LONDON – Manchester United are bracing themselves for a new supporter backlash after their latest accounts revealed they lost £71million to financial obligations imposed by owners the Glazers over the last nine months.
While neighbours Manchester City have been taking the Barclays Premier League trophy from them and signing players like Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure in recent times, figures released on Thursday showed much of the Old Trafford revenue has been lost to interest payments and bond buybacks.
Put in simple terms, the money lost as United try to service debt levels that still stand at more than £420m is equivalent to £250,000 a day.
On Thursday night United supporters were aghast as the ongoing financial issues surrounding the Glazers’ ownership became clear - days after the club’s chief executive David Gill admitted they cannot compete with City in terms of player salaries.
Speaking at the Premier League awards this week, Gill said: ‘It depends a bit on the player and his advisers and agent. If that player says, “I am relaxed, I can either go to City, United or Chelsea and it will just come down to a money thing”, then they may out-muscle us. But that’s their choice. We have our own parameters.’
While United’s accounts say gross debt has dropped by £61.2m from £484.5m to £423.3m - a 12.6 per cent reduction - this is countered by the club’s cash reserves falling from £113m to £25.6m, a reduction of £87.4m.
In short, this means United are £26m worse off than 12 months ago.
A 5.8 per cent fall in total revenue - from £75.2m to £70.8m - reflects United’s exit from the Champions League at the group stage and an early defeat in the FA Cup.
But Gill remains upbeat and is confident United can remain competitive on the field and in the transfer market, saying: ‘City have taken it to another level but you can only have 25 players in the squad, so you can’t buy all the best players.
‘We don’t think they’ve got all the best players and nor can Chelsea, nor can Manchester United. That’s why, with (Sir) Alex Ferguson as the manager and the scouting system and the resources, we’ll make sure we improve the squad as necessary and continue to be up there.
‘City have a great team and squad, they won the League and we congratulate them. We’ve got to concentrate on our own club and look at where we fell short and what we have to do to improve that.
‘You can only control what you can control and we’ll do that. Our turnover and cash profits demonstrate that we can invest in players as necessary. We did it last year when we bought three players.
‘We still pay very good salaries. Other clubs may pay slightly more but I think that a player coming to Manchester United has the benefit of playing in front of 76,000 every week, our history and heritage.
‘Also, the commercial spin-offs if they want to choose to go down that route are probably better at Manchester United than other clubs, arguably anyway.
We shouldn’t be shy or embarrassed or worried about not being able to attract top players because I firmly believe we can. With Alex and what we offer as a club many people want to come and play for us.’
United confirmed Michael Owen is being released after failing to overcome the injuries that blighted his three seasons at Old Trafford.
The former England striker, 32, has indicated he would like to play for another Premier League club or move abroad. ‘I don’t think I have lost the ability to score goals or play at a high level,’ he said.
‘If they (his new club) are not in the Premier League, it may be further afield. I don’t think the Championship would be an option.’