Manchester United face being saddled with an overall debt in excess of £1bn if they are to persevere with redeveloping Old Trafford and upgrading the club’s training ground.
Old Trafford has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair in recent years, with no new major work undertaken since the Glazer takeover – the last project was already underway by then and was completed in 2006 as both north quadrants were filled in.
The training facilities at Carrington have already fallen behind that of rivals such as Manchester City and Liverpool, with the latter opening a brand new training complex in 2020.
Despite the huge costs involved, failing to carry out necessary renovations and upgrades is not an option in the increasingly competitive landscape of English and European football.
In April, United confirmed they are working with a management consultant company and also the same architectural firm that built the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to start creating a ‘masterplan’ for the redevelopment of Old Trafford.
The biggest challenge with regard to the project is the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand on the south side of the stadium. It is currently the smallest of the four stands but backs onto a railway line, making any building and expansion extremely complicated from an engineering point of view.
The Daily Mirror has reported a figure of £300m would be spent just for that stand to be updated. There will be further costs to redevelop the rest of the stadium, while chief executive Richard Arnold estimated £250m for a new training ground in his recent impromptu discussion with angry fans.
Net debt posted in United’s latest financial result up to the end of March 2022 is already £495m.
Arnold, who admitted that United have ‘f***ing burnt through cash’ in the transfer market over the last 10 years without seeing the gains, confirmed any money to be spent on Old Trafford or at Carrington would have to be borrowed or come from outside investment.
“For the future and investing in a new stadium and that sort of stuff – a latest and greatest £250m training ground, we’ve got to get investors in and I need that to do what I want for the club. I’ve got to have more cash than we have now,” he explained to fans at a pub near his home.
“No club in the world has the money to do a new stadium without getting it from someone – you either borrow it or someone invests it.”
Listen now to 90min’s Manchester United podcast, The Promised Land, with Scott Saunders & Rob Blanchette. On this week’s show they discuss the possibility of both Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt both landing at the club this summer, plus the Glazers taking dividends.
Borrowing to fund work on Old Trafford and Carrington would likely exceed £500m, pushing overall debt beyond £1bn for the first time. That is sure to further stoke fan angst towards the Glazer family, whose controversial leveraged buyout takeover was what plunged a debt free club hundreds of millions into the red in the first place. Friday also saw £11m in dividends paid out to shareholders.
Arnold has insisted that money for new players to build a fresh squad for new manager Erik ten Hag is available regardless.