Manchester United to throw money at push for a trophy

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LONDON — English Premier League club Manchester United hinted today at another spending spree this summer after promising to have a squad capable of competing with the best teams in Europe next season.

Led by new coach Louis van Gaal, the 20-times champions spent around £150 million (RM845.6 million) last year after slumping to a shock seventh place in 2013-14 when they failed to qualify for the lucrative European Champions League for the first time in 19 years.

Fourth in the Premier League with only two games to go, United have effectively secured a return to the elite European competition, boosting fans’ spirits and the club’s finances.

Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said United were pleased with Van Gaal’s performance but that the club would strengthen the squad to challenge for trophies next season.

“We expect to be active again during the (transfer) window,” Woodward said, having already agreed to sign Dutch forward Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven for around €30 million (RM121.5 million).

“The squad will be absolutely deep enough and ready to challenge on all fronts next year.”

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United, owned for the past decade by the American Glazer family, reported a 17.7 per cent fall in third-quarter revenue to £95 million, a third straight quarterly decline because of the absence of Champions League money.

Match-day and broadcast revenue both fell in the quarter but the global push to sign deals in areas from sponsorship to mobile content continued to bear fruit, with commercial revenue up 11.7 per cent.

That commercial expansion — central to the Glazers’ ambitions of cashing in on the club’s 659 million global followers — and cost savings allowed United to raise their 2015 core earnings guidance range to £103-110 million.

While down from £130 million a year ago, the range was ahead of previous guidance of £90-95 million.

Gross debt rose 12.4 per cent to £395.4 million, primarily because of exchange rate movements, United said.

The club’s finances will also be bolstered by a world record £750 million kit deal with German sportswear group Adidas from next season. Adidas has supplanted rival Nike in a 10-year agreement.

Shares in the club, down 7.2 per cent on a year ago, were unchanged at the close at US$15.57 in early trade, valuing the business at US$2.55 billion (RM9.2 billion).