Manchester United are set to become the first English club to announce an operating profit in excess of £100m when accounts for the financial year ending June 30, 2010 are published on Friday morning.
But with the club unable to count on the £80m transfer windfall generated by the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in June 2009, which contributed to a pre-tax profit of £21.6m last year, Friday's figures are also expected to show a sizeable pre-tax loss, despite an increase in off-field revenue during the last financial year.
The size of the pre-tax loss will lead to further scrutiny of United's debt, which was listed at £716.5m in last year's accounts – £509m of which was secured against the club, with the remaining figure making up the PIK loan taking out by United's owners, the Glazer family.
January's successful £500m bond issue helped alleviate the financial pressure on the Glazers, but the club remains liable to annual interest payments in excess of £40m. Prohibitive 'swap costs' related to the bond issue will also have increased the club's debt outgoings.
The bond issue sparked the supporter-led green-and-gold campaign against the Glazers, but although season ticket sales dropped during the summer, a proposed boycott failed to materialise and the club continues to attract attendances close to Old Trafford's 75,769 capacity.
The £100m operating profit figure, based on figures before depreciation and amortisation, dwarfs the £56.8m operating profit recently announced by Arsenal in their year-end accounts.
And in figures published by Manchester City last week for the end of the last financial year, their overall loss of £121.3m included an operating loss before amortisation of £55.1m.
Although United can point to a significant increase in commercial and media revenue in the past year, with a number of territory-specific sponsorships generating sizeable new income, last season's exit in the third round of the FA Cup and Champions League quarter-finals is likely to lead to a drop in match-day income.
With net transfer spending expected to be in the region of £20m, supporters' groups are likely to point to that figure being less than half that committed to servicing the club's debt.
But sources close to the club are determined to stress that the figures underline the strength of United as a moneymaking machine, particularly in challenging economic times.