When the news of Everton’s Premier League points deduction filtered through, many pointed fingers towards the blue half of Manchester amid City’s 115 charges – allegations they deny in full.
However, those at Old Trafford may have itchy feet too. This is not because of anything the Manchester United hierarchy have done, but what they might do. The club have spent more than £400million on transfers under Erik ten Hag and it looks like they may only have a Carabao Cup to show for it.
Despite posting a record £648m in revenue in the last fiscal year, the club ended up with a £28.7m net loss. In 2022, they recorded a club-history-high deficit of £115m.
The Premier League only allows for a £105m shortfall over a three-year period, although this can be offset by certain aspects such as losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, infrastructure spending and community work.
Nevertheless, United officials were concerned about breaching Financial Fair Play [FFP] rules over the summer and were keen not to eclipse their previous off-season spend of £225m. In the end, more than £175m was splashed.
Some have questioned how close United really are to stepping over the limits but the substance of their concern will be seen in January. Last new year, United were forced to lean into the loan market with the hierarchy zipping up their purses over FFP fears.
They might be clasping onto their money bags even tighter this time around after news of Everton’s punishment. The Toffees exceeded the Premier League’s Profit & Sustainability cap by £19.5m and were whacked with an unprecedented 10-point penalty, something the club has called unjust and vows to appeal.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe may be arriving at United soon but his cash injection is unlikely to impact Ten Hag’s January plans. There may be excitement over the kind of recruitment strategy he installs at boardroom level but his more important task will be enabling United to sell well again – something that has cost the club when it comes to financial parity.
Last year, Ten Hag bemoaned the fact that he was not able to spend mid-season. Speaking in May ahead of the FA Cup final, the Dutchman said: “The club knows that if you want to play top four, if you want to compete for trophies in this tough league, you have to invest, otherwise you won’t progress because other clubs will. We saw it in the winter. All the clubs around us invested. We didn’t and still we made it.”
United may find themselves in a worse position this time around yet with less manoeuvrability in January if boardroom worries take hold. The sanction placed on Everton comes as a message from the Premier League that they are not to be tested.
United were docked two points during the 1990/91 season in the old Division One for a mass in-game brawl with Arsenal players, the first time two top-flight teams had been deducted points for 100 years.
There may be longer-lasting anger from fans if the Glazers oversee another points sanction given they remain in situ after an arduous year-long takeover process where the carrot of an exit has been snatched from under the noses of supporters.
But to avoid this, in their eyes, they may blockade much of the transfer cashflow for January in light of Everton’s punishment. Now clubs have seen the size of the cane, they may be more keen not to be taught a lesson.