Manchester Utd. Vows Shakeup as Arsenal Game Ends in Stalemate

Manchester United’s winless run extended to three games with a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, hours after Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward said the team wants to sign new players to revive “disappointing” league form.

The Premier League champion managed six goal attempts to Arsenal’s 17 at the Emirates Stadium last night. Striker Robin van Persie, a former Gunners striker, came closest for the visitors but was twice denied by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

New signing Juan Mata was substituted after 75 minutes, having failed to make an impact. The Spanish playmaker joined from Chelsea last month for a club record 37.1 million pounds ($61.7 million). In his four appearances, United has won once.

The club, which has won England’s league a record 20 times, remains seventh under new manager David Moyes. Since he replaced Alex Ferguson, who retired after a 26-year tenure, United has lost eight league matches and been knocked out of the F.A. Cup and League Cup. Since 1991 it has never finished lower than third in England’s top tier. United is now 11 points adrift of a Champions League qualifying spot.

The on-field struggles were highlighted yesterday in the club’s fiscal second-quarter earnings report. Woodward said in a statement that “everyone from the team manager down” acknowledges the league position is “disappointing.”

During a conference call with financial analysts, Woodward said United is focused on strengthening the squad, adding that the shakeup could see it “moving in the market in a way that perhaps we haven’t seen in recent years.”

‘Aren’t Afraid’

“We wouldn’t necessarily be looking to churn a huge number of players, because that can have a destabilizing effect, but we aren’t afraid of moving in the market,” Woodward said.

United’s next chance to bring in new players will come after the season ends in May, with the reopening of the transfer window. Defender Nemanja Vidic has already said he’ll leave at the end of the campaign, veteran Rio Ferdinand is out of contract at the end of the season and striker Wayne Rooney has been linked with a possible move to Chelsea.

The struggle for wins hasn’t hurt United’s financial performance. Yesterday’s report said profit increased in the quarter on record sales of 122.9 million pounds amid “strong contributions from our commercial and broadcasting businesses.”

Adjusted profit for the three months to Dec. 31 was 19.8 million pounds, compared with 19 million pounds in the year-earlier period. The figure was adjusted for factors related to the club’s initial public offering in 2012 and other items.

TV Revenue

Sponsorship revenue rose 39 percent to 29 million pounds while total commercial income was 19 percent higher at 42.3 million pounds. Broadcasting revenue increased 19 percent to 46.9 million pounds while matchday income fell 3.7 percent to 33.7 million pounds. Staff costs rose 17 percent to 51.6 million pounds and gross debt fell 2.7 percent to 356.6 million pounds.

Manchester United Plc (MANU)’s shares fell 4.1 percent yesterday to $14.61 in New York. They’ve dropped more than 16 percent since early December. The company started trading on the New York Stock Exchange in August 2012 after an IPO that priced the shares at $14.

Jefferies Group LLC analyst Randal Konik said in an e-mailed research note yesterday that the stock is still a “compelling” buying opportunity, reasserting the investment bank’s $21 target price.

“We believe the company is taking the right approach to bolstering the squad while manager David Moyes works out the kinks,” Konik said. “Even if this season misses expectations, ultimately, we are confident the team will gel and return to the top tier of the Premier League.”

‘Brand and Heritage’

“Despite the team’s struggles on the field, we continue to see significant runway ahead in terms of sponsorship opportunities given the strength of Manchester United’s brand and heritage,” Konik added.

Bought by the U.S.-based Glazer family in 2005, Manchester United is one of sport’s most recognized brands. It’s soccer’s fourth-richest club by sales, according to Deloitte LLP.

United has reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League and will play Olympiacos of Greece in the first of a two-leg tie on Feb. 25. Next season it could miss out on the competition for the first time since 1995-96 if results don’t improve.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Priechenfried in London at bprie@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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