Attempting to solve Enigma 2013: United’s transfer campaign strategy

We have all been pretty confused this summer about the summer transfer campaign. It is said we have a plan in place. Some of us believe it, others don’t. Few trust the club, others just think Moyes and Woodward are totally incompetent and have the IQ of some pesky insect. But i subscribe to the theory that United have a plan, and that Moyes and Woodward aren’t idiots. So, i am going to explore what exactly our plan was from the start, and it is just a theory, so it’s up to you whether you believe it or not. Personally, i think the theory is logical, and i actually do believe it is a strong possibility. Before we delve into the theory, lets first meet the assumptions.

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Assumptions

1.) Glazers are businessmen. They are money hungry bastards, sure, but they know that to protect and enhance the value of their asset, they will have to keep investing in it (more like letting United keep investing their own money into the transfer budget and wage budget). 

2.) Moyes is not an idiot. He has managed in the Premier League for around a decade, and is very experienced for a so called “young manager”. Nor is he a yes-man, or a slave to the Glazers.

3.) Ed Woodward is not an idiot. So many i have met this summer think he is either an idiot (really low IQ) and/or doesn’t have a clue about handling the football side and dealing of a club. The second point may be true, but the first point certainly is not true. To prove it, i am going to write down some of his current career achievements.

Ed Woodward’s CV

1993-Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, from Bristol University

1998-Gained his Chartered Accountancy qualifications

1993 to 1999-Worked in Accounting and Tax Advisory department at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC)

1999 to 2005-Worked as an investment banker, in the International Mergers & Acquisitions team, at J.P. Morgan

2005-Advised the Glazers regarding the MUFC takeover, since J.P. Morgan was employed by the Glazers.

2005-Joined United (Glazers wanted him), and managed the capital structure of the group and advised on the overall financial business plan.

2007-Assumed responsibility for the commercial and media operations, along with developing and implementing a new overall commercial strategy for the club. This resulted in a new structured approach to commercialising the brand, including developing the sponsorship strategy. (Basically, he is the brainchild of United’s sponsorship strategy that you have been witnessing for the past few years, and he is supposedly a good negotiator too).

2012-Became a MUFC Director

2013-Continues doing what he did before, but due to David Gill stepping down, he has also taken over Gill’s former roles and responsibilities (such as player transfers, salary negotiations, etc).

A man with a CV like that is not an idiot. He may or may not know how to handle the football side of running a football club, but if he doesn’t know, then he will learn and adapt. David Gill did the same thing, and he has a somewhat similar CV to Ed Woodward. Both become CEO of United, and climbed up the ranks to get there. So, we can be sure that Ed is not an idiot.

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United’s transfer campaign strategy, in the words of Moyes and Woodward

First of all, lets look at the summer transfer window from Moyes perspective, and imagine, or try to be in his shoes for a minute. He has just taken the United job. Still a couple of games to go till the end of EPL 2012/13 season. Still a couple of United, and Everton, matches left to go. He can’t really assess the squad since he has to focus on Everton, and when the matches are finally done, there are very few days left. Once those days are over, the United players are off on their vacations or international duty before that. Moyes can’t assess the squad until he meets them face to face, for a few weeks, and takes the training sessions. But he does realise that the biggest hole in the Champions squad is in midfield, especially since Scholes retired. So, even though he hasn’t met and fully assessed the current squad, he still goes after the most highly rated central midfielder on the market, Thiago. 

He chased Thiago till mid July, which is when he decided to go Bayern instead. Around that time, not only were we on tour, but Moyes had also finished assessing the squad (he had all his current CMs in the tour party, namely, Carrick, Anderson and Cleverley). From the start Moyes said he will be going after the best players in the world, for positions he feels needs strengthening. He also said he will trust and develop the youth in the club, so should we fail to land the top targets, then its possible that he wouldn’t buy average players since he would feel its better instead to give the youth a chance to shine and prove themselves. Most of the things said so far using his own words.

“It was always going to be a difficulty window for me personally. I joined on the 1st of July, which has given me a short period [short transfer market window]. It’s never the same until you have worked with the players, but we have got a great group of players, that won the Premier League last year.” -Moyes

 

“I will not name anybody, but certainly we are always looking at the best players. I think we are trying to strengthen in a couple of areas. We are short in midfield. We are also a club that tends to invest in the youth side, so you can expect us to go for players in that age group. We are working hard to make sure the first signing is the right one. I have been left a really good team and i want to add to it sensibly”.-Moyes

 

Moyes has constantly hinted that we are only after top quality players, and maybe even some quality youngsters that will become stars in the future. Top quality players tend to cost a lot of money, and he claims that he has the full financial support of the club, including if and when he wants to after stellar signings. This is what Ed Woodward, David Gill’s successor said when asked if United would be willing to spend 60 million or 70 million on a single player. 

