Manchester United still expect to become the first English club to break the £500m revenue barrier this season, despite their struggles in the Premier League and uncertainty over the future of manager Louis van Gaal.
Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward delivered the upbeat forecast to investors on Thursday after announcing second-quarter results which included a 26.6 per cent year-on-year rise in revenue for the period to £133.8m.
Woodward stayed tight-lipped over Van Gaal, whose future was not questioned on an earnings call despite intensifying speculation linking former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho to Old Trafford.
United cited the fact that no new players were acquired in the January transfer window as one of the reasons why they had not adjusted their revenue estimate – an indication that there will be money to spend in the summer.
The club, who also revealed they are sitting on a cash balance of £121.9m, have been linked with moves for stars such as Barcelona's Neymar and Gareth Bale of Real Madrid.
Woodward made clear to investors that the club was indeed in the market for players “verging on world class”.
“Some players are bought by other clubs with an eye to them developing into something special in a few years’ time,” he said when asked why United could not find cheap talent as surprise league leaders Leicester have done.
“There’s more pressure on some of the bigger clubs perhaps to bring in players that are going to be hitting the ground running and top players who are verging on world class almost immediately. So there is a slightly different market in which people are buying.”
The former JP Morgan banker admitted that future purchases could potentially be offset by selling players to the Chinese Super League, whose teams have been aggressively bidding for European-based players in the last month.
Chelsea banked £25m by selling Brazil midfielder Ramires to Jiangsu Suning in January while Liverpool target Alex Teixeira was also lured from Shakhtar Donetsk by the Chinese side in a £38.5m deal.
“I do think there will be more activity coming in the summer [from China] but it’s very, very difficult to predict what kind of impact that will have,” Woodward added.
“If nothing else, it’s another useful market if we’re looking to sell any players.”
United travel to Sunderland on Saturday six points behind Manchester City, who are fourth and face Tottenham at home 24 hours later.
The club’s position in the league, combined with fan dissatisfaction at the style of football being played and an early exit from the Champions League, have increased the pressure on under-fire manager Van Gaal.
Failure to make next season’s Champions League could cost the club £30m in missed matchday, TV and prize money revenue, but it would save on wages thanks to clauses written into their players’ contracts.