Manchester United need to stop worrying about global superstars and start signing players that are hungry for success7 min read
It hasn’t been a pleasant start for Manchester United so far. On the back of a dreadful pre-season tour to America, which José Mourinho kept undermining, the Red Devils are on a four-game winless streak and could extend that to five if they do not considerably improve against Newcastle United this weekend.
The commotion going on around the club is not helping, with briefs from players and staff members beginning to become out of control. Every other day there is news regarding Mourinho’s latest rant, or how Paul Pogba is now banned to carry out media duties by his club. There is no stability within the ranks at Manchester United and it has clearly had a negative impact on the pitch with the way their performances have gone.
An argument put forward to explain some of United’s woes is due to their failures in the transfer market. Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, there appears to be a lack of a coherent plan moving forward in recruiting players, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Mourinho opting for considerably different characteristics. This has caused the Portuguese manager to be burdened with players that he might not necessarily want, or that fit his system, but are stuck with due to their incredibly high wages and inability to move on.
However, even with this problem, the majority of the players currently at the club are not bad. While they might not be to the same standard as Manchester City or Liverpool, the players brought in should be good enough to be able to challenge for major honours and at least be involved in a title race. Why, perhaps, the current crop are not performing, is due to the confidence being sucked out of them by the manager as they are constantly berated in the national press. Just last week, against Derby County, Mourinho publicly admitted that he knew they were ‘in trouble’ when he saw Phil Jones, United’s centre back, stepping up to take a penalty.
Where Has The Money Gone?
There is no denying that Manchester United have spent a fortune. They have. And they should be doing far better in the overall quality on the pitch because of it. There are no excuses to be made as to why they cannot perform to high standards due to the money they have spent on transfers. However, the problem lies in the fact that when you ask the question of whether or not they have spent well, the answer is not a complimentary one.
At too many times over the past five years in a post-Ferguson world have Manchester United been swept off their feet by trying to recruit the world’s very best. Under Moyes, it was the lure of Toni Kroos. Under van Gaal, it was Sergio Ramos. And under Mourinho, it has been Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. In the end, none of these players batted an eyelid to genuinely considering joining United, but more to use them to negotiate better contracts at their current clubs – all (apart from most recently Ronaldo) being Real Madrid, funnily enough.
Off The Field vs. On The Field
Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, has been known to be more in awe of United’s presence off the field, than on it. Just last week, in his routine conference call with investors, Woodward boasted about United’s social media following and how they were the biggest sports team in the world, without mentioning any problems on the pitch at all.
Addressing United’s shareholders on the New York Stock Exchange in February, Woodward made it abundantly clear to everyone that Man Utd’s social media announcement when signing Alexis Sánchez dwarfed that of Paris Saint-Germain’s by 75n they bought the world’s most expensive player in Neymar. Such matters off the field have now taken precedent for those on it.
Lessons From Elsewhere
Real Madrid learnt that buying star after star does not make a collective team that can go and win Europe’s most prestigious trophy. When they eventually decided to take a step back from that recruitment strategy and instead invested into the team wisely by bringing in younger and hungrier players, Madrid climbed to the top of the European pedestal and have yet to be knocked off. While it’s easier said than done in recruiting as efficiently as Los Blancos, Manchester United need to at least attempt to follow suit.
Their most recent acquisition in Diogo Dalot from FC Porto should be one that they follow up on. Although the 19-year-old right back has only featured in two matches, the Portugal youth player has been a breath of fresh air with his ability to beat a man and effectively cross the ball into the box. He assisted Marouane Fellaini’s header against Derby in the Carabao Cup to take the match into extra time.
For the Red Devils, moving forward, it’s of paramount importance to bring in a manager with a clear vision of playing attacking football that once again excites the Old Trafford faithful. With this in place, they must recruit players that fit the system and have the right ethos about them. Instead of constantly targeting the divas of the world, United need players that complement others around them and can take the club forward.
Over the years, the collectivity and squad togetherness has slowly diminished at Manchester United. The current state of affairs scream of unhappiness and unrest inside the dressing room with the end appearing nigh for Mourinho. If the Red Devils are to rise again, they must start acting like a team once more.