Man United shopping in 'different market' to Leicester - Ed Woodward
Ed Woodward says Manchester United's transfer business cannot be compared to that of Premier League leaders Leicester City because they are shopping in different markets.
United, who have spent £285 million in the last two years, are 12 points behind Leicester, whose preferred starting XI cost just £22m in transfer fees.
Executive vice-chairman Woodward, who oversaw the £59.7m British-record signing for Angel Di Maria and made Anthony Martial, at an initial £36m, the most expensive teenager ever in football, feels there is more of an imperative for United to buy players who make an immediate impact.
He underlined that United, who have been criticised for their recruits and for paying over the odds in recent years, put a considerable amount of work into identifying players.
"Leicester is a fantastic reference point for everyone," said Woodward in a conference call to investors. "The philosophy we have is to target quality of players, based on a huge amount of scouting, and then do the best deal we can.
Leicester's scouting network has recently gained attention after video analyst Ben Wrigglesworth joined title rivals Arsenal, although former Foxes striker Gary Lineker insists that it is Steve Walsh who deserved more credit for signing key players such as Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante for relatively small fees.
However, Woodward maintained that United set their sights on a different caliber of player when looking for new signings.
"There is more pressure on the bigger clubs to bring in players who hit the ground running, possibly world class," he said. "It is a different market."
United's head of corporate finance, Hemen Tseayo, said that the club's staff costs are lower than projected in part because they did not sign anyone in the January transfer window.
But several other major European clubs sold players to China, including Chelsea's Ramires, Atletico Madrid's Jackson Martinez and Shakhtar Donetsk's Alex Teixeira.
While unsure of the effect of the purchasing power China will exert in the summer, Woodward suggested United's unwanted footballers could end up there.
"I do think there will be more activity coming in the summer, but it is very difficult to predict what kind of impact that will have," he added. "If nothing else, it's another useful market if we are looking to sell players."
The investors on the conference call to Woodward -- held shortly after the release of the club's second-quarter financial figures which forecast an annual turnover in excess of half a billion pounds -- did not ask about manager Louis van Gaal's position, United's mixed Premier League form or their early Champions League exit.
But he did indicate they will soon finally appoint a successor to Brian McClair as the academy manager, saying: "Announcements will come in the next few days."
Ticket prices have become an issue after Liverpool's owners backed down on plans to introduce a £77 ticket and a season ticket priced at over £1,000 following protests from supporters on Saturday.
Woodward suggested more measures will be introduced to keep tickets affordable.
"What I can say is the Premier League are looking at options to help away fans," he said. "There are discussions happening, both at last week's meeting and behind closed doors now which will deliver more to away fans.
"We are working with our supporters' trust closely to assess what we can do with our fans. We have had season-ticket prices frozen for the last five years and into next year as well. That is as good a guide as any as to where we are on general admission."