The Barclays Premier League champions confirmed that they intend to raise £500m by selling bonds to investors around the world in a bid to relieve some of the strain on their debt-ridden owners, the Glazer family.
But on the day the club released their figures for the financial year ending June 30, 2009, it became apparent the sale of Ronaldo to Real Madrid was solely responsible for a pre-tax profit of £48.2m.
The Real deal: Ronaldo's move to Madrid helped United stay out of the red
Without Ronaldo's departure, United would have been looking at a loss of £31.8m and the development serves only to raise further questions about the club's future. With no player sales planned in the summer, it seems inevitable United will record a loss this year.
If they did look to sell, then stars such as Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic would be among the most valuable. There is no way, however, that such a policy would be given the go-ahead by manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
And it also emerged that United have signed a revolving credit facility worth £75m. This essentially works the same as an overdraft and is thought to be the reason why Ferguson was so bullish about his licence to sign players.
The manager is expected to use some or all of this money this summer, but the strategy again highlights the deepening financial problems faced by a club who are seeing their enormous revenue stream used to service a £700m debt that last year cost the Glazers, and hence the club, £41.9m in interest.
While the Glazers hawk their bonds around - they will start in Asia before heading to Europe - United still function as one of the football world's most efficient money-making entities.
Not for sale: Ferguson won't allow stars to leave
The club's figures show annual turnover to be up - from £256m to £278m - while revenue from matchdays (£108m), media (£99m) and commercial streams (£70m) also show healthy increases.
Sadly, all this is being undermined by what is increasingly looking like a reckless purchase of United by the Glazers in 2005.
It seemed apparent at the time that the Americans could not afford to buy - chief executive David Gill rejected their first attempt - and it now seems certain that the family will look to limp along with the help of more debt refinancing before selling the club in the coming years.
United and the Glazers have said they are comfortable with their financial positions yet money experts now look at the club's predicament with a sense of dread. Most analysts feel United's situation is beyond repair.
It is thought the money raised by the bonds will be used to pay off a £202m loan taken out as part of a refinancing deal in 2006. This carries a punitive interest rate of 14.25 per cent, while the interest due to investors who take out the bonds will only be 8 per cent.
There has also been a suggestion, however, that the cash from the bonds sale could be used in part to pay each of the Glazer family a small dividend, something that would not impress supporters resentful of the family.
Last night Manchester United Supporters' Trust chief executive Duncan Drasdo said: 'Now is the time for the Glazers to go.
Asset: Nemanja Vidic would raise significant revenue if sold
'This bond issue is just rearranging the deck chairs and still leaves the club with huge debts which they expect the supporters to continue to fund. Under their ownership, the club have become liable for more than £260m in interest payments alone, and the latest trading statement would have shown a substantial loss were it not for the sale of Ronaldo.
'We need to be rid of these leeches.'
Ferguson and his players arrived in Qatar yesterday for four days of warm-weather training ahead of their Premier League game at home to managerless Burnley on Saturday.
A surprise inclusion was goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who has recently been in Holland with his wife, Annemarie, who suffered a stroke just before Christmas.
It is understood her condition is much improved and Van der Sar will now continue his own fight for fitness after struggling with a knee problem that has plagued his season.
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