Manchester United are suffering an identity crisis

by Rafae Qazi

MoyesAs the current season draws to a close and the summer transfer windows draws ever closer, the transfer rumour mill is in full swing. Manchester United in particular, has been the supposed destination for players across the world. In seasons gone by the transfer policy at Manchester United was really quite simply but under David Moyes’ reign there seems to be a lack of one.

Sir Alex Ferguson opted to sign young and promising talents such as Wilfried Zaha, Anderson, Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo. These players all carried a hefty price tag however they also carried the added allure of being raw. They all possessed the natural talent to be world-class players and all had long futures ahead of them. If we look back at Sir Alex’s last six signings, bar Robin van Persie, they are all young and promising talents who can be molded into the Manchester United’s quick counter attacking and possession based game.

That is what Sir Alex did so successfully. He molded promising talents into Manchester United players. This way Manchester United could benefit from years of faithful service from world-class players who would practice Manchester United’s philosophy of quick, counter attacking football. Ultimately it would result in value for money for the club.

I will be the first to admit that in the hunt for value for money some mistakes were made. In 25 years in charge that is inevitable! However for the most, money was well spent and due to this transfer policy, ‘big’ money signings of £30 million plus were never deemed necessary.

However under David Moyes this transfer policy has been completely scrapped. This would have been fine if there was a clear transfer strategy for the future, however a lack of this is what is most worrying.

Our major acquisitions under Moyes have been a £27.5 million panic buy for Fellaini and a £37 million ‘statement of intent’ purchase for Mata. Both players are individually talented footballers but neither purchase was really necessary. Fellaini has not settled into his role at Manchester United, as a holding midfielder, who can break up play.

On the other hand the purchase of Mata came as a surprise to many. It was a pleasant surprise as we had just acquired a world-class player. However Mata’s best position at CAM is one that was already contested for by Rooney and Kagawa. As a result Mata has found himself out wide on numerous occasions where he struggles to impose himself. At CAM he looks like he is worth £37 million and more but out wide he isn’t worth even half of that.

Mata’s purchase was a statement of intent because following on from a disappointing start to the campaign Moyes needed to show he was able to attract top players to United and that United was still a club for the very best. However it also showed the pressure Moyes was in to make a signing. If no signing had been made during January, his transfer policies would have been under even more scrutiny.

The real test for Moyes’ transfer policies will be this summer. This is set to be one of Manchester United’s busiest and most important transfer windows in recent memory. Moyes, carries a reputation for picking up inexpensive gems such as Seamus Coleman, during the market, but if reports are to be believed inexpensive is the last thing Moyes is going to be. It looks as if he is going to leave his tried and tested methods of buying inexpensive players and developing them. He looks set to sign £30 million plus players on huge wages. While this is exciting because it will allow United to receive instant success, long-term its a worry.

Manchester United are being heavily linked with Luke Shaw of Southampton. The 18-year-old, earned his first international call-up for England recently and has been putting in impressive performances week in-week out. A left back, is exactly what we need, and on paper the signing looks set to be perfect. Evra (unfortunately) looks set to leave the club and thus a new first choice left back is a matter of urgency. The natural successor would be Alexander Buttner. The Dutchman put in an impressive performance against Bayern in the first leg and has made himself a strong case for being first choice left back. At 25 years of age, the former Vitesse player is at his peak and needs to play regular football. However, it looks as if United will opt to buy a younger more English left back in Luke Shaw.

With a supposed price of £30 million and £85,000 weekly wages, it would completely go against Manchester United’s policy of getting value for money. Still only 18, this is Luke Shaw’s breakthrough season and he needs to have another impressive season, to justify his claim, as one of the best left backs of the future. At £30 million, currently it would be a an over evaluation for the young Englishman and would put an enormous amount of pressure on his young shoulders, to justify his price tag.

Another player Manchester United are being heavily linked with is energetic midfielder William Carvalho. From an analytic point of view, he is exactly what Manchester United’s midfield have been lacking. He will provide an injection of energy into a laborious midfield. He will also use his large physical frame and tackling prowess to break up play and impose himself on the game. Protecting his back four and injecting speed into a sluggish midfield he could do the dirty work and help get the best out of Michael Carrick, who has struggled this season.

However, at a supposed price tag of £35 million, this again would be an over estimation of his true value. He currently plays in the Portuguese First Division, which will all due respect does not have a patch on the Premier League. It is a lot easier to look world-class in the Portuguese Primeira Liga than it is in the Barclay’s Premier League. While he has earned himself an international cap for Portugal, the 22-year-old still has to prove himself worthy of a £35 million price tag through consistent world-class performances both over the next season and at the World Cup.

The signings of these supposed ‘world class’ players would also limit the opportunities of Manchester United U-21 youth stars such as Ben Pearson, James Wilson and Jesse Lingard who all want to break into the first team. None of them have been given the opportunity and the fear is that they never will be. The consequences of chasing short-term success by spending untold millions are for everyone to see. At Chelsea the last great player to come through he Academy and establish themselves as a regular was John Terry. Manchester City fear they will not be able to meet the quota for home-grown players who make it into the first team and could face punishment.

These are problems United have historically have never had to face. United in recent decades has been seen as a shining light for teams who wish to integrate youth players into the first team. The Class Of 92 was perhaps the peak but even in recent years players such as Danny Welbeck, Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley have come though the academy and have established themselves as first team players.

Personally I fear that Manchester United are acquiring world-class players at inflated prices. These players will have to play every week regardless of form because they will be on extortionate wages and have come for huge price tags. As a result the next home-grown Ryan Giggs or the next home-grown David Beckham will never be able to establish themselves at Manchester United. It would result in the end of one of the greatest academy systems in the world and it would result in our identity as the shining light for integrating and nurturing young players into the first team being lost.

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