“Yes. Absolutely.”-Woodward

 

Ed Woodward went on to elaborate on how United will handle transfer dealings in the future.

“I want to continue from where David Gill left us, and David Moyes from Sir Alex. The way we worked with Alex was he would identify the transfer targets and take them to Joel Glazer and David Gill, who would have discussions which ended with them backing him in the transfer market every single time and we see that continuing with David Moyes. We could have broken the transfer record in the past if we wanted to [not sure if he meant United’s transfer record or the world transfer record, probably the former i think]. Alex may not have gotten all the players he wanted, but that was never down to not releasing funds. There’s never been a cut-off price. We haven’t got the money burning a hole in our pocket, but we have a strategy on player purchases, and if David [Moyes] wants to go after a stellar player, he can do that. What we will do is be careful with our money, in the sense we aren’t going to go into the market as mugs. We look at the value of the player compared to other players in his position. There is no mysterious process.”-Woodward

 

Moyes has repeatedly hinted that deals will be done much later in the window than he would have liked, but he blames this on the circumstances, since he is a new Manchester United manager, and since he has inherited a league title winning squad, so he should mostly focus on adding quality to it. But despite all that, he is still the manager, and as manager, he has the option of choosing the transfer strategy. Aiming high is ambitious, and i like that, but it is also risky, but i am personally willing to accept the risks (we wouldn’t have gotten RVP if we weren’t ambitious and willing to take chances in the transfer market). Moyes could have easily gone out and bought a central midfielder, or a player in another position, that were good (maybe even avarage) but not world class. Such a transfer strategy would have been far less risky, and probably we would have signed some players long before now. But such a strategy would have lacked ambition, and sections of the United fanbase would have labelled him a Glazer-slave, and panned him for his lack of ambition, just like they are doing now (even though he seems to have accepted the ambitious, but risky, transfer strategy). Moyes would have understood something about the United fanbase during the summer, which is, the United fanbase is too large and various factions exist among them, so he can’t please them all, just like Sir Alex couldn’t please them all. 

By accepting such a risky, but ambitious, transfer strategy, he knows and provides hints to the fanbase that signings will probably happen towards the end of the transfer window. But a few days back, he acknowledged the risk in the transfer strategy.

“There is a possibility we won’t sign anyone. We have targeted certain quality players, so we will see. There is a need for me to sign players. But there is no pressure. If the right players are available, then great. If not, then we will encourage our own young players.”-Moyes

 

I have said many times that Moyes is a very methodical man when it comes to the transfer market. He seems to have had complex transfer strategies while he was in charge of Everton, and i don’t expect to see him drop his methods in the future as United manager. I have mentioned this article a few times, but i will mention it again. Here is the link to a great article on Moyes methods, when it comes to the transfer market. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/scouting-system-that-reveals-david-moyes-mind-8756011.html

Ed Woodward said there won’t be major changes to the squad. Most fans have interpreted that as United not going to spend much money this window, and very fans think he meant that in terms of players, there won’t be too many changes, and i personally belong in that small group of fans. His exact words are listed below.

“I wouldn’t expect there to be a major retooling of the squad. There is incredible depth. We could put out two first teams with 11 internationals in each. It has been a phenomenal season [2012/13 season]. We are a long way ahead in the Premier League, and whilst i wouldn’t describe the way we got knocked out of the Champions League as luck things could have gone differently in that game. We have a young squad and each of those are a year older. We are very comfortable with the make up of the team and squad.”

 

It should be noted, that these words by Ed Woodward came around 2nd May 2013. To put that in perspective, Sir Alex hadn’t announced his retirement yet, and rumours of his retirement started surfacing around 7th May 2013. Ed’s words came around the time Sir Alex approached David Moyes regarding the Manchester United manager job opening. So, Ed hadn’t even met Moyes, let alone discussed his (Moyes) plans for the summer transfer window. This is why Ed’s words in the interview i just quoted, should be taken with a pinch of salt. His words may have meant something, but i find it unlikely to have meant much since he hadn’t sat down with Moyes yet. Moyes at the time didn’t even know, or was about to know, that he was the next United manager, by Sir Alex himself in a face to face private meeting in his house. A lot of this can be verified using Moyes own recollection of him first learning that he was the next United manager. 

