Chief executive David Gill was proud to announce on Friday that Manchester United has become the first English club to crash through the £100million profit barrier “These results show record turnover, record operating profits and exceptional growth in our commercial activities. We will continue to concentrate on generating the resources to invest in the team and the club to keep us at the top of world football.”
Despite that glowing statement however, there was another record that Gill chose not to highlight. It’s the figure which shows that for the year ending June 2010 the club suffered record losses of £83.6million. So what does it all mean? Is United heading down the same sad Liverpool road as many fear or are “The Glazers good for the club” as Sir Alex Ferguson has said on numerous times?
For this economic novice, the answer is frankly “I don’t know” because the whole thing is far more complicated than understanding a simple game of football. The widely contrasting figures once again emphasise how Manchester United remain one of the world’s most attractive sporting organisations while at the same time showing the cost of a hugely controversial takeover by the Glazer family in 2005.
Sir Alex has recently praised the levels of investment the Glazers have poured in, insisting that much of the spending goes unnoticed as it is focused on bringing high quality youth players to the club “They’ve been great owners” he insists “they have supported me every way I’ve asked them. If you look at any time I’ve wanted a player they’ve provided the money, if you look at what we’ve done this season – and people don’t recognise this – we’ve spent over £20m on young players.”
It has to be admitted that my default attitude has always been one that what Ferguson says is good enough for me but there are times when doubts begin to creep in. How long can any club continue to lose £83.6m per year before the quality of their team is seriously eroded? How long can Sir Alex continue to perform miracles at his age and most worrying of all, how much longer is he prepared to stay in the job before deciding that his paramount priority becomes that of his health?
As much as it must be conceded that no man is bigger than the club, Ferguson has now got such an influence on United that you begin to wonder if even the Glazers might not be finally prepared to relinquish their determined hold on it once Sir Alex decides to call it a day.
Record turnovers such as those announced by Gill this week may well continue at Old Trafford but so could the record losses. The day when Ferguson is no longer there to balance the two on the football field could be the one when the Glazers finally accept that enough is well and truly enough.
Are the Glazers likely to remain at Old Trafford once Ferguson retires?