United go in search of only a second win in seven Premier League outings when they face Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday after mustering just four points from the past 18 available.
Humiliations at home to bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City and a series of poor performances and results have raised fresh questions about Solskjaer’s ability to take the club forward as he nears the third anniversary of his appointment.
United announced yesterday that revenues had increased by 16 per cent to £126.5 million (€150.7m) for the three months to September 30 thanks to the return of full crowds at Old Trafford in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Old Trafford hierarchy are desperate to get through the season with Solskjaer and have so far ignored calls for change.
But Solskjaer was also left under no illusions about his responsibilities as Woodward delivered a carefully worded statement that was less bullish in tone from remarks made seven weeks ago when the executive vice-chairman declared that the club was “more confident than ever” that they were “on the right track” under the Norwegian.
“While these financial results today demonstrate our resilience through the pandemic, our top priority is success on the pitch,” Woodward said yesterday.
“The manager, players and everyone at the club are determined to achieve that objective.”
The most eye-catching element of United’s latest accounts was the news that the club’s wage bill had increased by almost a quarter in the wake of the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Tom Heaton in the summer.
That quartet have added almost £1.3m (€1.55m) a week to the wage bill, even if the sharp spike in salary costs has not translated into improvement on the pitch.
Wages for the three months to Sept 30 had mushroomed to £88.5m (€105.4m), a £16.6m (19.8m) – or 23.1 per cent – increase on the prior year-quarter. Ronaldo accounted for the majority of that rise given that United made the Portugal forward the highest-paid player in Premier League history when they signed him from Juventus in August.
Cliff Baty, United’s chief financial officer, had revealed in September that the club was expecting wages to increase by around 20 per cent – or £65m (€77m) – for this season. United’s wage bill last season was £322.6m (€384.5m). Ronaldo’s impact was felt in other ways with retail and merchandising up a fifth to £28.1m (€33.5m), although his signing only came in the final month of the quarter.
Matchday revenue increased more than 1,000 per cent to £18.8m following the return of full crowds and commercial income jumped nearly eight per cent to £64.4m for the quarter.
United made a profit of £17.4m following the sale of Wales forward Daniel James to Leeds and a sell-on clause on Romelu Lukaku, who joined Chelsea from Inter Milan, compared to a £12.6m loss in the prior year quarter.