The new power combo-Moyes & Woodward

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These are the two men that Moyes and Woodward have replaced. Much depends on how well these two gel, and how alike their ideas are, especially when it comes to the transfer market. But judging by what i have seen so far, and my own take of events, it seems to me that Woodward is supportive of Moyes ideas and plans for the transfer market. I am going to explain this in detail, but first lets look at what United’s transfer strategy was, at least in my opinion and with my own interpretation of events this summer. 

United’s summer transfer strategy

When Moyes got the job, we said we are after top class players and that we need a midfielder. He said that signings will probably happen late in the window, and its possible that no signings could happen at all, and i feel this is mainly because the transfer strategy chosen was ambitious, but risky. The image (Table 1) below is an illustration of United’s summer transfer strategy. 

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NOTE: I am going to explain the image above thoroughly, so you will probably have to reference the image a few times. Therefore, its best if you try to open that image in a new tab on your browser, so that that you can read the explanation of the image above and at the same time easily look at the image. This is for your convenience. 

Image explanation

Step No. = Each step of United’s transfer strategy, and contingency plan if and when the prior step fails. So, say if Step 1 fails, then they move on to Step 2, and so and forth. 

Players = The 6 players listed in the image, are transfer targets at some stage of the window. In each step, their name either appears (which means they are being chased at that step) or the name is replaced by a maroon block (which means that they are not being chased in that step temporarily, or the target is no longer being chased permanently for the remainder of the summer transfer window.

Pound Sterling = The estimated cost of acquiring all the players in each step. The prices are estimated, naturally, because no one knows for sure what each player’s going rate is. 

Points = This stands for “utility”, which is economics lingo/jargon for “satisfaction”. Each player brings with him a certain quality, from which fans gain utility, or in other words, satisfaction. A fan is more likely to consider signing Reus as more satisfactory than signing Young, since the former is a better player (quality-wise) than the latter. So, the Points tally in this image is the total satisfaction (or utility) of signing all the transfer targets in each Step Number. Points can even be interpreted as Quality points of players signed in each step. 10/10 is the best quality rating, 1/10 is the worst quality rating.

Points per player = This is simply, (Points) divided by (Total players in each Step Number, assuming they are all signed). So, Points per player stands for average utility (or average satisfaction, or average quality of players signed) derived from the signing of players in each Step Number.

Pound Sterling per point = This is amount of money spent acquiring each Point (of quality, or satisfaction, or utility).

The image (Table 2) below lists the Cost and Points, of each transfer target. 

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United transfer strategy. Step by Step

Now that the image above has been introduced, and the terms explained, lets now look at each step in the transfer strategy. We will look at trends we have exhibited in the transfer market, and try to plot what will/could happen in the last few days of the transfer window.

Step 1 (Thiago +CR7/Bale + Baines)

Moyes admitted in mid-July that we are short in midfield. Its obvious to me that we were chasing Thiago for weeks before that. His father, Mazinho, confirmed that we wanted him and were negotiating a contract/terms with him. There wasn’t much point of submitting an offer in Barcelona for him, until Thiago agreed terms with us. It seems he kept delaying everything, and was waiting for Bayern and Pep to make their interest formal, which they ended up doing despite us courting him for many weeks. Finally, Bayern showed their formal interest, especially through “that” press conference by Pep, terms agreed (no surprise, since Bayern and/or Pep was his first choice over United), and then submitted an offer to Barcelona, and they took him. Had it not been for Bayern, i am certain we would have got him. 

Its obvious to me that our main transfer target all summer has been Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7). Rumours of talks between United, CR7 and Real Madrid have been all over the papers throughout the summer, and much before that as well. I think United knew there was a chance of getting CR7 this summer, so saved most of their transfer budget for trying to get him. Real Madrid sensing trouble decided to chase Bale, but they knew that other clubs too could get interested for a lower fee (50-70 million), and among the interested clubs in Bale’s signature were probably United. I think Moyes would settle for Bale, if Real Madrid refused to sell CR7 and/or CR7 didn’t want to return to Old Trafford this summer. So, Real Madrid deliberately hiked up Bale’s price by using the media, and Tottenham more than happily obliged because they don’t care as long as they get maximum transfer fee from his sale, and selling to a club outside the EPL was an added bonus especially for Levy. 

There was a bid for Baines in June itself, and was rejected towards the end of the month. The bid was said to be around 10-12 million pounds. This fee, along with probable fee for Thiago, and the big fee saved up for a CR7 (or even a Bale bid) amounts to around 100 million pounds which i estimate is the size of our transfer budget. After the Baines bid was rejected, we couldn’t go any higher than that, since we had transfer funds earmarked for the Thiago and CR7/Bale transfer.

