Ed Woodward has promised to keep improving Manchester United’s squad, although the executive vice-chairman has said this summer’s transfer window will not see the same “churn” of players.
United have splurged vast amounts on new players since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, including last summer’s world-record acquisition of Paul Pogba after deals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly.
Those signings led to a 14.2 per cent rise in the wage bill over the prior year quarter, as shown in United’s financial results for the quarter ending December 31, 2016, and costs could increase further if the likes of Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann arrive at the end of the season.
Executive vice-chairman Woodward on Thursday pledged to again back manager Jose Mourinho in the transfer market, but told investors United’s squad will be more steady than recent years.
“Are we happy with the roster at this point? Yes, I think there’s a happiness from the manager at this point, as you can tell in all his recent interviews in terms of where we are as a squad,” Woodward said.
“I think there’s always going to be continual improvement. I think even if you win everything, you still want to improve the squad – that’s the nature of the dynamic industry that we’re in.
“But I think we aren’t necessarily in a position where we have to churn a large number of players.
“I think I’ve guided before that we want to get to a more steady state and be buying and potentially selling a lower number of players each year.
“I think we’re in that kind of environment now compared to where we were two, three years ago, when perhaps there was a little more churn required from the playing squad perspective.
“And in terms of guidance around that, obviously we don’t guide around player spend.
“It’s a number you can track almost on a deal-by-deal basis because things are very widely published when they happen, but it is not something we will guide on.”
Woodward was similarly coy when asked by an investor about United’s pre-season tour destination.
Last summer’s trip to China end farcically as their friendly with Manchester City was cancelled due to the poor condition of the Bird’s Nest pitch in Beijing.
Press Association Sport understands United intend to go to the United States this time around, although Woodward would only speak on the make-up of the tour.
“I can say it will be a larger tour than last year,” he said.
“Obviously last year was a) a smaller tour in planning and b) smaller in terms of the games because of obviously what happened in Beijing.
“It will be a broader tour in terms of number of games than we experienced last summer.”
During a wide-ranging presentation and Q&A session, Woodward underlined his belief that their sponsorship arm will continue to grow and announced an app based around the club’s in-house television station MUTV is to be launched globally.
The executive vice-chairman also explained the rationale behind the decision to freeze season-ticket prices for the 2017-18 season.
“That is the sixth year in a row we’ve done that,” he said of this week’s announcement. “That is a policy with regards to the core fans at the stadium.
“I think the number one most important thing is a full stadium, the second most important thing is a noisy stadium and we are committed to keeping that.”
Woodward expects such support to keep United as the world leader in terms of shirt sales, pointing to the lack of impact Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit to Real Madrid had in 2009.
“How do we see that progressing? We see that continuing,” he said.
“Of course stars help but the reality is we did a lot of analysis when Cristiano left the club in 2009 and it doesn’t have a material impact when a star leaves because people go to buy a Manchester United shirt.
“And then when they go in the shop or they’re online deciding which name to put on the back, that’s when they make that decision.
“But the decision of making the purchase is a different one to the name on the back, so we see that continuing.”