Manchester United has reconfirmed there will be no extra transfer cash for new players after its half year profits more than halved.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson will have to sell before he can buy as the club, which has been named as the world's richest, counted the cost of a fall in media income.
Profits tumbled from £26.8 million to £12.4 million for the six months to January 31.
The performance reflected a new television deal and the impact of last season's third place Premiership finish and its impact on earnings from the Champions League.
The team, which currently lies second in the Premiership, has struggled to match the spending power of leaders Chelsea, and was knocked out in the second round of the Champions League.
A spokesman said: "We will have to sell in order to strengthen. Everyone knew that when we bought Wayne Rooney and was happy with that."
The club described the period as "challenging" and said it had been made "even more difficult" by speculation surrounding takeover proposals from Malcolm Glazer, the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who holds 28.1 per cent of the club but has seen his bid interest draw strong protests from supporters.
United did not provide details of any developments in the saga, following its agreement in February to allow Mr Glazer to carry out limited due diligence.
While the US tycoon's representatives are believed to have gone through United's books, it is thought a severe bout of appendicitis for Mr Glazer's son Joel - the driving force behind the bid - has delayed the process.
Despite the drop in media income, United said it enjoyed strong matchday and commercial revenues during the first half of the financial year.
Total turnover was down slightly on a year earlier at £91.6 million.
There was also a rise in staff costs, up to £42.7 million from £37.7 million and representing 46.6 per cent of turnover compared with 40.8 per cent last year.
The signing of Wayne Rooney in the summer was among factors for the rise, while the deal had an impact on United's bottom-line showing as the transfer required a one-off charge of £1.8 million.
Stripping out the item and other exceptional charges, United's operating profits were £28.4 million, against £39.7 million a year earlier.
United warned in September that it faced a short-term hit to profitability because of a sharp drop in annual media revenues, including £8 million from the latest Premier League television deal.
The third place finish would also have a £6 million knockon effect on media revenues from the Champions League.
And the chances of an immediate recovery have been hit by the club's recent exit from the Champions League at the first knockout round stage.
The club said it would continue to strive to keep staff costs at a level no higher than 50 per cent of turnover.
However, chairman Sir Roy Gardner added: "Player wage control remains difficult."
The fall in media income was partly offset by a 22 per cent gain in matchday revenues to £44.3 million - helped by six extra games in the period - and a two per cent rise in commercial revenues, to £23.1 million.