Even Manchester United’s biggest sponsor doesn’t like the way it is playing

Try kicking the ball towards the goal?
Try kicking the ball towards the goal?
Image: Reuters / Andrew Yates
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Manchester United has been having a pretty poor season in the English Premier League—though it’s less about league position than the style of play under current manager Louis Van Gaal. Even its biggest sponsor has been vocally unimpressed.

Manchester United signed a 10-year £750-million ($1.28-billion) kit sponsorship deal with Adidas in 2014. The record-breaking deal, worth three times as much as previous sponsor Nike was paying, dwarfed the £31-million-a-year kit sponsorship package Adidas agreed to pay Real Madrid.

“Business with Man United is going very well, we sell more shirts than expected,” Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer told Suddeutsche Zeitung (link in German). “We are satisfied… even if the current playing style of Man United is not exactly what we want to see.”

Ouch. Style of play is important as casual fans around the world—especially young kids—often shower their allegiances on teams that play the best soccer. It’s those fans that help sell soccer shirts, and keep the money ticking over for sponsors like Adidas and Chevrolet.

Hainer is not the only critic of Man United’s play. Club legend Paul Scholes said earlier this season: “There’s a lack of creativity and risk… it’s probably not a team I’d have enjoyed playing in.” Van Gaal’s tactics have also been heavily criticized by fans and the media. Manchester United finally ended its losing streak, which lasted eight matches, on Saturday when it beat Swansea to end its worst run in 26 years.

Adidas’ comments probably didn’t help Van Gaal any—nor has the announcement that Pep Guardiola, the world’s most wanted coach, whose teams are known for their beautiful and intricate style of play, wants to come to England next.