Manchester United’s accounts for 2019/20 were, understandably, not as healthy as the club would have expected before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the Premier League season, but they don’t look too bad when compared to the rest of the division.
After Newcastle United finally released their accounts for that period, we now have a full picture of the top-flight’s financial situation – and it’s not pretty.
In total the 20 Premier League clubs lost a whopping £979.3million that season. United were one of 16 clubs to record a loss, which amounted to £20.8m, while only four were in the black; Chelsea (£35.7m), Sheffield United (£18.8m), Norwich City (£2.1m) and Burnley (£0m). Everton were the biggest loss-makers with £139.8m, just ahead of Manchester City’s £125.1m.
United come out on top in two very important categories, however. They raked in a turnover of £509m, making them the highest income earners in the league, while their wages-to-revenue rate of 56 percent was the lowest.
Given those figures, one could reasonably argue that United are in the healthiest financial position of any Premier League club right now, ignoring for a moment the elephant in the room that is their ever growing debt.
The club have shown that they can still generate a lot of revenue in a very tough economic climate, while their wage bill means they can withstand any future economic destabilisation better than their counterparts.
This gives them a huge advantage in the transfer market that they can and should wield in the next few windows. The only clubs that can realistically rival them in this regard are Chelsea, City and Paris St-Germain, who have all, alongside United, spent big fees on players this summer while the majority of clubs in Europe are trying to cut their cloth.
With Barcelona and Real Madrid in particular struggling financially, the current climate gives United the freedom of really planning their moves well ahead of time.
When any of the rising stars in football are on the market, it has traditionally been those two teams that players look to as their first port of call. They have always been the biggest clubs with the most prestige and, crucially, money to buy whoever they want.
That’s no longer the case as the football world has been, in many ways, flipped on its head and the traditional powers don’t necessarily wield the same power as they did in the before time.
If we take Erling Haaland as an example, the field has all of a sudden opened right up for United in a way that it might not have in the past. The usual destinations for a mega move are now effectively cut off, Juventus also no longer have the means to compete at that end of the market, and Bayern Munich don’t usually spend the kind of fees required to make such a move.
Even the ones that could look very unlikely to make a bid; Chelsea are spending £97m on Romelu Lukaku, City are on the hunt for Harry Kane, and PSG are already stacked for attacking options. That leaves United as the most realistic destination for Haaland should he decide to leave Borussia Dortmund in 2022.
That’s an incredibly privileged position the club find themselves, and it’s one they could get used to in the transfer market in general. Those clubs below the elite of the game are hurting from the pandemic and need revenue, but the wheels of the market are not greased to the same extent to help them out.
This means it’s very much a buyer’s market at the moment, which suits United (and Chelsea and City) down to the ground. They don’t need to spend over the odds if they don’t have to and they certainly don’t need to spend for the sake of it, something the club may have been accused of in the past.
This is an important time for United and they can (or rather should) use it to get ahead of the game.