£25,000,000 Kitty

Last updated : 26 July 2007 By Ed

David Bond in the Telegraph point out just how little United have been spending.

Regardless of whether Manchester United eventually complete the signing of Carlos Tevez from West Ham, the Premiership champions have surprised English football this summer with their lavish spending spree.

Casting off the first two years of caution under the ownership of the Glazers, Sir Alex Ferguson has been brandishing the club's chequebook with rare abandon, spending a total of £57.9 million on three new players.

The apparently extravagant outlay - which could rise still further when Tevez finally arrives at Old Trafford - has been possible despite a decision to abandon plans last week to try to reduce their costs by refinancing their mammoth £660m of borrowings.

Yet despite being English football's most heavily indebted club, United have embarked on a Roman Abramovich-style spending frenzy since reclaiming the Premier League title from Chelsea in May. Portuguese winger Nani was signed from Sporting Lisbon for a deal worth up to £17.3m along with Brazil midfielder Anderson, signed from Porto for a fee of as much as £20.4m. Next came Ferguson's long-time transfer target Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich in a deal worth up to £20.2m.

Meanwhile, the two-year loan deal for Tevez, which now looks set to be settled by the High Court, could cost United up to £30m in wages and fees to the player's third-party owners.

United say they have been able to splash the cash on new players this summer because of the club's better than expected financial performance over the last season. A club insider said United were anticipating operating profits to almost double from their 2005-06 levels of £46.3m in 2006-07.

It is understood that the rise is not only down to increased prize money and TV revenue from United's successful Premiership campaign and run to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Last season United took about £3m in match-day revenue from home games at the 76,000-capacity Old Trafford - a staggering £87m for the 29 matches played there.

The new benefits from the £14m-per-year sponsorship deal with American insurance giant AIG also boosted the club's coffers. And with the Premier League's £2.7 billion media deal set to kick in from this season, incomes and operating profits are set only to increase further.

Football finance expert Dan Jones, a partner in the sports business group at Deloitte, explained: "It's very difficult to spot a weak link at the moment. It's not just a great club with a great brand. They have a fantastic merchandising operation, the biggest stadium in the country, they play in the richest and most successful league, they have a young, exciting team and they are winning titles again."

But United's summer spending may not be as impressive as it first appears. They have so far only paid £16m for Nani and Anderson with the rest dependent on appearances, goals and international caps. The same is true of the deal for Hargreaves, which is worth an initial fee of £16.8m to Bayern Munich. With the £5.5m United received for the sale of Kieran Richardson to Sunderland and the £6m fee expected for the sale of Gabriel Heinze, the net spend is reduced to about £21m. It looks even less extravagant when one considers the club's spending since the Glazers took over.

Apart from the £18m deal with Spurs for Michael Carrick (another transfer which involved a much smaller up-front payment), the Glazers have until this year made no major acquisitions. In fact they are in the black thanks to the £11m sale of Ruud van Nistelrooy to Real Madrid and the £12m they received in compensation from Chelsea to settle the dispute over Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel.

The Glazers arrived at Old Trafford promising Ferguson an annual transfer kitty of £25m plus an extra £25m for a star player, but the actual outlay has, until this summer, been zero.

And despite the financial success of last season, there is serious discontent among supporters over the way ticket prices have been raised for the coming season by 14 per cent. The increase comes on the back of a 12 per cent rise last year.

In addition the club have introduced a scheme which will force season ticket holders to pay for cup matches. Last week, one fan began county court proceedings against the club, claiming the move amounted to restrictive practices.