Over the past few days, many United fans have been discussing our transfer strategy and Moyes has received a lot of criticism. He has been criticised for going after targets that are difficult, and unlikely to land. But is his approach wrong?
United tend to go for 3 types of players:
- World class-such a player can immediately get into the starting 11, let alone the first team squad. Recent example, RVP (arguably upgrade over Rooney, Welbeck and Chicharito)
- Good player-Players that may not be world class, yet, but are good players and around the same level as those currently in the squad which play in the same position. Recent example, Kagawa (we did have Rooney)
- Talented Youngsters-Quality young players, that are nowhere near the end of their development curve. They are talented, but expected to be backup players for the next few years while they mature and develop further. Recent example, Zaha.
For the sake of this article, I am going to call World Class players as Class A, Good Players as Class B, Talented Youngsters as Class C, and Rubbish players as Class D. We don’t buy Class D players of purpose. These players tend to be in one of the 3 higher classes, but they become Class D because they flopped, such as Bebe, and arguably Young.
For a club like United, the priority in the transfer market is always to go after world class players. But that depends based on fiscal limits, target’s choice of club, etc. in the past, Sir Alex would plan out what players we needed to compete/win the league, and do well in the Champions League. But this summer, he retired and Moyes took over the reigns.
New era, fresh circumstances
Fans blame Moyes for not buying world class players early. But this is a stupid argument for them to make. United would have never bought a player until Moyes was officially introduced to the media, which was on the 5th of July 2013. Nor would Moyes have signed a player without first assessing his squad. Did fans really expect Moyes to sign players without first looking at the players he currently has at his disposal? If he did, then he would be acting recklessly and irresponsibly. Why? Because we have a good squad, that won the league last year. Whether it was with Sir Alex or not, is irrelevant. The players did the business on the pitch. Of course, Sir Alex was instrumental, and we wouldn’t have won it without his input, but the players Moyes inherits are still the same. On top of that, will Moyes sign new players without first looking at what the academy and reserves have on offer? Wouldn’t those players like to show Moyes what they have to offer before he buys a player(s) in their position and potentially block the route to the first team squad? All these questions and more were on his plate before he even took the job.
When his last match for Everton was over, he didn’t have the time to assess the United first team squad, reserve team squad and academy youngsters. Especially the first team squad, because some went on holiday at the end of the season and others went to international duty. Moyes didn’t have the time to analyse his squad and see where its strengths and weaknesses were. During the holiday, he arranged who was to be part of his backroom staff at United, and seemed to speak to Rooney (by phone, or whatever) and try to solve that problem. Then he himself went on holiday. What else was he supposed to do? Buy players? How was he going to do that without first assessing his first team squad and reserve team players? Would it not be irresponsible and rash for him to buy players without first looking at what he already has?
Those that think he should have bought players immediately, are either idiots or seem to think that Football Manager is real life. In Football Manager, when one becomes the new manager of a club, its easy to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the squad and determine which position(s) needs players and what types of players. In the game, this can be done within seconds. Click on personal profiles on all players in the club, and you will know what players you need, if any. But do people really think this is how it works in real life? If they think so, then the dream world has become their reality. If they don’t think so, then what the hell are they complaining about?
Moyes going on holiday had no bearing on transfer business, since he couldn’t asses the United first team squad and reserve squads since they too had gone on holiday, or international duty. He returned a few days before the squad, and started work officially on the 1st of July. The players, most of them, came back on the 3rd or 4th of July. Then the club went on the Far East tour, and left Manchester on the 10th of July, with some some first team players missing, and quite a few reserve team players (Januzaj, Lingard, etc), as well as our main only summer signing, Zaha (excluding Varela, since it seems he is going on loan to Boca Juniors or elsewhere). So, Moyes had a week to look at the players, and could barely judge them considering all of them are unfit after their summer break, and most were probably playing like crap.
Off to Bangkok, and barely a couple of days after arrival, they played their first preseason match vs Thailand All Stars, on 13th of July. Off to Australia now, and while they were there, Moyes seems to have had enough time to assess the players at his disposal in his new club, and can now decide which areas need strengthening, as well as the type and quality of player(s) he needs in those areas. Rumours of United making a bid for Fabregas surfaced around 16th of July, which means he took just less than 2 weeks (reasonable amount of time) to assess his players and options in training, and decide on what players he wanted to buy. Then on the 20th we played vs the A-League AllStars.
