Ed Woodward has defended Manchester United’s summer transfer activity and backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the club’s overall debt rose to £474 million ($621m). United were expected to invest heavily in new additions to the squad after extending their trophyless run to three seasons in 2019-20.
Solskjaer was backed to the tune of over £150m ($196m) during his first full campaign in charge, with the likes of Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Bruno Fernandes proving to be valuable additions to the Norwegian’s ranks.
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A third-place Premier League finish was seen as a step in the right direction for the Red Devils, although the general consensus was that more reinforcements would be needed to challenge the elite, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho initially identified as their next priority target.
Donny van de Beek arrived at Old Trafford from Ajax for £41 million ($54m) on September 2 but supporters were made to wait until the October 5 deadline before seeing any further new faces.
United ultimately failed to land Sancho as Dortmund held firm on their €120 million (£109m/$142m) valuation of the winger, and last-minute deals for Alex Telles, Edinson Cavani, and Facundo Pellistri did little to satisfy a frustrated fanbase who had seen Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea strengthen significantly.
A slow start to the new Premier League season has increased the mood of negativity surrounding the Theatre of Dreams, but Woodward has insisted that progress is being made on and off the pitch while reiterating his faith in Solskjaer.
The executive vice-chairman delivered a message to supporters after the release of United’s end-of-year financial results, having seen the club’s revenue shrink by 20 percent amid the coronavirus crisis.
“On the field, we will never be satisfied at Manchester United unless we are winning trophies,” said Woodward. “But our third-place finish in the Premier League and strong cup runs last season showed that, while there is more hard work ahead and the path is not always smooth, we are making progress.
“We have a clear strategy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to build a successful, committed team, with a core of home-grown talent blended with high-quality recruits, that plays fast-flowing, attacking football.
“To that end, we are pleased with our recent additions to the first team squad of Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles, two players we had been tracking as part of our recruitment process for a long period, and Edinson Cavani, a top striker who adds a new option to our forward line
“Added to the arrival of Bruno Fernandes earlier this year, these recruits underscore our continued commitment to strengthening the squad and take our net investment in new players since summer 2019 to over €200m – more, I believe, than any other major European club over that time period.”
Woodward added on United’s net debt increase over the past year: “We are looking back today on what has been one of the most extraordinary and challenging seasons in recent history. “There are still big challenges and uncertainties ahead as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt our way of life across the globe.
“This disruption is clear to see in the financial results that we are announcing today and we expect the impact to remain visible for quite some time to come. “However, the past year has also demonstrated the underlying strength and resilience of the club and the meaningful impact the club can make in our communities through this period of adversity.”