Manchester United’s controlling shareholders the Glazer family and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward have been reviled by fans for many years and one of the major complaints has been their obsession with commercial interests and the impression that they put financial matters such as sponsorship deals before football.
It is looking to be quite ironic that the very thing for which the owners have been criticised could be about to transform the club’s fortunes and could potentially help to return the Red Devils to greatness.
The coronavirus crisis is inevitably leading football into a massive recession, with transfer values and wages set to fall dramatically as clubs struggle to overcome their financial losses due to lost gate receipts and TV revenues.
Industry experts Transfermarkt have already downgraded player transfer values by 20% (10% for players 21 or under).
Manchester United look set to emerge from the crisis in a far better financial position than any of their rivals, domestic or international, due to that very policy of heavy investment on the commercial side. Those commercial deals remain intact so a much bigger portion of United’s business is unaffected by the recession.
FC Barcelona could be viewed as a barometer of where football is heading and how United may be able to take advantage.
Before corona hit, the Blaugrana were reportedly lining up a £97 million deal for Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez and a £133 million deal for Neymar from PSG.
When the virus took hold across Europe, reports soon started to emerge that the Catalan club would no longer be able to afford both players and would have to decide which is more important.
Just a few days later, multiple reports from across Spain and Italy are saying that Barça can no longer afford Martinez’s £97 million release clause at all and that the only way they can land their man is to offer a player in exchange – the most likely option being Antoine Griezmann.
The story is much the same at Real Madrid. Pre-corona, los Merengues were reportedly lining up moves for Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba. Now it seems they are losing faith in their ability to raise sufficient funds for Mbappe and are likely to pull the plug on Pogba, leaving the cheaper Haaland as top priority purely because of affordability.
Meanwhile Tottenham Hotspur are reeling from huge debts from their new stadium construction and look as if they might have to sell prize asset Harry Kane. Arsenal’s owner Stan Kroenke is reportedly set to have to bail out the Gunners with a personal loan and while Manchester City’s finances may be stable, their UEFA ban and concerns over financial fair play regulations may also restrict what they can do in the market.
Suddenly, Manchester United appear to be in a very powerful position in terms of transfers and player contracts.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is well aware of the situation.
‘There might be just a situation there where you can exploit, and I know that we at Man United we are one of the biggest, and the biggest, financially well-off’ he said in an interview with Sky Sports recently.
Of course, nobody really knows how football will emerge from this world crisis and a lot will depend on factors such as whether the current season can be completed and how soon stadiums will be open again to fans. But for the Red Devils at least, those issues are not as crucial as they are for other clubs.
United are hoping to make Jadon Sancho the next player to wear the famous number 7 shirt. But how much do you know about the players who have worn it before? Take our quiz below to find out.