It took Moyes 2 weeks to look at the squad, assess them, and make a list of areas he needed players in, and the players he needed to fix it. Is 2 weeks really a lot of time? Is it really an unreasonable amount of time for Moyes to take to figure out what players we need, the type of player, and in the areas we need reinforcement? Was it sufficient enough to justify some United fans throwing their toys out of the pram? I feel Moyes took a reasonable amount of time, and the fans that are blaming him for not moving quicker into the transfer market are being very unreasonable and not considering the practical challenges that Moyes was facing when he started the job.
The Fabregas bid, on the 16th of July, signalled the start of our transfer business. Moyes then confirmed we were after a midfielder on the 20th of July, the day we faced the A League All Stars, by saying, “Signing a midfield player was one area where we thought we could possibly add to the squad”.
Challenges of buying world class players
Moyes said that we are after top quality players, which we should be targeting for a club with the stature and expectations of United. But there are a few problems with targeting top quality players this transfer window. They are:
- Moyes- he doesn’t have the reputation required to attract top quality players (or Class A players). It will be difficult for him to do that, not just this summer, but for the next few years while he builds his reputation at United as one that is capable of delivering trophies and developing players talents to closer to their potential.
- Time lost- managers tend to start working and planning their summer transfer window plans and strategy sometime in the 2nd half of the previous season. Not only was he the manager of Everton at that time, but he also didn’t know that he was going to the United manager come the summer. So, he didn’t have any transfer plans prepared for this summer when he took the job. On top of that, no planning can be done, until he had a chance to assess the players himself.
- United and Moyes know that this summer is the most crucial transfer window for him. He seems to have prioritised trying to get in top quality players, that have experience at the highest level. Attracting such players to United is difficult, due to us being ranked 7th or 8th in the transfer market food chain, because i feel Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea, PSG, Monaco and possibly Bayern Munich, are currently bigger fish than we are in the market, due to a loose combination of them either having more money, or bigger reputation managers, or better squads, or bigger global stature, etc. If by chance we are the club that the targeted player wants to come to, then we still have to negotiate a price at which his current club would sell the player to us. If that club is lower than us in the food chain, then this is much easier to do. But if the club is higher than we are in the food chain, then its difficult to prise the player from that club by just showing them the cash because rarely do clubs want to sell top quality players, let alone to major rivals. This is why the Fabregas chase is very complicated, because its possible that he wants to join us, but he has 3 years left on his contract and is wanted by Barcelona.
These are some of the problems that United currently face in this summers transfer window. Some United fans blame Moyes for not getting involved in the transfer market sooner, but I hope I have shown their opinion to be unreasonable. Another very popular opinion, is that Moyes is an idiot for trying to buy top quality players, for some of the reasons that I have just listed above. They feel that he should instead be going for Class B players instead of even trying to go for Class A players. I am going to try and present my viewpoint, which is that this other fan-popular opinion is very immature.
Is Moyes stupid for going after world class players?
Moyes decided to jump into the transfer market on the 16th of July, after he has time to assess his squad and appoint his backroom staff. Between then and the last day of the transfer window, there are 49 days. Note: The last day of the transfer window is on Monday, 2nd of September, not Saturday, the 31st of August, because rules say the transfer window can’t close on a weekend.
So, around 11 days have passed since Moyes plunged into the transfer market, initiated by the Fabregas bid. Which means there are 38 days left for Moyes to strengthen his squad.
Naturally, Moyes is after targets that he feels are Class A players, and Fabregas is certainly one of them. His other targets are said to be Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, etc. Such targets are hard to get, and some United fans feel that Moyes is wasting his time, which is arguably a fair opinion. But they aren’t right when they say we shouldn’t even be bidding for them just because its difficult to get them. Why? Because:
- That is a defeatist mentality. Had United adopted that, we won’t have RVP, because at the time we were bidding for him, those very same fans felt he was hard to get, due to City also being interested in him, Arsenal unwilling to sell him to an EPL rival, let alone to us (who Arsenal see as bigger rivals than City, considering the fact they have already sold some players to them in the past, such as Nasri, Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Clichy, etc). But, just because a target is hard to get, doesn’t mean we have no chance in getting him. Had we adopted those fans defeatist and pathetic approach, we wont have RVP, leading EPL goal scorer, sitting in our squad right now, who played a big part in firing us to league title number 20.
