Manchester United’s woes on the pitch have taken a toll on commercial revenue as the club forecast annual revenue would fall for the first time in five years following its failure to qualify for this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward, however, backed manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to rebuild the English soccer club and called for patience after the 20-times English champions also forecast a drop in core profit for 2019-20.
Woodward said the club was building for long-term success.
“Returning to the roots of our club’s ethos of youth-led attacking football is the right way forward,” Woodward said on an investor media call on Tuesday.
“We and the fans demand success and that means winning trophies. That standard has never changed for Manchester United.
“It is important we are patient while Ole and the team build for the future,” Woodward said.
The club, which will play in the less lucrative Europa League this season, has made a stuttering start to the new English Premier League campaign and sits eighth in the table after six matches.
Despite a couple of big-money signings to bolster the defence – most notably making English centre-half Harry Maguire the most expensive defender in history – the club has been forced to rely more heavily on its youth system.
United had seven academy graduates in the squad during Sunday’s 2-0 defeat against West Ham United.
Woodward, a former investment banker who advised the American Glazer family on its takeover of United in 2005, said the club is reviewing its structure amid increasing calls for the appointment of a technical director to oversee player recruitment and contract negotiations.
Woodward has come under fire as several big-money signings and a trio of managers have underperformed since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, the last time United won the league title.
The club, which has suffered a more than 7% drop in its share price this year, also stands to lose ground to European rivals off the field.
Spanish giant FC Barcelona last week reported 990 million euros (872.9 million pounds) in turnover for 2018-19 and expects to surpass 1 billion euros this year.
Domestic rivals Manchester City and Liverpool are also breathing down United’s neck.
“Everyone at the club, the board, the manager, the squad and all the staff remain resolute in our desire to get Manchester United back to the top of English football,” Woodward said.
Manchester United’s revenue for the 2019-20 financial year was forecast at between 560 million and 580 million pounds, down from 2018-19’s record 627.1 million pounds reported on Tuesday.
The club said Kantar data showed its global fan base had increased to 1.1 billion followers and that it expects 2019-20 core profit of 155 million to 165 million pounds, down from 185.8 million pounds last year
Shares in the company’s New York-listed shares were down 2.6% at $16.79 in early trading.