Murtough says Ten Hag has brought unity
John Murtough has welcomed the “increased unity, focus and drive” brought to Manchester United by Erik ten Hag and reassured fans of the hard work being put in across the club to deliver renewed success.
The football director was one of several club leaders who reflected on the ups and downs of the past year as part of the club’s annual report to investors, covering the period from June 2021 to June 2022.
Here are the highlights of what was said...
Murtough said the recruitment of Ten Hag from Ajax was the most important development of the 2021/22 season. “After a thorough search and due diligence process, it was clear to us that Erik was the strongest candidate, based on his outstanding coaching record, his commitment to the proactive, attacking football we want to play, and the vision and ambition he showed for the role.
“There is still a long way to go, but we have already seen, during his first four months in charge, an increased unity, focus and drive that bodes well for the future.”
Murtough highlighted the “significant investment” made in the men’s first-team squad over the summer with the permanent addition of Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen, Casemiro, and Antony, as well as goalkeeper Martin Dubravka on loan. He said the signings reflected the “balance of experienced, international players and younger, emerging talent” that the club was aiming for, coupled with “a higher-than-usual number of departures”, which Murtough said was “an equally important part of refreshing the squad after the disappointing 2021/22 season”.
“We will continue to support Erik in ensuring he has players with the right quality and characters to achieve success, while ensuring that investment remains consistent with our commitment to financial sustainability,” Murtough said, noting that the club was “ahead of schedule in our recruitment plans” following the arrival of five regular first-team starters. This meant there was unlikely to be the same level of activity in future transfer windows that we saw in the summer.
Murtough said planning was already under way for the next steps in developing Ten Hag’s squad, with a focus on next summer’s transfer window. “We are also pleased with the seven additions made to our women’s squad and look forward to seeing the team continue to develop under Marc Skinner after last season’s solid fourth-place finish in the Women’s Super League,” Murtough added. “Another high point this year was our Under-18s men’s Academy team winning the FA Youth Cup for a record 11th time in May in front of over 67,000 fans at Old Trafford – by far the highest attendance ever recorded in the competition.
“And there was also success for our women’s Under-21s, who achieved a fantastic league and cup double at WSL Academy level. Nurturing of youth will always remain a cornerstone of this club and we are as excited as ever about the talent we have coming through in both our men’s and women’s Academies.” Murtough acknowledged that “there is still a great deal of hard work ahead” to get the club to the levels expected of Manchester United, but he expressed confidence that “the right people and processes are being put in place to support all our teams in their pursuit of success”.
Richard Arnold, chief executive, reminded investors that “the strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our fans” and stressed that improving fan engagement was one of the club’s strategic priorities. He highlighted the launch in January of our Fans’ Advisory Board as a new channel for board-level dialogue between fan representatives and the club, its management and owners, and noted how this model has been embraced by the Premier League as a mandatory model for other clubs to follow.
As well as local match-going fans, Arnold said the club was also committed to strengthening engagement with fans around the world, highlighting the 350,000 fans who attended our pre-season games in Thailand, Australia, Norway and at Old Trafford this summer. Collette Roche, chief operating officer, said the number of fans signed up as official members was over 275,000 – a record for the club. She noted that general admission ticket prices for Old Trafford had been frozen for an 11th consecutive season and highlighted the launch of a new cup season ticket as a way of allowing more fans access to home games.
“We are also delighted to see stronger ticket demand for our women’s matches as the thrilling win by England’s national team in the European Championship this year featured four current Manchester United players and has boosted interest at club level across the WSL,” Roche added. “This year, season ticket demand for our women’s matches has increased 55% versus the previous year and before a ball had been kicked, we’d sold more tickets than we did across the entire season last year.” Roche highlighted Old Trafford’s hosting of the opening game of the women’s Euros in July, with 69,000 fans in attendance, and looked ahead to another big crowd when United host Aston Villa at the Theatre of Dreams in the WSL in December. “We are very optimistic for continued momentum of the women’s game,” she said.
Roche said the club had completed several infrastructure upgrades and other maintenance projects both at Old Trafford and the Carrington training ground over the summer, to improve facilities for fans and players. Longer term, Arnold highlighted the appointment of Master Planners to explore options for the potential redevelopment of Old Trafford and the club-owned land which surrounds it. “We are at an early stage of a multi-year project and will continue to gather input and feedback from our fans and other stakeholders on these options before making any firm decisions,” he said.
The club’s annual financial results showed a recovery in revenues due to the return of fans following the pandemic, although the financial impact of Covid continued to be felt. Arnold told investors that the club’s main mission was “to support our football teams in delivering the titles and trophies that we know Manchester United should be competing for”.
“In summary, everyone at the club is aligned on a clear strategy to deliver sustained success on the pitch and a sustainable economic model off it, to the mutual benefit of fans, shareholders, and other stakeholders.
“We believe the building blocks for future success are being put in place, but we acknowledge that there is still much more for us to do this season and beyond, and that success will not happen overnight. As a club, we are moving forward – united and committed to achieving our goals.”