- A wise manager makes intelligent use of the transfer period. Moyes has 49 days (from 16th July to 2nd September) to bring in Class A, B or C players. He wants proven Class A players, so he probably decided to spend the first few weeks of the time available to him to get his first choice targets (Class A players). He is currently in that period and after players that would get into the starting 11, such as Fabregas, CR7, Bale, etc. So, its natural he will dedicate the first few weeks to seeing whether he can get them or not. If he can get them, brilliant, we probably won’t need to sign anymore players. If we can’t get them, then move down the transfer target list, and on to Class B and C players. So, if we fail we fail to get our Class A targets, by say the end of the 1st week of August, then i am sure Moyes will move on to easier targets (Class B and C players). Moyes is taking the smart approach, therefore i don’t understand why the fans are angry at Moyes. Do those fans want Moyes to sign Class B and C players without even trying to get Class A players? Do those fans want us to get Class A players in the first place? Those fans want United to go for Class B and C targets (such as Fellaini, Strootman, Thiago, etc) without even bidding for Class A targets. Does that approach make any sense at all? I don’t think so. Lets just take the following scenario, we buy Strootman and Thiago, then bid for Fabregas and realise Barca may be open to selling Fabregas for the right price, but we look like fools because we can’t buy him due to insufficient funds due to earlier purchases and/or no space in the squad to accommodate Class A players. I feel the fans criticising Moyes aren’t think logically, nor practically.
Fans are angry that we supposedly didn’t even bid for Thiago, according to Barcelona, Thiago and his father (Mazinho). It seems we did talk to Thiago, but we couldn’t agree terms, and so didn’t present Barcelona with a bid. Losing out on Thiago is not a problem. He is a quality player, and I wanted us to get him as badly as I wanted us to go for Strootman. But, Moyes seems to prefer going for Class A players first, whereas Thiago and Strootman can be termed as Class B or C player. They aren’t world class, because if they were, then what would that make the likes of Xavi, Pirlo, Schweinsteiger, etc? Super duper-world class? Therefore, Thiago and Strootman are quality players, but still Class B or C players (depends on everyones individual opinion). Also, lets face it, this transfer window, Thiago and Strootman are the flavours of the month. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good players, but losing out on them also doesn’t mean that there aren’t other quality, young, Class B and C players available out there. A few names spring to mind, such as, Veratti, Eriksen, etc. I actually know a “United fan” that is bashing United for losing out on Strootman, even though few weeks ago he said he was nothing but an average player after judging him solely on his performances in the U21 tournament in Israel and at that time was also bashing us for only targeting “average” players like Strootman. This is how fickle, immature and spoiled some members in the United fanbase are.
This very same “United fan” also seems like he is so sure that the Fabregas bid will fail, its as if he would jump all over my offer of a bet had I offered it to him. I know its highly unlikely we will get Fabregas. Same was said about our chances of getting RVP last summer. But Fabregas is a Class A player, and even if we have a 10% chance of getting him, we should go for it and try to sign him. Why? Because we have nothing to lose. Some say we will lose time. But are we?
Are we losing time by going after world class players?
How are we losing time? By dedicating lets says the first half of our transfer activity period (from 16th July to end of first week of August) on getting Class A players, we will still have 3 weeks to land Class B and C targets if we fail to land our primary targets. Some say we will be losing out if we dont move on to Class B and C targets already, but how so? These Class B and C targets are as good as what we already have. Those targets won’t be guaranteed starters in our starting 11. Lets say we landed Strootman. Is he guaranteed to start in our 2 man central midfield? Over who? Carrick? No chance. Anderson or Cleverley? Possibly, depending on each individuals opinion on Anderson, Cleverley and Strootman as players. Since a Strootman won’t be an undisputed starter had he been signed how are we losing out on him (or any other Class B and C player) if he is not in the squad for the competitive matches in August, which are Wigan (in Charity Shield), Swansea and Chelsea (in the league)? Class B and C players would improve the quality and depth of the squad, but they would be fighting for their place in the first team, and not guaranteed starters like Fabregas, or Bale, or CR7, etc. So, isn’t it wise to dedicate the first half of our transfer activity period getting Class A players that would walk into the first team? I think so. Wouldn’t such a player(s) be much more likely to make a difference vs the opposition we are facing in the opening round of fixtures, than a Class B or C player? I think so. Therefore, I totally reject some “United fans” opinion that we are fools for even trying to go after Class A players even though we have a small chance of getting him, because their mentality is not only a defeatist one, but also completely impractical. Thank goodness Moyes doesn’t share their mentality. Had Sir Alex had their mentality, we wouldn’t have gotten RVP, and maybe not even the 20th league title last season.
