The Manchester United deal that will tell us how quickly the club can complete rebuild
The first two months of the 2019/20 season have been a reality check for anybody hoping there was a quick fix to the problems on the pitch at Old Trafford.
As the action pauses for the October international break, Manchester United find themselves 12th in the Premier League, closer to the relegation zone than the top six, with the problems mounting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer .
While the additions of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James have all added something to Solskjaer’s squad, there is an obvious lack of depth within the ranks and issues around quality in midfield and attack.
Having not won away in 11 games and scored just seven goals in their last 10 outings, there is plenty to ponder for Solskjaer during the international break, especially with the return to action bringing a daunting Old Trafford fixture with Liverpool and then four successive away games.
The pressure has begun to mount on the Norwegian but for now the message coming out of Old Trafford is one of patience. There is an acceptance that the rebuild Solskjaer has begun will take time.
Money will certainly help to accelerate that process and the next few months could provide an insight into how United’s remarkable revenue generating ability has been affected by the slump on the pitch.
The seven-year shirt sponsorship deal United signed with Chevrolet comes to an end in the summer of 2021, with the club now putting the feelers out for a new shirt sponsor.
The association with Chevrolet, a deal signed in the summer of 2012 but which only started for the 2014/15 season, has made United almost £450million in total, with more than £50million a season coming into the club through that sponsorship.
While Chevrolet have been associated with one of the world’s biggest clubs during the partnership, they don’t have that iconic image of players wearing shirts bearing their logo lifting the Premier League or the Champions League trophy.
In terms of exposure, the American car giant may well have got bang for their buck – the club recently said their worldwide fanbase now topped 1.1bn people – but their association with United has come at a time of decline on the pitch, with the club struggling to get to grips with the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
As senior United figures now begin to test the water over a new deal from 2021 the question that will soon be answered is: what affect will results on the pitch have on commercial performance off it?
United are confident they will be able to outstrip the Chevrolet deal once again, given they’ve had expressions of interest from some leading brands already, and record revenues of £627million – announced by Ed Woodward last month – suggest there remains a desire amongst companies to be associated with Manchester United.
During the investors conference call to announce those financial results, Woodward stressed that the off-field success was vital to allow continued investment in the football side of the business, which makes securing another lucrative shirt sponsorship deal an indication of United’s health during the rebuild.
“We and our growing global fanbase demand success,” he said. “Success means winning trophies.
“That target and that standard has never changed for Manchester United. The progress we made on the business side underpins the continued investment in the football side.”
One football finance expert told the MEN this week that United could have been looking at the first £100m-a-season shirt sponsorship deal if they were still enjoying the success of the Ferguson years.
While extending the deal with Chevrolet remains a possibility, it is more likely that United will have the sixth shirt sponsor in their history come the 2021/22 season.
The success or otherwise of that deal will play a part in how quickly United can attempt to return to the top of the game, domestically and in Europe.
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