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Butler: Not so good ship MUFC back from winter vacation

Noel Butler
2/21/2014 4:24:54 PM
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In this most unpredictable of BPL seasons, the top four clubs battled it out in a pair of enthralling FA Cup ties last weekend. Meanwhile, the current champions were sunning themselves by the pool in Dubai.

Not sure that was in the global expansion blueprint drawn up by the Glazer family.

Nor, as their annus horribilis of a season wore on, would changing course and sitting down with Sir Alex Ferguson's least popular person in football. Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney's agent.

Late last summer CEO Ed Woodward, without naming any player in particular, specified a willingness from the club to run player contracts through its term. These comments occurring as Chelsea were readying a second bid to sign Rooney who was going into the penultimate season of his current contract.

Earlier Friday afternoon, and not long after a victorious Canadian men's team left the Sochi ice, Manchester United announced Rooney has committed himself to the cause through 2019.

Stretford has played another blinder.

It was only three years ago Rooney threatened to walk out of a club he saw did not meet his own ambitions. A few tears shed by Fergie in a pre-match conference and before you knew it, a brand new extended contract for Rooney making him the highest paid player in the globe's most popular league.

This latest deal is reported to be paying Rooney £300,000 ($525,000) a week, every week through June 2019. Factor in the image rights, something in the region of $150 million in total has been invested in the 27-year old.

It's hard to tell though if this is a statement of intention or an insurance policy to ensure they convince some of the world's very best that this season at Old Trafford is merely an aberration. This for a club that's currently battling it out with the likes of Newcastle and Everton for the BPL's sole spot in next season's Europa League.

Whilst the season on the pitch has lurched from one inept performance to the next embarrassing home defeat, the business of Manchester United Football Club has thrown up mixed blessings.

Just last week the club released its latest financial report. As much as worldwide revenue continues to grow this has to be offset with the fact Bayern Munich recently replaced Manchester United from a podium spot on the annual Deloitte Football Rich List. 

Additionally, it is no coincidence that as the season has worn on, the price of the club's shares on the New York Stock Exchange has reflected the dramatic fall of where Manchester United currently sit in the table.

On the eve of the champions opening up their campaign August 17 (where they spanked Swansea 4-1) the share price stood at $17.41. Earlier today, the price was trading as low as $14.32.

Over the course of the season this represents a fall in price closing in on 20 percent. One London-based bookmaker is currently offering odds of 12-1 the price will dip below $10 before season's end.

With that outlook, even the most ardent Manchester United supporters in the country won't be asking their financial advisor to include ticket symbol MANU in their portfolio this RRSP season.

Not all of Manchester United's misfortune can be laid squarely at the door marked 'manager.' The failure of the club to reinvest their record breaking revenues in an aging squad has come to fruition this season.

Manchester United has fallen way short in the transfer market throughout the Glazer tenure, which dates back to spring 2005. Added to this, and much more of a key indicator when it comes to where clubs finish in the BPL standings, is an unwillingness to match the player salary marks of a Manchester City or Chelsea.

Over the House of Glazer era, well in excess of a $1 billion has leaked out of the club in the form of interest payments and debt repayments. Yet only $500 million has been invested in the playing squad.

Buying a Juan Mata per season does not cut it. Even in this UEFA Financial Fair Play era. Then factor in the 45 million mistakes that are Marouane Fellaini.

The re-signing of Rooney will provide the same psychological boost as if the club has captured a world class signing. Like overpaying for Mata, it heralds just the start of addressing Glazer's under-investment.

Manchester United's next big signing may well come off the pitch in the form of the club's apparel supplier. If we are to believe recent reports, this could net the club $1 billion over a 10-year term.

Only last month, Arsenal announced a massive deal with PUMA. Although no official figures were made available, one UK newspaper tagged it the biggest deal in PUMA and Arsenal's history. Bayern Munich's latest victim receives close to $50 million a season from Emirates.

It is well regarded Manchester United will not, like last summer, be chasing shadows in the transfer market come season's end. They will though have to pay over the market odds for players.

The international market for the very best is not a place for the faint of heart or light of wallet.

At the table this summer will be a very forceful Sheik Mansour and Roman Abramovich and then throw in PSG owners the Qatari Investment Fund. And we haven't mentioned Mr. Gallactico himself, Florentino Pérez.

Just to make matters even more interesting for the Glazers' bankers, history tells us a World Cup cycle is merely code word for luxury tax. What was $50 million in 2013 will be $60 million in 2014. The Pini Zahavi's of the world rejoice even more every four years.

With only 12 matches remaining in the season, Manchester United would have to go almost picture perfect the rest of the way to stand chance of clawing back the 11 points and a vastly inferior goal difference to Liverpool's fourth place perch.

Participation in July's Europa League qualifiers is more probable.

Going into Saturday's match away to a Tony Pullis rejuvenated Crystal Palace, the club sit seventh place in the table.

If they remain in that spot come season end, to participate on the European stage next season Manchester United's 650 million worldwide followers will have to cheer on Manchester City and Arsenal to domestic cup glory.

Oh my how the very mighty will have fallen.

In his last home match before hanging up the hair dryer, Ferguson addressed the 75,000 strong Old Trafford congregation post match and asked them to show patience for the new manager.

Come May 3 - when United play their final home match of the season - let's hope for David Moyes sake he doesn't have to stand up at the final whistle and ask for their forgiveness.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel

TSN and TEAM Radio is your exclusive BPL radio home this season. Saturday we feature - Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United. Kick Off at 12:30pm et /9:30am pt.


Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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