Man United sponsor Adidas hits out at Van Gaal
Manchester United's biggest sponsor, the German kit manufacturer Adidas, has become the first of the club's financial backers to raise concerns over the football being played by Louis van Gaal's team, with the company's chief executive claiming it is "not exactly what we want to see".
Despite the club ending an eight-match streak without victory with a 2-1 win at home to Swansea City on Saturday, concerns remain over the entertainment levels at Old Trafford under Van Gaal, whose team failed to score in the first-half at home for a ninth successive game at the weekend.
While United's owners, the Glazer family, and executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, resisted pressure to sack Van Gaal last month following four successive defeats, which included Champions League elimination, the comments from the Adidas CEO, Herbert Hainer, are unlikely to be ignored by the club's hierarchy and will increase the pressure on the Dutch manager.
United are six months into a £75m-a-year, 10-year deal with Adidas and, although Hainer admitted to being impressed by the club's global appeal and selling power, he also took the unusual step of criticising the brand of football being played by the team this season.
"Business with Manchester United is going very well, we sell more shirts than expected," Hainer said. "We are satisfied, even if the current playing style is not exactly what we want to see."
Hainer continued: “This (commercial) success confirms again that Manchester United is not just a football club, with more than 650 million fans globally.
“Without doubt, it is one of the world’s most supported sports symbols.
This special club has not only a rich history, but also a reputation for success and the unexpected.”
United chose not to respond to Hainer’s remarks but, after they announced a 14.1 per cent annual growth in sponsorship income to £154.9m in accounts ending 30 June 2015, the importance of commercial income to the club is clear.
And while Hainer’s comments will do little to affect the value of United’s lengthy deal with Adidas, the income from which will drop only if the team fail to qualify for the Champions League for two successive seasons, the potential damage to the club’s brand inflicted by a failure to play attacking football is the element most likely to worry Woodward and the Glazers.
United currently hold the world record for kit and shirt sponsorship deals, with Chevrolet paying £53m a year until 2021 to have their logo on the club shirt.
Meanwhile, Van Gaal has rejected an approach from Milan to take Marouane Fellaini on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.