Nearly four years after his retirement, and with the cumulative transfer funds spent greater than the gross domestic product of many small countries, the shocking demise of Manchester United as a global football powerhouse is beyond rational cognition.
With hundreds of millions of pounds poured into a project that has produced no discernible reward, Manchester United’s transfer policy looks to be as effective as Japanese monetary policy, that is, utterly useless.
On the back of one of the worst goal scoring performances in the club’s near 150-year history, Ed Woodward and Jose Mourinho need to take a step back and evaluate why the transfer policy has been so errant.
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Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Morgan Schneiderlin seem to be investments that will never yield a return. Depay, arriving at Old Trafford heralded as the next Cristiano Ronaldo risks his career resembling the other, much-maligned Portuguese winger of the mid-2000s – Nani.
One fantastic performance every fifteen games or so does not justify Depay’s exorbitant salary.
Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger, touted as the next Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, have shown an utter inability to influence the midfield due to the fact that neither could beat a three legged platypus in a foot race.
Faster opposition midfields would run the pair over, driving through the heart of the midfield, putting Chris Smalling under constant pressure. The trio of flop signings should be sold before they age more and lose any remaining transfer value they might have.
Indeed it wasn’t the transfers (Anthony Martial aside), but the emergence of youth that led to Louis van Gaal’s final season being tenuously deemed salvageable.
Players like Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, and even Cameron Borthwick-Jackson stepped up in a huge way to ensure Van Gaal’s side didn’t finish the season in an even worse position than they ultimately did.
While this trio, along with the outstanding Martial, were able to put a stout Wayne Rooney on their backs and carry the team through the season offensively, it seems unlikely that they will be able to repeat their standard of performance this coming season.
Lingard will likely be marginalised by the next manager, and Rashford will remain unproven for some time due to his age, lest United fans succumb to the spell of another young demagogue after the startling decline of Adnan Januzaj.
So what can United do? Invest right.
United need to find a better balance between getting good value-for-money, and making certain big money acquisitions that will help the team both on and off the pitch.
Robin van Persie is an example of success on both conditions, Angel di Maria the prime example of a dual failure.
Van Persie not only shouldered the goal scoring burden of the team through the 2012/2013 season, but also was well documented as serving as a great example to the younger players. To that end, United have found a similar figure in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, should they go ahead with the deal. The Swede has shown his value to the team on and off the pitch and can serve as a catalyst this coming season, and a steady influence after his retirement.
The signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be more of a value-for-money proposition, should the deal go through. While his statistics paint a startling portrait of a prolific creator and finisher, the failure of Shinji Kagawa’s transfer should be a factor under consideration when negotiating his transfer.
The Japanese player arrived at Old Trafford following a similarly successful season at Borussia Dortmund, but failed to become a mainstay in the team and was shunted off to the left wing, where he proved ineffective.
Mkhitaryan will be competing with Rooney, Juan Mata, Depay, Ander Herrera, Martial, and Januzaj for a spot in attacking midfield, and seems unlikely to displace either of the former two.
Unless United were able to acquire him for a bargain price, Jose Mourinho should be looking elsewhere for creativity.
To that end, United should strongly consider buying a proven goal scoring striker. Karim Benzema comes to mind but looks unlikely to leave Real Madrid anytime soon.
Harry Kane looks a much more likely option, although Tottenham Hotspur are known to bargain better than any other club, and the thought of paying £80 million for Harry Kane seems egregious.
As such, United’s best option is likely Gonzalo Higuain, the ex-Real Madrid striker who tore up Serie A last season with Napoli. He is within the realm of affordability and has a proven history over his time at Real Madrid and Napoli of scoring goals.
His inclusion would be a crucial cog in Mourinho’s attempt to go beyond the 4-4-2 that has traditionally characterised United’s set-up.
On their current path, Manchester United risk becoming Liverpool, who proved that “too big to fail” doesn’t exist in the world of football.
United are fortunate that the size of their commercial empire has made it such that a £300m loss isn’t particularly significant in the long run. United have the money, but lack the expertise regarding how to use it - something at which Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have demonstrated admirable prowess.
For years, Manchester City were just the noisy neighbors, and even following their success, United fans still look down on them. But maybe it’s time to learn from their recent success and adopt a model that is less scattershot in its approach to transfers.
City bought superstars, but they bought the right superstars. Players like Sergio Aguero and David Silva have defined the Manchester City franchise.
It’s about time Manchester United found their new franchise player, because, while he can be an incredible footballer, Wayne Rooney definitely should not be the face of the club.
What do Manchester United need to do in the transfer window this summer? Let us know in the comment section below!
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