Manchester United 'can still compete' with City, Chelsea, says CEO

Despite more than £500m debt, club still able to match richer clubs for top players, says David Gill
Manchester United 'can still compete' with City, Chelsea, says CEO
David Gill, CEO of Manchester United
By Damian Reilly
Wed 19 Jan 2011 12:55 PM

Manchester United is still able to compete for players with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, despite debts of half a billion pounds, CEO David Gill has told Arabian Business.

He added the club had recently demonstrated, by increasing star striker Wayne Rooney’s salary to a reported £250,000 a week, it was able to prevent players from being poached by richer clubs.

“We can compete, we can compete for top players. People say we don’t, but we have bought well, and our goal at Manchester United is to make sure we develop our own players and also buy good players,” he said at the opening of a Manchester United Soccer School in Abu Dhabi.

Asked if Manchester United could still compete with Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City should a player such as Kaka come onto the market, Gill said: “If we wanted to. Over time, if you follow Manchester United, you will know we have rarely bought the world star. We have made them world stars by playing for Manchester United, and that will continue.”

Once the richest football club in the world, Manchester United was taken over in 2005 by the American Glazer family, who had to borrow heavily to buy the team. Gill said he was still “comfortable” with United’s business model.

“Now, in terms of our business model, we have got debt that we didn’t have before.  The debt levels we have got are roughly £500m in bonds, the interest costs on that are roughly £45m, and our EBITDA is in the order of £100m, and growing. So we can easily service our debt. So we are comfortable with our business strategy and business model going forward,” he said.

He added selling then World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in 2009 did not mean United had become a selling club, unable to retain its top talent.

“No we didn’t want to sell him [Ronaldo], we didn’t want to, but he was going to go anyway. It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about his contract. We showed with Wayne Rooney we will pay the appropriate amount to keep players.”

Gill refused to comment on whether Manchester United would back plans to move the 2022 World Cup from the summer to cooler winter months, which would potentially disrupt the European football seasons.

He was also tight lipped on whether Jose Mourinho would be the successor to current manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

“All I would say to that is that Alex is on a rolling contract, he is on the record as saying that he will continue to manage as long as he keeps fit, so in answer to the question, while we follow what is happening in football, I am not going to sit here today and say who we have in mind. Because we don’t know what the time frame is…. I am sure there are some other good managers around. He’s [Mourinho] a good manager.”


For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.