Adidas unhappy with Man Utd – should Van Gaal be worried?
The Glazer family spent years building up Man United's commercial arm, and will not want 'boring' football to ruin the club's appeal
Manchester United may have secured a much-needed victory at the weekend, their first in nine games, but the pressure on manager Louis van Gaal shows no sign of abating after kit sponsor Adidas joined the criticism of his style of play and warned that United's often turgid performances this season were "not exactly" what they had expected.
The German sportswear manufacturer took over from Nike at the start of the season in a mammoth ten-year deal worth £750m to the club, but chief executive Herbert Hainer told German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung this weekend that while sales figures for shirts had been impressive, he had been underwhelmed by United's performances on the pitch.
"We are satisfied, even if the current playing style of Man United is not exactly what we want to see," he said. "This special club has not only a rich history, but also a reputation for success and the unexpected."
His comments echo those of former United midfielder Paul Scholes, who branded the side "boring" earlier this season. United have scored only 24 goals this campaign and the ten league matches at Old Trafford have yielded a total of 16 goals, making the Theatre of Dreams the dullest ground in the Premier League.
Haider's comments "may well have been noted amongst the Old Trafford marketing men", says the Daily Telegraph, and Mark Ogden of The Indepedent agrees. Louis van Gaal will give Haider's comments short shrift, he says, "but the 70-plus commercial executives who drive the club's money-making machine from their plush offices in Mayfair will be concerned by the football-related grumbles from Adidas HQ".
United are owned by the American Glazer family, who over the past ten years have "ramped up the club's commercial operation to the point where it is now the most successful in world football", explains Ogden.
United have attracted global sponsors like AIG, Aon and Chevrolet on the back of those efforts, but the club must retain their box office appeal to continue those relationships. "If they are beginning to turn fans and sponsors off with their 'boring' football, Hainer's words may carry more weight than Van Gaal could imagine," he warns.
But not everyone is concerned. "Hainer's comments are perhaps understandable but probably not too much should be read into them in the context of a relaxed interview in which the Adidas boss (who is also on the board of Bayern Munich) was primarily concerned to trumpet his company's achievements during 2015," says Mark Baber of website Inside World Football.