Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Man Utd have got £33m reminder of how bad their transfer window could have been

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There would have been butterflies in the stomach of the Manchester United squad on the morning of May 25. The FA Cup final at Wembley was do-or-die territory when it came to how this season would be remembered.

But among the watching executives, especially Sir Jim Ratcliffe, there would have been a similar feeling of nervousness and queasiness ahead of the showdown with Manchester City. Ratcliffe would have been desperate to savour that winning feeling as a part-owner of his boyhood club, but the 71-year-old businessman would have also been aware of how just valuable this match was going to be.

He had become the chief decision-maker at the club at a time of peril. Results had nosedived, the manager was under pressure and the financial situation was starting to look a little dire. An early exit from Europe had compounded matters and if they failed to win the FA Cup final, United would have gone into next season without being in any continental competition.

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That is disastrous for a club of United’s stature, but it would have been even more catastrophic for the accountants. This was a club already battling against a breach of financial fair play rules while Ineos considered a range of cost-cutting measures, which have included making 250 of the club’s 1,100-strong workforce redundant.

Finishing eighth in the Premier League had denied the club entry to even the Europa Conference League for 2024/25, so winning the FA Cup was the last avenue into Europe. The Europa League doesn’t offer the prestige of the Champions League and falls well short of providing the same revenue, but it does bring in plenty of extra cash, through broadcast deals and by providing a chunk of extra games at Old Trafford, each worth in the region of £3m.

United, of course, took that final invitation, beating City 2-1 to edge themselves into the Europa League. In the process, they saved the job of Erik ten Hag, but they also made sure the club were capable of being a little more aggressive in this transfer window.

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