February 25, 2020 / 3:58 PM / a month ago

Manchester United 'rebuild' as Champions League absence proves costly

(Reuters) - Manchester United are in “rebuild” mode as the English soccer club chases a return to the European Champions League, Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward said after financial results were dented by the team’s absence from this season’s tournament.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United v Burnley - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - January 22, 2020. General view outside the stadium before the match. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

Woodward has been backing United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to forge a team that mixes top talent from around the world with young players from its academy.

“We are pushing for a strong finish in the Premier League, the Europa League and the FA Cup as we enter the final third of the season,” Woodward said in a statement.

“The foundation for delivering the long-term success that we are all working towards is in place as we implement our plan and our footballing vision with Ole.”

United sit fifth in the Premier League table, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea after beating Watford 3-0 on Sunday with goals from new signing Bruno Fernandes, academy graduate Mason Greenwood and French striker Anthony Martial.

The Premier League’s top four teams qualify for next season’s Champions League while the fifth and sixth-placed teams go into the Europa League.

Fernandes, who signed from Sporting Lisbon for an initial fee of 55 million euros ($59.6 million), was United’s only signing with a transfer fee in January and Woodward said the club would have the same “disciplined approach” in the summer window.

Local rivals Manchester City, who are second in the Premier League, have been banned from competing in European competitions for two seasons by UEFA.

That has raised the prospect that fifth place in the Premier League might be enough to secure Champions League qualification, though City are expected to appeal against the ban.

Woodward declined to comment on the specifics of the City case but said he believed that Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules were helping to ensure that clubs operate within their means.

Another Champions League miss for United would be costly for the 20-time English champions. They have been eclipsed by neighbours City in recent years and now face the prospect of bitter rivals Liverpool clinching a 19th domestic title.

Revenue and profit took a dive in the second quarter, hit by the loss of Champions League broadcasting revenue, with core earnings falling 31% to 72 million pounds ($93 million) on revenue down 19% at 168 million pounds.

United’s financial guidance for 2019-20 was unchanged.

($1 = 0.7714 pounds)

($1 = 0.9227 euros)

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong; Additional reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman

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