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United at 'start of something special'

18 November 2014, 21:35

London - Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said Tuesday the club were at the "start of something special" despite announcing a near 10 percent drop in income in the first quarter of the financial year following the English giants' failure to qualify for this season's edition of Europe's elite Champions League.

Woodward also played down the prospect of United bolstering their squad during the next transfer window in January amid concerns that manager Louis van Gaal needs to improve his side's defence in particular.

Accounts published by United on Tuesday showed revenues for the three months ending September 30 at 88.7 million ($138.8 million, 110.9 million euros), a decrease of 9.9 percent.

Also read: Premier League TV rights probed by regulator

The fall in income could have been greater but the cost of missing out on European football has been partly offset by an increase in sponsorship money as well as a reduced wage bill at Old Trafford.

United's spending on employee benefits for the quarter fell by 3.5 million or 6.6 percent to 49.4 million, with a United statement saying this was "primarily to lower player wages".

Woodward said the mood at the club under Dutch boss van Gaal, brought in after United sacked former manager David Moyes, was buoyant.

"There's a real feeling that we as a club are at the start of something special," said Woodward in a conference call to investors.

Following a break for international matches, the English Premier League resumes this weekend with United in seventh position, three places but just two points away from the top-four finish required to qualify for the Champions League.

No short-term fixes

Woodward said there would be no panic buying in January but added United were eyeing bringing in new players after the end of the season.

"We are not looking to enter the market for short-term fixes," explained Woodward.

"However we have targets we are looking at for next summer and should any of those become available in January we would consider acting but we all need to recognise that is a low probability."

United played two fewer matches in the quarter reported on than in the corresponding three months in 2013/14, one Champions League game and one English League Cup game, which led to a drop of 4.2 million (21.8 percent) in match-day income to 15.1 million.

Broadcasting revenue was down 2.5million (13 percent) to 16.8 million with no TV money coming in from European football governing body UEFA.

The fall in wages at Old Trafford reflects both that United are not having to pay players Champions League bonuses as well as the fact that several well-paid first-team squad players have left the club including Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa.

Even though van Gaal has made a number of high-profile signings, including bringing Argentina winger to Old Trafford from Real Madrid for a United record fee of 59.7 million, he has presided over a lower overall squad wage bill than did Moyes.

United's much-criticised debt, the bulk of which is a legacy of the club's takeover by the US-based Glazer family, rose slightly to 362.2 million, while commercial income was up 5.2 percent to 59.9 million, thanks to a raft of new sponsorship deals.

However, the biggest of these, a record 10-year kit deal with German sportswear group Adidas signed in July worth 750 million that reflects the huge strength of United as a global commercial brand, won't kick in until the start of thre 2015/16 season.

"There is the unique power of the club to transcend the industry," said Woodward.



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