Saturday 28 March 2020


Manchester United poised to pay a £20m price if they finish without a trophy for the first time since 2005

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

Manchester United are set to pay a £20m price if they finish without a trophy for the first time since 2005
Seeing red: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wil struggle to compete with City's financial muscle  Photo: REUTERS

Manchester United's elimination at the group stage of the Champions League and 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 their American owners, the Glazer family.

With neighbours Manchester City on the brink of securing the club’s 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 £600 million partial flotation of the club on the Singapore Stock Exchange, combined with annual interest payments in excess of £40 million – comparable to a £30 million signing and his wages – on United’s £439 million debt, hint at further difficulties for manager Sir Alex Ferguson as he attempts to lure at least three new players to Old Trafford to strengthen his squad this summer.

Having banked £45 million 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 around £17 million as a result of lost television 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.

But United will suffer an anticipated £5 million 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 40 per cent of England’s television market share and the runners-up 30 per cent. The third-place team receive 20 per cent and the fourth 10 per cent.

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 £2 million one-off bonus as part of Phil Jones’s transfer to United last summer if City go on to win the title.

Ferguson, who claimed at the weekend 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.

But having spent almost £50 million 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 condescending 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 pay 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 redouble their efforts to drape a heavy cloak of secrecy over their transfer targets, simply to avoid being gazumped by City.

In a world of agents aiming to strike the best deal for themselves and their clients, such a strategy relies on the goodwill of those involved, another challenge for United.

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

“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. “It’s never easy to find a solution immediately, but it’s not over yet. We’re not dead.

“It hurts me a lot to think we were eight points clear and allowed City to get back in the title race, but we can’t hide from that.

“I still believe we can win this title, but in order to maintain that hope we have to give ourselves the chance to believe. I’ve seen a lot of things in football, so why not another surprise?”

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