Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has said the club is still ‘absolutely committed’ to supporting manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer amid growing public pressure on the Norwegian from fans and media following a poor start to the season.
United’s promising momentum discovered during ‘Project Restart’ in June and July, which paved the way for a third-placed Premier League finish, has fizzled out in 2020/21. Results and performances have generally been disappointing aside from a handful of impressive wins.
There had been growing speculation that the November international break could signal a change in manager and 90min has previously explained that lines of communication with representatives of Mauricio Pochettino have never been closed.
But United were thought to be privately backing Solskjaer even before a much needed 3-1 win over a dangerous Everton side at Goodison Park in their last outing, and now Woodward has made a public statement in support of the 47-year-old club legend.
“On the pitch, while there is still hard work ahead to achieve greater consistency, we remain absolutely committed to the positive path we are on under Ole as the team continues to develop,” Woodward declared as United released their latest financial figures.
United are at home against win-less West Brom on 21 November when domestic football resumes and a victory is the bare minimum requirement to continue rising up the table.
The club’s latest accounts highlight the dire picture that teams are facing as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The figures are for the three months ending 30 September 2020 and represent a third consecutive quarter in which revenue is down and United have made a loss.
Revenue for the same period last season was £135.4m and yielded an operating profit of £11m. This year, income for the quarter is down nearly 20% to £109m and the club has made an operating loss of £27.1m. Net debt is at £440.6m, compared to £384.5m at the same time last year.
Revenue is impacted as a result of the delayed start to the 2020/21 campaign, meaning fewer games were played before the end of September. It also includes no windfall from the Champions League as it might normally because European competitions were delayed until October.
Matchday revenue has taken the biggest hit and is close to wiped out entirely while Old Trafford remains closed to fans, with museum and tour operations also remaining closed.
On the whole, however, Woodward is confident there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause significant disruption, we are optimistic that the recovery and normalisation phase is gradually coming into view,” he said.
“The club’s resilience and our strong commercial business continue to provide a solid foundation and gives us confidence in our long-term outlook beyond the pandemic, both on and off the pitch.
“We recognise that not all football clubs are in as robust of a financial position and that the Premier League has a responsibility to support the wider English football pyramid.
“We will continue to push for this support, both through emergency assistance during the pandemic, and through longer-term reforms to ensure that the success of the Premier League is reinforced for the benefit of the national game as a whole.
“We miss playing in front of our fans and we are working hard together with our governing bodies and relevant authorities to ensure that fans can safely return as soon as possible.”