“We can compete for top players. People say we don’t, but we have bought well. Our goal at United is to develop our own players and also buy good players. If we wanted to, we could [compete for a big signing]. Over time, you will know we have rarely bought a world star. We have made them world stars by playing for United, and that will continue.”
Think what you like about David Gill, but he has certainly got a point. Whether or not you believe we have money to spend, United have never been out and bought the ‘World Stars’ of football. The majority of our big money signings have been proven Premier League footballers but hardly superstars. Our one attempt at the star-buy was with Juan Veron, and we all know how that turned out. This has been a successful policy over the years and even the staunchest Liverpool supporter would struggle to disagree with the level of success we have had over the past twenty years (almost). However, the scope of the Premier League has changed drastically over the last five years. Money talks and billionaire owners with bottomless pits of transfer funds are the norm. So does this signal a required change in philosophy for the club?
In my opinion, not necessarily. The club is extremely successful at turning talented youngsters into the next mega-star. The latest, and most arguably successful example of this is Christiano Ronaldo. Bought for roughly £13m and sold for over £80m, world player of the year winner in between, and one of football’s most recognisable faces. When he was snapped up by United many thought who is this kid with the same name as the Brazilian legend? The rest, as they say, is history. There are many other examples. Fergie’s Fledglings were even better business than Ronaldo, as they have served the club in exceptionally outstanding fashion since the mid 90’s. Roy Keane, British transfer record at the time of his move to United but soon recognised as one of the world’s best midfield generals in the late 90’s. The most obvious name on the list is Ryan Giggs. Holder of a number of club records, demon of the wings, scorer of the greatest ever FA Cup goal and the joint most decorated footballer in world football history.
But what of the next class of talented United youngsters. Players like Anderson, Chicharito, Smalling, Evans, Rafael and Fabio, the list goes on and on. Over the next two or three seasons, these will be the players who are taking over the reins from the likes of Berbatov, Rio, Vidic and Scholes. They may or may not be up to the challenge, only time will tell, but they are certainly the ones Fergie has backed to carry United through the next decade. My main concern is the quality of the squad around these players. We are still relying heavily on players well into their thirties. Important players from previous seasons, such as Wes Brown, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher are all having less than impressive seasons. How many truly quality players do United really have? Four or Five? Six tops? And then there is the Rooney factor….
Every Manchester United fan was put through a roller-coaster ride in October as Wayne Rooney announced he was leaving, subsequently resigned for us on a shitload of money and broke the hearts of millions of his fans in the process. In the fallout to this event, many news sources reported that Rooney had been promised a plethora of signings would be made to ensure United maintain their mantle as perennial title challengers. Opinion on the validity of this story was a hot topic amongst fans, with some stating it must be true, whilst others quaffed that we don’t have the money to make such bold statements. Personally, I’m of the opinion that I’ll believe it when I see it, but the Glazers aren’t stupid and they know that to keep United afloat, we need to be winning trophies. It takes talented players to win trophies, and it takes money to bring in talent.
I don’t want this article to turn into a debate on the Glazers. You may in fact be wondering why I have even bothered to write this article in the first place. The reality is that we are in the middle of the January transfer window. Money is getting spent around us and our rivals are improving their squads for the push towards May. Everywhere I go I hear United fans getting squeaky bums about our lack of activity in the transfer market. Do I think we need to bring a player or two in? Yes I do. Do I think we will bring a player or two in? No. This is not the end of the world though as I still believe we have enough in our locker to sustain the title charge and lift number 19. The issue falls with the between 15 and 18 players who have 18 months or less left on their contracts. That issue makes the summer the key time for transfer activity. It makes this summer the time when the Glazers will have to ‘put up or shut up’, for want of a better phrase. It makes this summer the most important summer in recent club history and pivotal to how the club will be regarded for the foreseeable future.