Wednesday 17 January 2018

£20m: Manchester United count cost of failure to land trophy

Storm clouds gathering over Old Trafford last Sunday could be a sign of some dark days ahead for the club financially
Storm clouds gathering over Old Trafford last Sunday could be a sign of some dark days ahead for the club financially

Mark Ogden

Manchester United are facing a shortfall of at least £20m (€25m) if they end the season without a trophy for the first time since 2005.

United's elimination at the group stage of the Champions League and a reduction in earnings from next season's competition, should they fail to win the Premier League on the final day of this campaign, ensure that quarterly accounts due to be published this month will reflect the true cost of the club's most disappointing season under the Glazer family.

With neighbours Manchester City on the brink of securing their first league title since 1968, United's attempts to close the gap on their Abu Dhabi-backed rivals are set to be compromised by the huge reduction in prize money due to be deposited into the Old Trafford accounts in comparison to earnings from the 2010-11 campaign.

The inability of the Glazers to successfully launch a £600m partial flotation of the club on the Singapore Stock Exchange, combined with annual interest payments in excess of £40m on United's £439m debt, hints at difficult times ahead in the transfer market.

The situation is likely to hinder Alex Ferguson's attempts to lure at least three new players to Old Trafford to strengthen his squad during the summer.

Having banked £45m in prize money from UEFA last season after reaching the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley, United's failure to progress to the knockout stages of this year's competition is expected to cost them around £17m as a result of lost TV revenue and gate receipts.

Finishing as Premier League runners-up to City will make little difference to United's domestic earnings, with only a £750,000 downturn anticipated from a second-place finish.

However, they will suffer an anticipated £5m reduction in Champions League earnings next season if City win the league because of UEFA's complex distribution formula.


Under the scheme, the Premier League champions receive 40pc of England's television market share and the runners-up 30pc. The third-place team receive 20pc and the fourth 10pc.

United's fourth-round exit in the FA Cup will also prove detrimental to finances, particularly as Old Trafford did not benefit from hosting an FA Cup tie this season. Twelve months ago, United staged three sell-out televised home ties en route to the semi-final defeat against City.

A silver lining to the Glazers' cloud can be found in the absence of bonus payments this season, while Blackburn will not receive a £2m one-off bonus as part of Phil Jones's transfer to United last summer if City go on to win the title.

Ferguson, who last week claimed that City's financial muscle had made the transfer market "insane", will be handed money to spend by the Glazers, who have sanctioned a season-ticket price freeze, this summer.

However, having spent almost £50m on Jones, David de Gea and Ashley Young last year, United are unlikely to invest a similarly high figure during this close season.

One senior figure at a leading Premier League club claimed privately last week that United had earned the tag of '' within boardrooms because of their reluctance, or inability, to compete at the top end of the transfer market in recent seasons.

Last summer, United were convinced they would secure a deal for Arsenal's Samir Nasri until City made their move and offered the Frenchman a £170,000-a-week deal at the Etihad Stadium -- a figure way beyond United's package.

Twelve months on, United are likely to be beaten by City again in the race for Lille's Eden Hazard, forcing the club to increase their efforts to drape a cloak of secrecy over transfer targets, to avoid being gazumped by City.

Despite the likelihood of the Premier League trophy leaving Old Trafford for the Etihad later this week, United captain Patrice Evra insists it would be foolish to claim that this season will spark a United decline.

"I know that if we don't win the league, a lot of people will say this is the end of the empire and ask how we will survive," Evra said.

"But it's not over yet. We can win this title."

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