Ed Woodward was at pains to warn United fans earlier this year about the difficult task ahead for the club.
He was quoted by The Guardian: “It may not be ‘business as usual’ for any clubs, including ourselves, in the transfer market this summer.”
Woodward reiterated his worry about football finances in his programme notes ahead of the Crystal Palace fixture.
No doubt, the pandemic is having a de-stabilising effect on football up and down the pyramid. Many lower league clubs are fighting for survival.
For Manchester United, it is just another excuse for the club to struggle to reclaim it’s place as the best in England.
Fans are tired of excuses
What the pandemic has done, by putting a strain on club’s finances, is to show just how badly Manchester United have been run over the past seven years under Ed Woodward’s tenure as chief executive.
Now on the fourth manager in this time, United are paying the price for years of botched transfer strategies, and terrible contracts.
The expensive contracts handed out to players are now crippling the club.
Players like Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling all signed new deals in 2018 or 2019 and have more than two years each left to run on their contracts.
United are stuck with them, and there are no takers. It was a small mercy we managed to get rid of Alexis Sanchez earlier this summer.
An inability to shift unwanted players from the club’s books limits the amount the club can spend in the transfer market this summer.
While sensible and prudent financial decisions need to be made, these are tougher for United because of the mistakes of the past.
Other clubs are active
The Telegraph claims clubs across England have spent more this summer than last year.
Wolves took their spending to £80 million this week with a deal for Nelson Semedo.
This is offset by their player sales, meaning they break nearly even, but simply being able to sell players is something United cannot boast of being able to do.
Even newly promoted Leeds United have outspent United, as have Aston Villa. Both clubs have had their fair share of financial uncertainty in the recent past.
United are inactive by comparison, signing just one player. Fortunately that deal for Donny van de Beek was a smart one, and he is earning sensible wages, reported by De Telegraaf to be around £108,000 per week.
The Telegraph try to give some perspective on the Red Devils’ lack of activity, reporting United will lose £140 million as a result of the pandemic – more than any other club.
This comes across as a media brief put forward from the club, in an attempt to explain the lack of activity.
We don’t doubt the accuracy of the figures. United earn more in gate receipts than any other club.
But the club would be far better equipped to deal with the shortfall if the team had been run properly across the previous seven years, having consistent Champions League money, and players we could sell to raise funds without weakening the team.
Owners are a problem
Chelsea have been able to get around the financial problems because they are bankrolled by super-rich Roman Abramovich.
Manchester United’s owners the Glazers are not putting up any of their own money into the club.
Instead all they do is take money out. Even with United crippled by debts, the Glazers collect dividends.
The Guardian reported that a figure of £23 million was received at the end of 2019. These dividends come out quarterly.
Financial data collated by the Swiss Ramble shows that over the last five years, the Glazers have taken £209 million out of Manchester United, and not put a penny in.
That £209 million would come in pretty handy right now. It would buy Jadon Sancho, Dayot Upamecano, Alex Telles, and still have money left over.
The pandemic shines a light on just how badly run Manchester United are, and for a fanbase which harbours aims of seeing the club compete for titles again, it just isn’t good enough.
There is no sympathy from fans when the club has been so inefficiently run over the past seven years. In the past four transfer windows, just five players have been signed on a permanent basis.
Champions League qualification was supposed to help us move forward. Instead, at best, it is enabling us to temporarily stand still.
The quickest way to make money is to be successful. United had a headstart on other clubs when Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and have got it wrong at every turn.
Nobody wants to hear excuses about the pandemic. If United were better run financially – and in a sporting sense, the club would be better equipped to ride the storm.
When financial reports are released in October they will make bleak reading.
But until the mistakes of the past are erased, like the club getting rid of players on bad contracts, United cannot move forward.
And most worryingly of all, while the Glazers own the club, Manchester United just cannot fulfil the ambitions supporters have.
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