There is plenty of time left in the transfer window to land secondary targets (like Fellani, Veratti, etc), if we fail to land our top targets. Moyes needed time to assess the squad, which we took, and was right to do so. He was also right to prioritise trying to get world class players first and foremost. Should he fail at getting those players, which is likely, then there is plenty of time to get the secondary targets. Moyes is no idiot, nor is his adviser, a certain Sir Alex Ferguson, and both have gone about the planning of this transfer window in a mature, calm manner. Thank goodness the fickle, idiotic fans in our fanbase don’t run Manchester United.
Fickle fans=Football Manager syndrome
These fickle fans, whose opinions I have been trying to counter in this article, seem to have the Football Manager syndrome. Common symptoms of this illness are:
- Belief that a new manager can assess his squad within a couple of hours, let alone a day or two. As if he could just click on their personal player profiles, look up their stats, and decide which area of the squad needs strengthening, with how many players and of what quality.
- Belief that a new manager can just come in, transfer list, and somehow sell a bunch of players that he doesn’t feel are up the high standards he expects within a single transfer window
- Belief that all transfer business can be done within a couple of weeks. As if we can go through the whole bidding process on his primary transfer target list within a week, by going to the “search player menu”, write down what stats he wants in those players, then press “enter”, and then a list of players just comes comes up on a screen. Then bidding X amount on his chosen primary target list, and getting a final response within a day or two. If bid accepted, and players personal terms agreed, then hallelujah. If bids rejected, then bid on secondary targets list, get them accepted, and then finish of the whole transfer business witin two weeks. Then sit tight for preseason, play some friendlies, then try to hit the season guns blazing.
- Also, if you think getting primary targets are hard, no problem. Just buy the secondary target, and if after a week you realise there is a chance to get the primary target (the much better player), then just reload the game, not buy the secondary player and instead wait and get the primary player.
Silly season is more that just having to bear bullshit from the media and their stories, of which 80% are the products of daydreaming, lazy journalism, or abuse of some substance or the other. This time of the year, especially for us United fans, is also the time to bear the bullshit from the idiots in our fanbase. There is no escape from it, unless you cut yourself off from the mediums that these fans use to voice their opinions, which includes newspapers, internet forums, social media, radio shows, TV news channels, etc.
Theory on sale of players
This is just my personal theory on two players that have been heavily linked to transfers out of the club.
- Rooney. I feel he wants to go, but we are under no real pressure to sell him. I think we will be happy to let his contract run down another year. If we don’t get sufficient quality players in to satisfy Moyes, then I think he will stay this summer. If we were to sell him to Chelsea this summer, then I think it would be because we were sure we could use his money to buy another quality player to replace him and/or Chelsea bid crazy money for him which we just couldn’t say no to (such as a 50 million pounds bid).
- Nani. I feel he is part of a transfer game of chess. He is dispensable since he has one year left of his contract, and we seem to only want 8.5 million pounds for him (according to Galatasaray chairman, Unal Aysal) which is cheap for a player of his quality. I am sure he has a long line of suitors, especially for such a cheap price. But why hasn’t he transferred yet? I feel its because we want to sell him this summer, only if we get a top class winger (such as CR7, Bale, etc). That way by selling Nani, we get an unreasonably small fee, get his wages off the books, but more importantly make space in our squad for the world class winger we get. But if we don’t get this world class winger, then I think Nani will be kept this year, and he will be given a new contract so that he doesn’t go for free next summer. Also, I don’t think we will sell Nani this summer if we fail to get a top quality winger, because if we sell him, then we will probably need to replace him (assuming Moyes doesn’t trust Lingard enough to give him Nani’s games). The replacement could be a Class B or C winger. I don’t think we will go for a Class C winger (talented kid) because we already have Zaha and Lingard who fit that description, and I don’t think Moyes will be satisfied with just 2 senior wingers (Valencia and Young). Also, if we sell Nani, without buying CR7/Bale, then he would be replaced by a Class B winger, which Nani already is, and he is among the best in that category. Why would we sell Nani, for cheap, just to replace him with another as good as him for more money? I just don’t think its going to happen, unless the Class B winger was available for cheap as well, but there are other factors to consider such as settling-in time for the new Class B winger whereas Nani is already settled in the squad, etc. So, if Nani stays, we won’t get CR7/Bale. If CR7/Bale do arrive this summer, then Nani is gone. If Nani stays, he will most likely get a new contract, but its not necessary that he will be sold next summer, but this is connected to Young and I will explain that below. Note: I feel Nani is an excellent Class B player. He has all the talent in the world to become Class A, but he is inconsistent, which makes him Class B. If we were to call him Class A, then what does that make the likes of CR7?
