Manchester United counts cost of Mourinho's departure

By Shashwat Awasthi

Feb 14 (Reuters) - Sacking Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho cost Manchester United 19.6 million pounds ($25.1 million), the English Premier League soccer club said on Thursday, though it still expects to meet its financial targets for the year.

Mourinho departed in December after a run of dismal results, prompting the appointment of former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager for the rest of the season.

By comparison, the club had paid 8.4 million pounds to Louis van Gaal and his coaching staff when the Dutchman was sacked in May 2016.

United, whose squad features French World Cup winner Paul Pogba and Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea, have shrugged off their worst start to a season in 28 years. Since Solskjaer took the reins United have climbed to fourth in the Premier League.

"The appointment of Ole and Mike (Phelan) as caretaker manager and assistant manager ... has had a positive impact throughout the club," Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward said in a statement.

The recent upturn in United's fortunes on the pitch has led to calls for Solskjaer's appointment to be made permanent.

The Norwegian, nicknamed "the baby-faced assassin" in his playing days, is a huge favourite with the club's fans thanks in no small part to his last-minute goal to clinch the UEFA Champions League title against Bayern Munich in 1999.

Woodward, however, refused on Thursday to be drawn into speculation over the identity of United's next permanent manager.

Revenue for the three months to Dec. 31 was 208.6 million pounds, against 177.4 million pounds a year earlier, with a new rights agreement for the lucrative Champions League helping to lift broadcasting revenue by 38 percent.

The 20-times English champions said they continue to expect revenue of between 615 million and 630 million pounds for 2018-19 and adjusted core profit of 175 million to 190 million pounds.

($1 = 0.7808 pounds)

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