Belfast Telegraph

Quiet January at United is likely, says Ed Woodward

By Martyn Ziegler

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has played down the chance of the club making new signings in January despite concerns over the squad's strength in defence.

Woodward told investors United had targets in mind but almost certainly for next summer - and that it was unlikely they would become available in the January transfer window.

He was speaking after the club revealed figures showing income dropped by almost 10 per cent in the first quarter of their financial year due to the absence from the Champions League.

Revenue for the three months ending September 30 was £88.7m, down £9.8m on the £98.5m for the same period a year ago.

The fall in income could have been even greater but the cost of United's absence from European football has been partially compensated for by an increase in sponsorship money and a drop in the players' wage bill.

Woodward, speaking on a conference call to investors, said confidence was high under new manager Louis van Gaal.

He said: "There's a real feeling that we as a club are at the start of something special."

Asked whether United intended to strengthen the defence in January, Woodward added: "We are not looking to enter the market for short-term fixes. 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 that is a low probability."

United played two fewer matches in the quarter than in the equivalent three months in 2013-14 - one Champions League game and one Capital One Cup game - which led to a drop of £4.2m (21.8 per cent) in match-day income to £15.1m.

Broadcasting revenue was down £2.5m (13 per cent) to £16.8m with no TV money coming in from Uefa.

The club's debt was very slightly up at £362.2m, while commercial income was up 5.2 per cent to £59.9m, thanks to new sponsorship deals.

United's spending on employee benefits for the quarter fell by £3.5m, or 6.6 per cent, to £49.4m, "primarily to lower player wages", said the club in a statement.

The overall drop in wages is a combination of United not having to pay out bonuses for playing in the Champions League, as well as an exodus of highly-paid players from the wage bill, including Nemanja Vidic.

Even though Van Gaal has made a number of high-profile signings including Angel di Maria, he has still kept the wage bill low.

Woodward also hailed the impact of United's academy in producing players and the success of the under-21 team, currently top of their league.

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