The sense of dread around the Theatre of Dreams as Manchester United to make 250 staff redundant

There was a mixture of anxiety and dread among United employees at Old Trafford today
-Credit: (Image: PA)

On the vast concourse behind Old Trafford's East Stand, groups of tourists are posing for selfies. Some clutch shopping bags filled with merchandise from the Manchester United megastore.

It's a joyous scene and not an uncommon sight at the home of one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Yet in the offices and buildings surrounding the famous old stadium, hundreds of people are worrying about whether their jobs are at risk.

This morning, United employees were informed that the club would be making 250 people redundant, cutting its workforce by nearly a quarter. The concerning announcement came following a cost-cutting review instigated by United's new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who secured a minority stake in February.

READ MORE: Armed police called to Piccadilly Gardens following reports of 'dangerous dog'

As workers went about their business in the shadow of the Theatre of Dreams this afternoon, the mood was a sombre one. Ground staff carried goalposts while security personnel greeted tourists at the entrance to the club museum.

At first glance, all seemed well but beneath the surface lingered a sense of anxiety and dread. One United employee said he had learned about the redundancies via email, but said the club had not specified which areas would be affected by the job losses.

“Maybe there is a surplus of staff but 250 seems excessive,” he added. “It feels like finger-wagging at the lower staff.

“If you need to save money, maybe look at the dividends the owners are taking out.”

Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe -Credit:Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Others were reluctant to speak about the job cuts, but one described the atmosphere around Old Trafford following the announcement as “not good”.

According to the club's latest accounts, United had 1,112 employees on the monthly payroll - an increase of 129 in two years. That is the highest employee count in the Premier League.

The news of the redundancy proposals was delivered to club staff on Wednesday morning. However, employees remain in the dark as to whether they will lose their jobs.

One said: "No one knows yet (who will be made redundant). It is really sad."

Since Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos's £1.25bn investment into the club was confirmed earlier this year, there has been significant transformation underway.

Every aspect of the club has been under review, with United insisting it need 'significant transformation' to meet new financial regulations and challenges as costs continue to rise every year. While the football structure has also been redrawn, Ratcliffe has been determined to cut costs, ending some employee privileges, especially around the FA Cup final.

A general view of Old Trafford
The club is -Credit:Alex Livesey - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Back in May, Ratcliffe informed non-playing staff that working from home and hybrid office working arrangements would be scrapped as of June 1. Staff were told they must return to the offices at Old Trafford or Carrington in a bid to end a work-from-home culture but the decision to part ways with so many staff is driven by attempts to become financially leaner.

Under the plans for redundancies, Ineos have identified savings and activities they describe as "non-essential" which can be stopped, cutting the workforce to deliver on the priorities laid out by Ratcliffe.

The current plan is for 250 roles to go, with a formal process to begin to propose redundancies and a consultation underway. All departments are included but there will be no redundancies at the club's foundation arm.

Sources insist alternatives to such a widespread redundancy programme were considered, but it was felt they would only deliver short-term impacts, with Ineos determined to set out a sustainable solution to slashing costs.

United have been approached for comment.