Man Utd on ‘right track’ after signing likes of Cristiano Ronaldo – Ed Woodward

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Ed Woodward is “more confident than ever” that Manchester United are on the “right track” having brought in the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo over the summer.

The Old Trafford giants, who finished as Premier League and Europa League runners-up last season, have followed up the big-money acquisitions of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane by signing a club great.

Ronaldo completed his blockbuster switch from Juventus on deadline day, bolstering a side that is looking to win their first trophy since 2017 and currently sit top of the Premier League.

And while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under scrutiny following 10-man United’s shock 2-1 loss at Young Boys in Tuesday’s Champions League opener, executive vice-chairman Woodward is sure they are on the right track.

“The team has made a strong start in the league and everyone at the club is feeling excited about the rest of the campaign,” Woodward told investors on an earnings conference call on Friday.

“We significantly strengthened the squad over the summer, with the addition of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Tom Heaton.

“These signings have demonstrated our continued ability to attract some of the world’s best footballers to Old Trafford, and our firm commitment to helping Ole deliver success on the pitch. Furthermore, we recently sold Dan James to Leeds for a fee of £25million, plus add-ons.

Ed Woodward was at Old Trafford for Cristiano Ronaldo's second Manchester United debut against Newcastle
Ed Woodward was at Old Trafford for Cristiano Ronaldo’s second Manchester United debut against Newcastle (Martin Rickett/PA)

“We have been clear in our strategy to build a squad with a blend of top-class recruits and homegrown talent, comprising a balance of youth and experience, with the aim of winning trophies and playing attacking football the Manchester United way.

“As part of this, we have continued to strengthen our recruitment and scouting processes and we have also increased our investment in the academy, to ensure that this success is sustainable.

“While squad-building is a constant process, we are more confident than ever that we are on the right track.

“The same is true of our women’s team, which has made a positive start to the season under our new head coach Marc Skinner and we are firmly committed to continuing to build our presence in the women’s game.”

Woodward, who will leave his post at the end of the year, said United’s “optimism about on-field prospects goes hand-in-hand with the confidence in our robust operational business model”.

The executive vice-chairman’s comments come as the club revealed their financial results for the year ending June 30, 2021.

In their previous annual results, the Old Trafford giants’ revenue dropped from £627.1m to £509m – figures that incorporated just a three-month hit of the coronavirus pandemic.

The economic ramifications continued in the year ending June 30, with United’s revenue dropping down to £494.1m as they recorded an operating loss of £36.9m last season.

The net loss of £92.2m for that period – up 297.4 per cent from £23.2m in 2020 – was largely down to the accounting impact of a £66.6m non-cash tax charge.

Net debt was down from £474.1m to £419.5m year on year, thanks in no small part to season ticket revenues and a favourable exchange rate.

Champions League participation was a key reason behind wages increasing by 13.6 per cent to £322.6m – a club record wage to turnover ratio of 65.3 per cent.

United chief financial officer Cliff Baty said he expects “wages to increase by around 20 per cent” this season due to their summer transfer business.

Manchester United have hosted two full houses so far this season
Manchester United have hosted two full houses so far this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ronaldo has been the star arrival and his impact was subject to several questions in a call with investors, who did not ask about protests against the Glazer family, fan share scheme or post-Woodward leadership.

United group managing director Richard Arnold has been tipped to replace Woodward and was coy when asked about the off-field impact of Ronaldo’s arrival.

“Just to make it clear the results we’re presenting today and the description of them do not include any effects related to Cristiano,” he said.

“Obviously it’s very early in terms of his arrival and his impact on the pitch is immediate and visible.

“We’ll be providing an update as to where we are in terms of off-pitch activity and any effects there are in the next results we do.”

Pushed further on Ronaldo, Arnold said: “All of the players that are signed are signed exclusively for their ability to deliver on the pitch.

“My job in running the commercial operations of the club is to generate as much income as possible, to sustain a virtuous cycle – and that relates to us as a club, us as a team and every single one of our players, both individually and collectively in terms of the work we do with them.

“So whilst every signing we make – and again some are better known than others – have a positive effect on fan engagement and a positive effect on the activity we do, that’s very much putting fuel into a well-run engine.

“We’re well renowned in the sports industry for doing a good job of maximising the commercial opportunities that come to us.

“But our focus is on signing players to make sure that they deliver on the pitch and then maximising the opportunity afterwards.

“To single out any one player in terms of their impact, particularly this early after a signing, would be wrong.”

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