Belfast Telegraph

Ed Woodward hails Manchester United's 'tremendous progress' under Jose Mourinho

Ed Woodward believes Manchester United are making "tremendous progress" under Jose Mourinho, despite missing out on the Premier League top four.

Three stuttering seasons followed Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, with last year's FA Cup success the only major trophy won during that period.

Mourinho was charged with turning things around last summer and United will next week look to add the Europa League to their EFL Cup and Community Shield successes.

Things have gone awry in the Premier League, though, with a top-four finish already beyond them, meaning Champions League qualification rests squarely on beating Ajax next week.

Failure to win the Europa League will see their lucrative kit deal with Adidas take a £21million hit, yet executive vice-chairman Woodward believes things are on the up under Mourinho.

"We're approaching the end of a compelling season - o ur first with Jose Mourinho as manager and one which I believe we've made tremendous progress, both on and off the pitch," he said.

"It has been an incredibly busy season, which will see us play 64 matches including an astonishing nine matches last month. This will be the second busiest season in our history.

"In the league we set a new club Premier League record with 25 matches unbeaten within a single season.

"We've won the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup, and obviously we're delighted to have reached the final of the Europa League, where we'll face Ajax in Stockholm next Wednesday. (It is) the only major trophy we have never won."

Woodward, speaking on United's third quarter earnings conference call, suggested his positivity is shared by fans, with season tickets sold out for the 2017-18 season over three weeks earlier than ever before.

Plans are already afoot for the next campaign, with signings targeted and a longer, if more straightforward, pre-season tour organised in the United States.

Having endured a farcical trip to China last year, United will travel Stateside to face LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona this summer.

The clash with City will be the first Manchester derby hosted on foreign soil - history that will be made in Houston, Texas after a quagmire pitch saw last July's friendly in Beijing cancelled.

"Visiting North America will give the team the best possible preparation for the new season, using top-class training facilities and playing at some great stadiums," Woodward added,

"Given all the records we've broken this year, we'll watch closely to see if we break our tour attendance record."

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