we are comfortable with our business strategy and business model going forward," he said.
The sale of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 was another controversial moment, with many interpreting it as a sign that United had gone from being a buying club to a selling club. Gill rejected that assumption.
"No we didn't want to sell him [Ronaldo], we didn't want to, but he was going to go anyway," he said. "It wasn't about money, it wasn't about his contract. We showed with Wayne Rooney we will pay the appropriate amount to keep players."
Gill remained tight-lipped on the future of United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The Scotsman has presided over Old Trafford since 1986, winning 11 league titles and two European Cups in that time. There has been speculation that Jose Mourinho, currently in charge at Real Madrid, is being lined up to take over.
Gill said: "All I would say to that is that Alex is on a rolling contract – he is on the record as saying that he will continue to manage as long as he keeps fit, so in answer to the question, while we follow what is happening in football, I am not going to sit here today and say who we have in mind. Because we don't know what the time frame is... I am sure there are some other good managers around. He's [Mourinho] a good manager."