Ed Woodward defends transfer record with United on track for record revenue
Ed Woodward has defended Manchester United's record in the transfer market, despite the team's poor performances and disappointing position in the Barclays Premier League.
United may be six points adrift of the top four and out of the Champions League, but their success off the pitch is unparalleled.
The club announced record earnings of £133.8million for the second quarter of the financial year on Thursday - an increase of 26 per cent.
Commercial, broadcasting and sponsorship revenue rose by considerable amounts, which means United are on track to become the first British club to earn half a billion pounds in a year.
The club estimate they will make £500-510million this year thanks to their numerous sponsorship deals.
"Our financial performance during the second quarter was very strong with record revenues and EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization)," Woodward said.
During a conference call with investors, United's executive vice-chairman reeled off a long list of commercial deals the club had signed recently.
He pointed out United had secured deals with Sina Sport to air MUTV in China, American company Columbia, who became the club's "official outdoor clothing partner" last month, and YOU.C1000, who are now United's "official isotonic drinks partner in Indonesia."
With the team faring so poorly on the pitch, United's investment of the money they have earned from their commercial deals has inevitably come under the spotlight.
One investor wanted to know how Leicester could have put together their title-leading team for little over £20million, while United sat 12 points adrift of the Foxes in fifth position after spending over £250million since Van Gaal took over.
Woodward argued it would be impossible for United to assemble such a successful squad on the cheap.
"Leicester is a fantastic reference point for everyone this year," he said.
"I think the philosophy we have is to target quality of players based on the huge amount of scouting that we do and analysis within the training ground and then we do our best to do the best deal we can.
"Some players are bought by other clubs with an eye to them developing into something special in a few years' time, whereas there's more pressure on the bigger clubs to bring in players who are going to be hitting the ground running and top players, verging on world-class players, almost immediately so there is a slightly different market in which people are buying."
To the annoyance of many United fans, there were no questions from investors about Van Gaal or the possibility that he could be replaced by Jose Mourinho, who has made it known he would like to be considered if the Dutchman was sacked.
One of the concerns about Mourinho centres on his poor record of bringing through youth players.
Woodward made it clear that United's fabled academy is key to the club's future.
"The academy continues to be the heart of the club," Woodward said.
"Giving youth a chance is part of our philosophy, part of our DNA."
The executive vice-chairman ordered a review of the academy following the departure of its head Brian McClair, who left to become the Scottish Football Association's performance director last year.
Nicky Butt, who is currently coaching the Under-19s, is thought to be under consideration for McClair's post while Oxford United manager Michael Appleton has also been linked with the post.
"We took the opportunity last year of Brian McClair leaving to do a root and branch review of the academy," Woodward added.
"That is now complete and changes are under way. Announcements will follow in the following days.
"Our key competitive advantages are that we have an unmatched track record of player development compared to any other team in England, and secondly the runway we deliver of first team opportunities to those players coming through. That is very different to some of our competitors."
Players like Ramires, Jackson Martinez and Alex Teixeira have moved to China from European clubs recently to take advantage of the huge wages on offer in the Chinese Super League.
Woodward does not feel threatened by the emergence of the league and claimed it could be a handy tool for selling unwanted players this summer.
"I do think there will be more activity coming in the summer, but it is very difficult to predict what kind of impact that will have," Woodward said when asked about China's rise.
"If nothing else, it's another useful market if we are looking to sell players."