Man United exploring friendlies during season

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LONDON (AP) — Manchester United is looking at playing lucrative friendlies overseas to fill the midweek void left by the absence of European football this season and the early League Cup exit.

The record 20-time English champions have forecast a 10 percent drop in revenue in 2014-15 after they failed to qualify for the Champions League under David Moyes.

The struggles have left United with just one midweek Premier League match before the end of 2014, and just three in the first three months of 2015. Going overseas — the Middle East would be the most likely destination — would allow United to escape the English winter for a few days, and the addition of Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria have made the club even more likely to attract lucrative contracts for friendlies.

"That's something we continue to look at, as always making sure that the preparations we do on the pitch come first," United managing director Richard Arnold told The Associated Press. "For many years of our (pre-season) international tours, there is a plan to ensure we get that team building that goes together with getting the team all together in one place. That's something that's being looked at with regards to the future (friendlies) with Louis (Van Gaal)."

Van Gaal said during United's preseason tour of the United States, shortly after taking over as manager, that the obligations to sponsors and distances the team has to travel was "not very positive for a good preparation" for the Premier League campaign.

But Arnold said there's no disagreement with Van Gaal over the possibility of taking on more commercial ventures.

"I can only speak positively of my experience with the manager in terms of his understanding of what's required to get a first-class team onto the pitch and also what's required for running a club of our magnitude," Arnold said. "We have a fantastic partnership in terms of our work off the pitch and I'm very appreciative of the support we have had from him."

Picking up the pieces after Moyes' disappointing 10 months in charge, Van Gaal has managed just two wins from seven matches in charge but the new-look squad is still a work in progress.

"There has been continued excitement that stems from the day that Louis was appointed and it's just been a progressive build from that," Arnold said in a telephone interview from Old Trafford. "Outside of that obviously there will still be areas we still need to build on."

United, which is owned by the Florida-based Glazer family and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, remains English football's biggest moneymaker, with revenue up 19 percent to a club record 433 million pounds (around $700 million) in 2013-14.

The latest commercial deal was announced on Monday, with Abengoa announced as the club's first "sustainable technology partner," working with United to make the company more environmentally friendly.

Abengoa chief executive Manuel Sanchez Ortega said United was chosen because it is the "most global football team." Arnold maintained that its sponsorship operation has not been affected by the team's slump since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after more than 26 trophy-filled years in charge.

"We find current form does not figure highly in the reasons to partner or not partner," Arnold said, pointing to club research that shows they have 659 million global followers.


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