The comments made by Arsene Wenger regarding Manchester United’s spending policy over the last couple of seasons have met with a strong reaction and, from many of the club’s fans, aggression at yet another rival manager trying to undermine the team before the start of the new season with their jealousy and bitterness.
Having read the interview myself, I found his comments laid bare the paradox that exists in modern day football: Teams must develop youth and win trophies. Wenger suggested that Manchester United had moved away from the former in the hope of achieving the latter and that the two were conflicting approaches:
“With United's success they have created huge financial resources and today there is no patience for them to continue to do what they did -- and they have the financial resources to go with a different policy.”
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Modern managers, particularly those who are lucky enough to land a job with one of the top teams in Europe, are under incredible pressure to deliver from the moment they walk through the door. Carlo Ancelotti stands out in this regard. In his first season with Real Madrid he won the Copa Del Ray and the Champions League. In his second season he won nothing and was told he was no longer required.
“at this club the demands are huge and we need a new impulse in order to win trophies and be at our best” was the reason given by Florentino Perez.
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Van Gaal is not quite under the same pressure that Carlo Ancelotti must have felt, but in the second year of a tenure only guaranteed for three, the belief is that Van Gaal must be looking to deliver a trophy this season. In this respect Manchester United are no different from any of the top clubs in the Premier League, City spend to win and the manager position seems precarious whenever trophies are not delivered and so it has also been for Chelsea in recent years. Manchester United however are judged by a yardstick that few other clubs are, and this is almost entirely due to the class of ’92.
Having such club legends as Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs coming through the ranks at the same time coupled with the now famous “You will never win anything with kids” quote has created an air of expectation around United that sooner rather than later another group of exceptional youngsters will step forward to fill the void the departing legends have left behind. As Arsene Wenger suggests however, this was a one off:
“As well, they do not have available the players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham inside the club, because youth talent is spread more through 20 clubs than it was 20 years ago.”
Any current or new manager seems to have a choice then, buy to win and attempt to build a reputation at the club that will allow a little more freedom later to adapt a more progressive approach, or focus on building from within and risk a very short & uncomfortable stay in the manager’s chair if their raw materials are more Morrison than Pogba.
My own personal feeling? This time next year when an opposing fan taunts me on Twitter with “How many trophies did your lot win last year then?” I would much rather be able to reply with “Just the two more than your rabble” than “None, but at least we won nothing with kids”.