Ed Woodward believes Manchester United are making progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has defended the club’s heavily criticised summer transfer business.
Woodward spoke in length on different issues in the club’s quarterly investor conference call on Wednesday morning, hours after United’s deserved Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain.
The club posted dire financial results, with net debt soaring from £270.5m to £474.1m, an increase of 133%.
United believe the debt increase is a reflection of the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with losses in matchday revenue and deferred sponsorships.
But executive vice-chairman has been pleased with what he has been seeing on the pitch and reiterated there is a strategy in place to be successful under Solskjaer.
“On the field, we will never be satisfied at Manchester United unless we are winning trophies,” Woodward said, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News.
But our third-place finish in the Premier League and strong cup runs last season showed that, while there is more hard work ahead and the path is not always smooth, we are making progress.
“We have a clear strategy under Ole to build a successful, committed team, with a core of homegrown talent blended with high-quality recruits that plays fast flowing, attacking football.
Tuesday’s special victory over the Champions League finalists in Paris provides a huge boost and will hopefully give Solskjaer a platform he can build from in coming matches.
But supporters are under no illusions and a victory, even of that nature, does not mask the incompetence shown in the summer transfer market by those above him.
United announced four deadline day signings including Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles, Facundo Pellistri and Amad Traore, but failed to address key areas such as right-wing and central defence.
However, Woodward has pledged to continue backing his manager and pointed to evidence of spending across Europe to defend the club’s lack of investment.
“While our commitment to investment remains, it must be balanced with recognition of the extraordinarily challenging environment facing us and all football clubs at this time. Let me share a few initial observations on this summer’s transfer window:
– Gross transfer spending across the big five European leagues was down circa 40% this summer, driven by both a lower volume of transactions and lower average fees
The contraction was also felt at the top-end of the market, with no transactions over €100m for the first time in 5 years; and an almost 30% reduction in the average fee for the top 30 transfers
– There was a material increase in the share of free transfers and loans (up over 20% and circa 30% respectively).
At a club level, many of our peers were cautious, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and PSG having a combined net spent of €9m; or a median net spend of €13m
– Of course there were one or two outliers the other way, most notably Chelsea, who were making up for not being able to be active during their transfer ban in summer 2019. But we need to look across multiple windows to gain a clearer perspective; and as I mentioned earlier our aggregate net investment over the last 3 transfer windows compares very favourably with our peers.
“The bottom line is we are investing and will continue to invest to back the manager.”