- Young. No way will he be sold this summer in my opinion, and he has 3 years left on his contract. Not with Nani in such a vulnerable position this summer. But, if Nani was to stay and get a new contract, then Young will probably be sold next summer. This is because i think he will be the most expendable next summer, because i feel Valencia, Nani and Zaha will have better seasons that Young, mainly because i think they are better players than him, and it would end up making him 4th choice winger. I think Moyes would then sell him to make room for another winger (either someone world class, or one with the potential to become world class). So, this transfer game of chess with Nani this summer could well lead to Youngs sale next summer, if the pieces fall in Nani’s favour.
Transfer Budget of 2013/14 and 2012/13 seasons
Lastly, I wanted to point out something, which is that we have quite a lot of money to spend this transfer window. Ignore the quotes from Moyes where he said he has an unlimited amount of money to spend, because the Glazers aren’t Sheikhs, nor have they suddenly become kind. We do have a budget and it has a limit. But what is the limit?
Last year we had around 70 million pounds net transfer budget. I can’t get the figures to back it up for sure, until the annual financial report comes out, which isn’t out yet. But, based on our transfer activity, it is possible to estimate our transfer budget. Last summer our net transfer expenditure was 39 million pounds. The Zaha transfer doesn’t count since it happened in January, but was worth 10 million pounds, plus 5 million addons, so 15 million pounds total. But in the summer, we were in search of a winger (either Hazard or Moura), and the two wingers that we had targeted were worth over 30 million pounds, each, and we were prepared to pay it. That money was going to come out of our pockets. Had we got either of them, its unlikely we would have signed Zaha (at least not last season), since he is too is a winger. But what is sure is that, had we got either Hazard or Moura, our net transfer expenditure would have gone over 70 million pounds. But since since moves for both of them failed, it is out of that allocated money for a winger that we got the funds to buy Zaha in January.
Our transfer budget may have been even more than 70 million pounds net, but its unlikely. We can reasonably assume this based on the trends of last summer, but we will proof get proof of that in a few weeks when the annual financial report comes out.
But I do feel our transfer budget should be even bigger this year. Somewhere around net 80-100 million pounds, depends on how much of added revenue is added to transfer budget, wage budget, and how much retained for other purposes. Our wage bill rose last year, and I am sure it will increase this year too. But the revenue that we can count on will be higher for this year and future years, is also going to be higher, which will probably increase our transfer budget to the mark I predicted. Certain factors we have to thank for that, some of which are:
- Increase in broadcasting revenue, thanks to the new EPL TV deal, out of which we should be getting around 25 million pounds+ extra from this year onwards.
- Increase in commercial revenue, such as the new AON deal (training kit and Carrington naming rights) contributing more financially than the DHL deal which was replaced. There are also increases in commercial revenue from other sponsors, such as the new Aeroflot deal which is estimated to be worth 8 million pounds per season, which was a lot more than what I had estimated a few months ago when rumours of this new sponsorship was in the media.
- Our Nike deal is also going to be renewed this summer, most likely. Currently we make roughly 35 million pounds from this deal, but experts argue that the new Nike deal will see us get around 60-75 million. There is no guarantee that Nike will extend our partnership with them, but it is likely we will because I don’t think they will want to lose ground in the turf war vs Adidas. Currently, out of the top 4 most supported clubs, Adidas sponsors Real Madrid and Chelsea, whereas Nike have us and Barcelona. I think its unlikely that Nike would want to lose out on an extended partnership with us, because not only would Nike arguably lose out on a valuable client, but they would also be handing us on a silver platter to Adidas or a host of new competitors that have just got into this market (Under Armour, Warrior, etc). Should the Nike deal be renewed this summer, then that extra revenue will also be added to our transfer budget, wage budget, etc.
- Interest payments have been reduced by around 10 million pounds per year, after the Glazer debt was refinanced.
All of this, and more, combined will see the transfer budget rise to the 80-100 million pounds net mark, and the wage budget will rise to, but I am not going to try and predict that because it depends a lot on sales, or which players, purchases, and of which players.
So, that concludes my view of the opinions of the idiots in our fanbase, along with my facts showing why our transfer budget is going to be a lot higher this year, than last year, although last years transfer budget was nothing to be scoffed at.
Also, I don’t think we will be leaving transfer business this late next summer, because by next summer he will know the squad very well, and can make transfer plans throughtout the season. Identifying areas to improve, players to target, and bidding, would start once the season ends, and we would probably get players in before the preseason tour. So, this seasons transfer business being done late should be seen as a blip, due to the unique circumstances that United has had to face, which hasn’t been faced in 26 years.