Sport360's Aditya Devavrat analyses United's spending since Sir Alex Ferguson's day
Manchester United‘s transfer spending has come under the scanner after a poor transfer window – a situation exacerbated by the team’s loss to Brighton at the weekend.
The result laid bare tension between manager Jose Mourinho and the club board, and while Mourinho has his fair share of detractors among fans, Old Trafford hierarchy is also coming under fire for apparently not backing the manager enough in the window.
But is that true? While this particular summermay have been disappointing, United have been willing spenders in recent years – lavishing nearly £700million since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Here’s a look at where that money’s gone, and how well it’s been spent.
Players bought: Marouane Fellaini (£27.5million), Juan Mata (£37.1million)
Amount spent: £64.6million
For all that Fellaini has been able to convince two subsequent managers to keep him around, just the circumstances of his arrival – a £27.5million fee that could have been £23.5million had United moved a month earlier, before a buyout clause of that value expired – made the deal a farce. That’s before mentioning his unpopularity with the fans and his status as a symbol of the club’s inability to play attractive football on a consistent basis since his arrival.
Mata arrived six months later – it’s easy to forget that he’s a Moyes signing – and has been a good, if not great player since then, providing plenty of moments of brilliance and shaking off the criticism that he can’t be relied upon defensively, a tag that dogged him earlier in his career.
Louis Van Gaal
Players bought: Daley Blind (£14million), Marcos Rojo (£16million), Angel di Maria (£59.7million), Radamel Falcao (loan), Ander Herrera (£29million), Luke Shaw (£30million), Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (£1.58million), Victor Valdes (free)
Amount spent: £150.28million
The transfer spend figure doesn’t account for Falcao’s loan fee, a reported £6million, but even without that this was not a good window. Di Maria’s disastrous one-season spell at the club saw to that. He was a blockbuster signing who could have thrived, but he struggled to fit in under Van Gaal and in Manchester in general.
Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, and Marcos Rojo are still at the club, which says something, but at the moment none are automatic first-choice picks, and Rojo likely never will be. £75million is a lot to spend on players who aren’t guaranteed regular appearances.
Players bought: Bastian Schweinsteiger (£6.5million), Morgan Schneiderlin (£22million), Memphis Depay (£25million), Anthony Martial (£37million), Sergio Romero (free transfer), Matteo Darmian (£12.7million)
Amount spent: £103.2million
Depay, Schweinsteiger, and Schneiderlin never quite cut it at United, while Martial may end up going the same way despite showing flashes of immense talent. Indeed, that particular season he finished as the club’s top scorer, but he’s struggled since then.
Darmian and Romero still remain at the club, though both as back-ups and in Darmian’s case, somewhat unwillingly. But in itself, £12.7million for two squad players is decent business. It’s the other signings of the window who let the class down.
Players bought: Eric Bailly (£30million), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (free), Paul Pogba (£89million), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£30million)
Amount spent: £149million
HIT/MISS: In between
Ibrahimovic was an instant hit, both for his goals – 28 across all competitions – and the leadership he provided. Young players like Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Jesse Lingard have all spoken of the Swede’s positive influence on their development.
On the other hand, Mkhitaryan never prospered at United, chafing under Mourinho’s defensive style, while it’s still too early to take a call on Bailly and especially Pogba. Both have shown flashes of their best, and if they can find that level consistently, everyone will look back at Mourinho’s first transfer window as a masterstroke.
Players bought: Victor Lindelof (£30.75million), Romelu Lukaku (£75million), Nemanja Matic (£40million), Alexis Sanchez (swap)
Amount spent: £150.75million
Just the initial success of Lukaku and Matic would be enough to make this a hit. Add the fact that Sanchez will undoubtedly improve, and Lindelof has shown enough signs – though he’s been inconsistent so far – that he can be a good centre-back with the proper guidance.
Depending on whether Sanchez does rediscover top form, this window could end up being the best of United’s post-Fergie era – although that also depends on how the class of the previous summer (Pogba and Bailly) turn out.
Players bought: Fred (£52million), Diogo Dalot (£19.8million), Lee Grant (£1.53million)
Amount spent: £73.33million
This window gets a miss for the players United didn’t sign, rather than as a referendum on the arrivals. United strangely didn’t target a left-back at all, and they whiffed on all their centre-back targets.
It’s hard to argue with the board’s stance that it wasn’t worth spending astronomical fees on Harry Maguire, quoted at anywhere between £60million and £75million, or Toby Alderweireld, who’ll be available for £25million next year. But that reluctance meant no reinforcements arrived, leaving Mourinho with a defence that clearly doesn’t fill him with confidence (though his first-choice centre-backs, Bailly and Lindelof, are players he’s bought).
TOTAL SPENT: £691.16million
OVERALL HIT/MISS: Miss
Nearly £700million spent, and only four players – Pogba, Lukaku, Matic, and Sanchez – can be considered guaranteed first-choice players. And even among those four, doubts persist about Pogba and Sanchez.
Mourinho has put the United board on notice this summer with his frustrations over transfers, but it’s hard to say he hasn’t been backed. The club has spent over £370million during his tenure, and progress has been only incremental. They’ve yet to catch up to Man City, who have won two league titles since Ferguson’s retirement, and there’s a danger that they’ll be eclipsed by Liverpool.
It’s safe to say that United haven’t spent wisely since their legendary manager signed off.