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Red News
20-08-2014, 07:41 PM
United need to improve on who they buy. By Philip


Post-Swansea, in the midst of all the doomlordery, it was interesting to see the inevitable focus on the board (and more specifically Ed W) to immediately sign a whole host of new players (something I, like everyone else agree is necessary to some degree). Following on from that Gary Neville provided some input to the issue on MNF which in itself provoked a further flurry of debate on social media regarding transfer spend in recent years.


In looking at Gary's analysis I personally felt that the way it was presented was flawed, with significant weaknesses. If you bear with me, these included (1) arbitrary number (5) of transfer windows used (city had invested heavily before these particular windows), (2) it ignored player wages, which is now as equal, if not more important a factor, in player recruitment, and (3) £55m of Unitedís spend related to 2 players who at the time, had played a combined 1 competitive game for the club so no proper assessment could be made regarding them. I noticed plenty of others say that the net spending figure is the incorrect barometer to use, gross being a better measure; I personally prefer net spend but I acknowledge the point.


However, for all those weaknesses, I felt that Gary's core point held up, that the money which has been spent hasn't been used wisely. In fact, I would have liked if Gary had gone further, he focused on poor signings within the last 12 months, but he really should have been brave enough to point out that this malaise, it has to be said, started well within Sir Alex's tenure.


To expand on this point, I take it that since 2009 18 players have been signed to be used in and around the first team squad (or to develop it in future years). Out of that pool, my opinion is that only 2 of those can be considered outright successes at this stage, RVP and David De Gea. I've drawn up a list of those and the fees since 2009. Fees aren't always disclosed so l'll go from memory as to what was reported in the press at the time, I might be slightly out along the way but think I'm by and large in line:


Obertan 3m
Valencia 15m
Owen Free
Hernandez 7m
Smelling 7m
Lindegaard 5m
Bebe 8m
De Gea 18m
Jones. 18m
Young. 17m
Rvp. 24m
Powell. 6m
Henriquez. 4m
Kagawa. 14m
Buttner. 3.5m
Felliani. 27.5m
Zaha. 10m
Mata. 37.5m


I'm excluding Herrera and Shaw from this analysis at the moment given that they have just signed. Again, just my own opinion, but I would venture that out of that list at least 7 are outright failures at the moment (Obertan, Bebe, Powell, Buttner, Henriquez, Zaha, Felliani) with the others open to question with opinions varying. In total, that's over £180m in questionable spending in the last 5 years. I acknowledge that some of these might yet come good or we have/might get a lesser transfer fee when sold which will reduce that figure but I think you probably have my point.


If you go back further you can add Nani, Anderson, Hargreaves and Berbatov to the list too, at a further mouth-watering cost of £85m of failure.


The lesson from all this? Simply that we can't continue to spend poorly and hope for continued success. If Ed Woodward wants to succeed in his role, I would argue that over and above the machinations of any particular deal or window, he simply as a core strategic goal has to sort this as a priority, Unitedís scouting and player identification has to sharpen up if it is to be, using some business parlance, 'Fit for purpose' for the current modern era. Hopefully, LVG and his team can insert some much needed discipline in this area in the coming years.


The final point to this is that there is a lot spoken of matching Real and Barca in the £60m+ transfer bracket - is this the right area to focus on? I would argue not, I think the Bayern and (unfortunate to say so) Chelsea models are more preferable. Both spend money, are not shy to spend it but don't spend astronomical sums on an individual player (at least any more). If you're hitting the button regularly on players in the £15-£35m bracket like they are then that's giving you a great chance. Taking Chelsea, after their initial profligate period, post Torres they seem to have got their act together resulting in a sharper, more disciplined approach building a really good squad now (Hazard, Oscar, Costa, Fabregas, Willien, etc), all possessing good common modern speed and strength characteristics . If Utd can replicate this with 5-6 such signings from now and into the next 12 months that'll be a good and successful years work.


So in summary the point? Yes there has been under-investment but there must be more coherent, disciplined and sharper recruitment if United are going to maintain their place in the game and not fall behind.


Regards


Philip


@philutd15