Sack a manager, back a manager. Sack a manager, back a manager.
Manchester United have been like a broken record in the seven years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and left the club he revolutionised still working hard to get themselves back on their famous perch.
United have made plenty of mistakes in those seven years whether it be managerial mistakes, short-term thinking in the transfer window or prioritising business matters over those concerning football.
The permanent appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was supposed to readdress all of those concerns. An open statement of intent to ‘put smiles back on faces’ was launched and for a while it seemed like it was working.
United’s three previous managers were all effectively sacked for failing to deliver Champions League football to Old Trafford and the mission plan remained the same for Solskjaer during his first full season in charge.
In order to do so, United backed him last summer in the transfer window with Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James recruited for a total in the region of just under £150million.
The results weren’t immediately obvious after a mixed start to the last campaign but the accelerated plans to sign Bruno Fernandes in the January transfer window soon gave United the lift required, eventually proving crucial in the club’s qualification for the Champions League.
United’s return to the top competition in European club football not only secured the club vital money as part of their Adidas shirt sponsorship, but it provided crucial prize money at a time in which the club, like so many others, has suffered plummeting revenues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the third-place finish achieved last season fans went into the summer transfer window full of optimism with the belief they would finally sign priority target Jadon Sancho along with a host of other names who would allow the club to not only win silverware, but also launch a genuine Premier League title bid this season.
United made it clear to Borussia Dortmund at the start of the window there was a strict limit to their budget, which has seen both matchday and commercial revenues plummet. Subsequently the club felt the total transfer package was not realistic given the current economic environment.
Instead the club were still scrambling for additions late in the summer window as they completed signings of Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles, Facundo Pestrilli and Amad Diallo.
It is important to note that even without the addition of Sancho the club spent €106m on transfers this summer window, although much of that was taken up on a deal to sign Amad Diallo at a later date.
You can look at the business in one of two ways, with Diallo’s fee it means United’s net spend over the past three transfer windows is more than any other major club in Europe, or without his fee, it is less money spent than an Aston Villa side which also managed to keep hold of star player Jack Grealish.
Either way there can be no ignoring the fact United spend more money when they are fighting to get back into the Champions League compared to windows when they are preparing for another campaign in it. Three of United’s top-five record signings were recruited in summers when the club had previously failed to secure a place in the competition and there is an underlying sense of deja vu this time around.
Of course the caveat of a difficult financial climate has to be taken into consideration for a club which is losing millions in potential revenue each matchday, but when other rivals are spending so freely it is difficult to pity a team so rich who appear to repeat so many mistakes in the summer transfer window.
United have every right to defend their summer transfer activity and each of their summer signings does bring added value to a squad which needed bolstering. However, there will be little sympathy from fans if a perceived lack of spending contributes to failure this season, with Solskjaer likely to be the one who ends up paying the biggest price of them all.
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