LONDON (AP) — After conceding Manchester United was enduring a "disappointing" season, vice chairman Ed Woodward indicated on Wednesday that a significant overhaul of the struggling squad will come in the summer.
Champions of the English Premier League last season, United is seventh in the standings, nine points from the crucial fourth Champions League place during a difficult first season since Alex Ferguson's retirement.
But Woodward said the club was already looking at offloading players in the summer transfer window and strengthening David Moyes' side.
United plans to "move in the market in a way we haven't seen in recent years," Woodward said on the earnings call as the club released its latest set of positive financial results.
"It has tended to be three sales and three purchases but it is possible we will do more than that," he added.
But Woodward warned the club is "not looking to churn (sell) a huge number of players because it can have a destabilizing effect."
"We will focus on building a competitive squad that challenge for trophies," Woodward said. "We have the ability to do that. We have the ability to buy players ... to make sure we are competing at the top level — which is what we should be doing."
The cash balance on Dec. 31 was up to 72.1 million pounds ($119 million) before Spain midfielder Juan Mata joined from Chelsea for a club-record 37.1 million pounds (then $61 million) last month.
Woodward is expecting the cost of players will stop rising rapidly as clubs are forced to abide by UEFA Financial Fair Play rules as a condition for playing in Europe. Neighbor Manchester City faces a tough task complying, having lost 149.5 million pounds ($248 million) from 2011 to 2013, the first FFP monitoring period.
Woodward was asked directly about the possibility of Abu Dhabi-owned City facing sanctions as a result of its heavy spending.
"I'm not going to talk about specific teams, but this year is the first year we will see how FFP is going to bite and work and have a potential impact," Woodward said.
"There are clubs being looked at more closely by UEFA. How UEFA deals with those clubs who are breaching the rules or are close to breaching the rules is important to see how ... FFP will affect the industry."
United is well placed to comply with FFP, with the success achieved during Ferguson's 26 trophy-filled years ensuring the New York-listed club continues to rake in cash.
In the last three months of 2013, commercial revenue soared 19 percent to 42.3 million pounds ($70 million) as six global sponsorship deals kicked in. Overall turnover rose by 19 percent to a record 221.4 million pounds ($364 million) during the last six months of 2013, but the bottom line showed that adjusted profit rose 20 percent to 22 million pounds ($36 million) over that period.
"We once again achieved a record revenue quarter with strong contributions from our commercial and broadcasting businesses despite the current league position, which everyone from the team manager down has acknowledged is disappointing," Woodward said.
"We continue to see meaningful opportunities to grow our commercial business and the popularity of football on TV is leading to continued broadcasting revenue growth — all of which bodes well for the long-term stability and financial strength of our business."
But failure to qualify for the lucrative Champions League next season would be a big blow to the club's prestige, and revenue stream.
The team is struggling in the Premier League it won by 11 points in May despite wages leaping 17 percent to 51.6 million pounds ($85 million) in the quarter "primarily due to the impact of player acquisitions and renegotiated player contracts," United said.
What continues to irritate some fans is the debt that didn't exist before the Glazer family bought the club in 2005. But the debt has dropped 3 percent year-on-year to 356.6 million pounds ($590 million), far down from a high of 716.5 million pounds (then $1.1 billion) in 2008-09.
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris