So, it’s been just over a month after the summer of speculation and rumours, briefings and social media meltdowns and the transfer window finally shut. Manchester United’s approach to transfers has been haphazard to say the least but it does feel that this year there may be a slight change even if it doesn’t look like it. Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo have come in to boost the squad but they did leave it late in the window.
Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s first summer was an interesting one with their rumoured transfers keeping gossip columns in business. Daniel James came in from Swansea before long but successful pursuits of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire came to fruition.
United spent the best part of £150m in the summer on young, hungry and British players so it does seem that the club might be moving in a new direction (this is minus the fan meltdown on Deadline Day).
Fernandes was a big signing made available by circumstances changing and Ighalo was a necessity signing with the injury to Marcus Rashford. The sheer size of Manchester United mean that any shift in culture either on the pitch or off the pitch will not be instant, think of United like a Cruise ship in that it doesn’t manoeuvre quickly and it doesn’t have the speed to catch up to the newer model who have gone past them.
Behind the scenes the restructure has begun with Nicky Butt being made Head of Youth Development with Nick Cox replacing him as Head of the Academy. Neil Wood and Quinton Fortune are now in charge of the Under 23’s but it’s the Technical Director role that is the one that is most eagerly awaited by fans.
Will it be an ex-player in Rio Ferdinand/Darren Fletcher or someone like Paul Mitchell? Edwin Van Der Sar has been linked in the last few months but who knows if this is legit or if the story is to placate the fans calling for a change. Only Ed Woodward knows but if this appointment comes then it shows United are at least trying to change or at least look like they are.
So, if as the brief went in the summer that United decided against pursuing a deal for Paulo Dybala as they believed he didn’t fully want to join the club then maybe the club have learnt a lesson in not overpaying someone to play for the club. This has been a costly addition over the last few years with Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria and even Paul Pogba to an extent all being paid King’s ransoms to sign for the club, Solskjaer has praised Maguire and Wan Bissaka for wanting to play for the club and that Ole feels he needs more players who see it as a privilege not a chore that they are overpaid for.
If United will not overpay from now or the Glazers decide not to blow money on big name signings, then the question is how do Manchester United get back in the position to challenge for honours both domestically and in Europe?
The best idea would be to revamp the scouting network as there are too many scouts from previous regimes and thus too many differing opinions on players. So, restructure the scouting department then invest in coaching to take players with talent and turn them into superstars.
For example, United need to identify talent faster and much earlier, like signing James Maddison from Norwich rather than buying him from Leicester or buying someone like Virgil Van Dijk from Celtic before he moves to Southampton. United need to cut out the ‘Stepping Stone” club which a lot of the top teams do rather than take a gamble on a player, basically top clubs want the finished article not someone who could fail and make them look bad.
By doing this United would not overpay and could buy younger players with potential and allow them to grow into the players that they could be, sprinkled with one or two big signings for the right players United could once again become a place where players clamber to play instead of a place to top up their bank balance before their career is over.
Spurs arguably had moved ahead of United as they went through years of no real investment as they had a stadium to build so they turned to youth and nurturing talent. Now they are in their new stadium with the players close to realising their full potential even with a few departures along the way. Daniel Levy is arguably even tighter with the purse strings than the Glazers will ever be but credit where it is due, he did give Pochettino money last summer, but it didn’t work and Pochettino and Spurs parted ways a few months ago.
Ed Woodward loves a name big signing and the way the last window had shaped up it does seem that without Champions League football there was going to be no bid for Jaden Sancho so if United get top four this season I do expect a big money pursuit of the Borussia Dortmund sensation.
One big change could be the manager with Mauricio Pochettino casting a large shadow over Solskjaer and they are rumours that history could repeat itself with what happened to Louis van Gaal when Jose Mourinho was basically given the job before he was sacked. There does seem to be some substance to these rumours with United’s new PR Guru Neil Ashton being spotted with Pochettino at Brentford last week.
So if they do get rid of Solskjaer it will annoy a lot of fans but if they commit to him and give him (Pochettino) the keys and just tell him to do what he needs to get the club back to where it needs to be then I will back it. We hear more briefings about Jack Grealish and Jaden Sancho coming in for big money so is this more PR or the club deciding to finally get their act together?
The protests about the Glazer ownership of the club have been very vocal on social media and the movement is grabbing attention both here and abroad but until they sell the club will remain theirs. I personally just want to see players who want to play for this club and see good football but because of the size of this club there is no long term planning as if there is a long term vision it won’t be implemented as at the first sign of trouble or a hit on the Revenue streams it will be a quick fix to get it back on track.
The only caveat to the Glazers not spending and trying their best to tie David de Gea down and refuse to sell Pogba in the Summer could point to loading up their assets for a sale but this is just a theory I have.
I do hope that all the restructuring done behind the scenes is not just for show and the club do wish to put structures in place to allow the club to challenge at the highest level once again. That being said though the green shoots of recovery may not be visible for a good while yet but we as fans have to be patient and try not to over react to the first bump in the road, this take time but how much time will Ole get?
I don’t know if this is just lip service to the fans who want major structural change at the club or a desire to get back to the top. All I do know is that all the problems that the club have won’t be solved in one summer this is going to be a couple of years before we see signs of significant progress (this will of course be music to the ears of the #GlazersOut movement)
With the big news of Manchester City’s ban from the Champions League by UEFA (subject to the inevitable appeal by City via The Guardian) could this maybe convince the club that they could get back to the top faster with a potential exodus from the blue half of Manchester? Who knows but it will be an interesting couple of month that is for sure.
Hopefully the club drop the dead weight and get someone in who can steer the ship instead of Ed Woodward who will be better schmoozing the high rollers and sponsors, keeping him off the wheel might help United avoid the inevitable Iceberg and gain ground on our rivals and who knows maybe surpass them.
Only time will tell if United are changing direction or just going around in circles.