Manchester United ‘ahead of schedule’ in transfer recruitment; club debt rises to over half a billion dollars

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Manchester United are “ahead of schedule” in their mission to rebuild their playing squad and expect less activity in future summer windows after the club announced a net loss of £115.5 million for the 2021-22 season.

Figures released on Thursday for the final quarter of their financial year showed losses that were £23 million higher than the previous 12 months despite revenue having risen by 18% to £583 million after the full returns of fans to English football stadia. The club’s net debt rose from £419.5 million to £514.9 million ($581 million), something United said was due to the British pound’s weak position against the US dollar. United also paid out a record £33.6 million in dividends to shareholders.

The club’s accounts for 2021-22 revealed that they had the biggest wage bill in Premier League history as the recruitment of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho in the summer of 2021 sent their salary level to £384.2 million, smashing the previous record of £355 million spent by Manchester City.

That investment in players was not reflected on the pitch with United limping to sixth place in the Premier League and Europa League qualification (the absence of Champions League football means the Red Devils predicting relatively static revenue for 2022-23). Speaking in a conference call with investors, chief executive Richard Arnold said: “Clearly our on-pitch performance in finishing sixth in the Premier League last season fell short of our aims and expectations. In response, we have made important and necessary changes, including new leadership for the men’s first team under Erik ten Hag and the strengthening of the playing squad during the summer transfer window.”

That summer activity saw United spend in excess of £200 million — the most they ever have in a single window — on the likes of Antony, Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez whilst Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira was the only sale to recoup a significant fee. It should be noted that big earners such as Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani did come off the wage bill whilst leaving on free transfers; football director John Murtough said the club do not intend to be as busy in the coming windows.

“Overall, we are ahead of schedule in our recruitment plans as envisaged at the start of the summer, and we do not anticipate the same level of activity in future windows,” he said. “As always, our planning focuses on the summer window.”

Murtough added: “We will continue to support Erik in ensuring he has players with the right quality and characters to achieve success, while ensuring that investment remains consistent with our commitment to financial sustainability.”

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