LONDON, May 14 (Reuters) - English Premier League soccer club Manchester United raised its full-year earnings guidance thanks to higher commercial revenue and said it expects to challenge for trophies next season after virtually securing a return to the European Champions League.
United, owned by the American Glazer family, forecast core 2015 earnings of between 103 million pounds ($162.76 million) and 110 million pounds, down from 130 million pounds a year ago but ahead of previous guidance of 90-95 million pounds.
"As the season approaches its conclusion, we are pleased with the team's performance in Louis van Gaal's first season as manager and are well positioned to achieve a top four finish in the Premier League and to return to European football," Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward said.
"As we look forward to next season, on the playing side we expect to be challenging for trophies in all competitions and on the commercial side we are excited by the numerous opportunities for further growth, including the first year of our ten-year partnership with Adidas."
The club posted third-quarter revenue down almost 18 percent to 95 million pounds ($150 million) on Thursday. The drop in the three months to March 31 was its third straight quarterly decline, hit by the absence of Champions League income after finishing seventh in the Premier League last season.
While matchday and broadcasting revenue fell, the 20-times English champions' push to sign deals from sponsorship to mobile content continued to bear fruit, with commercial revenue up 11.7 percent in the period.
Bolstered by some big-money signings, new Dutch coach Van Gaal has delivered a slightly improved performance this campaign and the club has all but secured a return to the lucrative Champions League with two games to play.
The extra commercial income, together with improved profit guidance, will help United to fund more new recruits this summer and pose a greater title threat next season. The club are currently 16 points behind leaders Chelsea in fourth place.
Gross debt rose 12.4 percent to 395.4 million pounds, primarily because of exchange rate movements, United said. ($1 = 0.6328 pounds)
Reporting by Neil Maidment; Editing by David Goodman