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27-08-2014, 03:01 PM
United need to fine tune their player contract renewals - by @philutd15


I was intrigued to see the reaction recently when reports appeared in some media outlets that a new contract would be forthcoming soon for Phil Jones. Intrigued because a lot of the reaction was along the lines of 'what has he done to deserve that?' and strangely I felt inclined to agree and indeed it got me thinking about the broader issue of contract renewals at United. Usually, when a young player is willing to commit to a new long-term deal at United I invariably think it's a 'good' thing.


However, in recent years I can't help but feel that United, and this may be a trifle unfair looking on from the outside, have got a little dis-organised in this area and the decision-making timeframe has become unnecessarily compressed. Whether that's down to the changeover in CEO and manager at the same time or other factors it's hard to know but I would venture that it's something that needs addressing and a sharper approach being adopted. Invariably these contract renewals seem to come with a big pay increase but not necessarily backed up by matching playing performances to justify the renewal.


One of the things that struck me about this phenomenon is that it has certain parallels in the wider business world. You can often observe that in the business world when a new sector (the tech sector has certainly been such an area) becomes trendy investors flood in suddenly and companies end up flush with cash quite quickly and in turn throw it around quite willy-nilly with no regard for what or who's of real value. In these situations, I attribute the waste caused to principally 2 (inter-linked) factors; (i) when cash is flush there's often a laziness or lack of intellectual discipline in how the money should be spent as there's no particular consequences arising and (ii) the principals/management at a quick moving company are often so busy and focused on getting things done, that they literally don't have enough time to stop and think, hence the lack of intellectual insight and depth referred to at (i) happens. Itís only at the inevitable stage when money becomes tighter at those firms that more intellectual rigour is applied about how best to spend it and decision-making improves.


Sorry about all the boring business stuff, but it leads onto United in the sense that whilst it's not an exact parallel, there are similarities in that as Unitedís revenues have been growing strongly and undoubtedly senior management have been pre-occupied elsewhere, there's seems to be a lack of focus and robust analysis when contractual renewal decisions arise and often at relatively short notice. As such, a renewal is these days usually automatically accompanied by a pay hike without due regard to the performance and importance of that particular player, very much what can be described as a 'rising tide lifts all boats'.


To give one example of how this manifests itself, the Tom Cleverly (and he's just an example in this case I'm not picking on him) contract situation is a case in point in that as he has now entered the final 12 months of his contract United are now forced onto the backfoot either (i) having to agree a new long term contract with presumably the aforementioned wage hike, to protect a future (uncertain) transfer value as much as anything else - a contract of this nature is a multi-million pound deal now inevitably or (ii) effectively let him walk away for free in 12 months time. Nani was another example of this a year ago and we can now see how well that worked out.


Ideally, this process should all be planned and well structured long in advance of that scenario occurring and really the process of contract renewal should be starting maybe 2/2.5 years in advance of the contract end date, from the clubs perspective. At that stage, United should be looking at the player and his development and starting to assess if his contract will be worth renewing - lots of factors will come into play, performance, age(both now and at end of next contract) development - what alternative options are there, both within the club and in the market generally. If there's doubt about the player (and probably even if there isn't) United should be building up a list of alternatives that can be explored in case of any difficulties arising. Indeed if the analysis is conducted thoroughly and properly, there will be times when a decision is taken that a new contract or improved terms aren't warranted. The important point being that the club is proactively in control of the situation. Essentially, as Roy might say - fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If the club does its assessment properly then at least it'll be in the strongest position possible at the negotiation stage and not be forced into bad and costly decisions. All being well, for those players you want to retain, the club should finalising and agreeing extensions 15-18 months ahead of time.


If I could be bold enough to make a suggestion, it appears from observation that given the upheaval in the last couple of years post-SAF/DG and also given the range of responsibilities which he now holds, it may help EW if he were to get some structured help in this area, so that the pre-planning necessary is well covered and there's a proper evolution of the playing squad, so that panic decisions such as Nani are avoided. Dare I say it but City have been a model in this area during the summer.


To be fair to Moyes, this did appear to be one of the areas that he was putting in measures to improve behind the scenes - whilst he's gone the Club would do well to continue this work. Proper analysis and planning in this area will be as vital in the long-run as each short-term hit/fix of a superstar signing. Over to you Ed, we know that you've brought great organisational skills to the development of the commercial side, let's do the same now on the football side.


Philip @philutd15


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