Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has said the club are having to “carefully manage resources” because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as the club’s latest financial results showed net debt has increased by 133% to £474.1 million.
As well as the huge increase in debt, United’s fourth quarter and full financial year results also showed a revenue drop of 19% to £509m and a loss of £23.2m compared to a £18.9m profit made last year — all largely because of effect of COVID-19.
“Our focus remains on protecting the health of our colleagues, fans and community while adapting to the significant economic ramifications of the pandemic,” Woodward said. “Within that context, our top priority is to get fans back into the stadium safely and as soon as possible.
“We are also committed to playing a constructive role in helping the wider football pyramid through this period of adversity, while exploring options for making the English game stronger and more sustainable in the long-term.
“This requires strategic vision and leadership from all stakeholders, and we look forward to helping drive forward that process in a timely manner.
“On the pitch, we have strengthened the team over the summer and we remain committed to our objective of winning trophies, playing entertaining, attacking football with a blend of academy graduates and high-quality recruits, while carefully managing our resources to protect the long-term resilience of the club.”
Despite the financial pressures of the pandemic, Woodward pointed to the signings of Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles as proof that investment in the squad will continue.
United have endured an inconsistent start to the new season which has included home league defeats to Crystal Palace and Tottenham as well as an impressive 2-1 victory at Paris Saint-Germain to kick off their Champions League campaign and Woodward insists manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer retains the backing on the board.
“We will never be satisfied at Manchester United unless we are winning trophies,” Woodward said. “But our third-place finish in the Premier League and strong cup runs last season showed that, while there is more hard work ahead and the path is not always smooth, we are making progress.
“We have a clear strategy under Ole to build a successful, committed team, with a core of home-grown talent blended with high-quality recruits, that plays fast flowing, attacking football. While our commitment to investment remains, it must be balanced with recognition of the extraordinarily challenging environment facing us and all football clubs at this time. The bottom line is we are investing and will continue to invest to back the manager.”
United and Woodward have faced criticism for their summer business — notably for missing out on top target Jadon Sancho. Much of the supporters’ unhappiness has been framed against Chelsea’s outlay of more than £200m this summer, but Woodward was keen to play down the comparison while insisting United’s investment in new players matches that of their rivals in the Premier League and across Europe.
“There were one or two outliers, most notably Chelsea, who were making up for not being able to be active during their transfer ban in summer 2019,” Woodward added. ” But one needs to look across multiple windows to gain a clearer perspective; and as I mentioned earlier our aggregate net investment over the last three transfer windows compares very favorably with our peers.”