Step 2 (Fabregas +CR7/Bale)

Mid-July, Thiago has gone to Bayern, and we temporarily withdrew from the Baines chase near the end of June. Moyes said our main priority was a central midfielder. So, after losing out on Thiago, we immediately bid for Fabregas, assuming we got some hints from his agent, Fabregas himself, or maybe even Barcelona. It is possible that Barcelona hinted that there is a price for Fabregas signature, because not everything they say in the media is the truth. Thiago said that Barcelona privately didn’t even try to keep him despite Barcelona saying in the media that they wanted Thiago to stay. Its possible, but who knows at the end of the day. I don’t think United would make a blind bid for a player, since we have never done so in the past. Either Fabregas, or his agent or maybe even Barcelona said he is available for the right price. Since 60 million out of the total 100 million transfer budget is still being earmarked for a CR7/Bale push, we couldn’t bid more than 40 million pounds for Fabregas. That is why we bid low, and slowly raised the bid, but never crossed the 40 million pounds milestone, because most of the money was reserved for CR7, or maybe even a Bale bid, but getting CR7 was more likely than landing Bale (especially because Real Madrid were interested in Bale, and because Spurs/Levy hates United). Assuming we calculated that Real Madrid would be willing to sell CR7 for the right price (after buying Bale themselves), Real Madrid could still increase the CR7 asking price (they did that with Higuain and Arsenal) and so we wanted to save a little extra money for the CR7 bid, so we didn’t even make our bid for Fabregas reach 40 million. Had the Fabregas bid been successful, and due to money reserved for CR7/Bale deal, we didn’t bid for anyone else at this stage since we used up all our transfer funds.

Step 3 (Baines + Fellaini + CR7/Bale)

This is currently the step we are on. The 60 million for CR7 is held in reserve, and United feel they can land Baines and Fellaini for a combined fee of maximum 40 million. We naturally made the opening dual bid for the 2 Everton players as low as possible, in order to a.) save some money in case we need it for the CR7 push, and b.) which idiot goes all out in the first bid itself? Anyways, this is where we are. At the time of writing, the Bale rumours to MUFC have resurfaced (at the time of writing, the United-Chelsea match ended less than an hour ago). Assuming its true, it may be that United are trying to pressure Real Madrid into selling us CR7, by threatening to buy Bale if they don’t let us have CR7. I am firmly in the camp that feel CR7 wants to rejoin United, and that he doesn’t want to sign an extension at Madrid. There were reports in the summer that United met CR7, and offered him 50 million pounds/euros as a signing on fee if he joined us for fee in the summer of 2015 (which is when his contract expires). If CR7 agreed to that, then Real Madrid would have to sell him this year for maximum value and buy his replacement (Bale, i feel) using that, or sell him for cheaper next year but make up for that shortfall by selling another player this year (Di Maria, Ozil, etc), or just keep CR7 for the next 2 years and then let go of him for free in summer 2015. I don’t think Real Madrid will let CR7 walk for free, so maybe United’s plan to get CR7 is worth gambling on. I certainly applaud and appreciate the effort United, Moyes and Woodward have put into trying to get CR7 back this year. I don’t know if it will succeed, but they definitely tried their best. 

Step 4 (Baines + Modric)

Everton aren’t likely to sell 2 of their best players (Baines and Fellaini) to United, that too near the end of the window when they have very little time to buy replacements. If Step 3 failed, then i think in Step 4 they will continue to find out at what valuation Everton would sell Baines and Fellaini as separate players instead of a joint bid. In Step 4, the bid for CR7 would have failed (whether Real Madrid not wanting to sell him and/or CR7 not wanting to return this summer). But, Real Madrid probably still might want to sell one player, and we could then put in a big bid for Modric, since they have a lot of central midfielders. Should that bid be accepted, then i expect United will buy Modric. Then they will buy Baines, and ignore Fellaini. 

Step 5 (Baines + Fabregas)

This step would literally be 2-3 days before the window closes (2nd September is the last day of the window). After we gain Everton’s individual valuation of Baines and Fellaini, we will have failed with moves for CR7 and Modric, and this would release a lot of funds. Those funds could then go for a final big offer for Fabregas. Telegraph reported a while back that we could return with a late, big bid for Fabregas. I expect such a bid to be around 45 million pounds. If Barcelona truly have a price at which they are prepared to sell Fabregas, then this bid will probably give them real food for thought. But, with the remaining money in the transfer budget, i think we will ignore Fellaini and just buy Baines from Everton. 

Step 6 (Baines + Fellaini)

Now we would be into the last 1-2 days of the window. If bids for CR7, Fabregas, Modric, and maybe even Bale, fail, then i expect we will try to persuade Everton to sell us Baines and Fellaini, which won’t be easy to do. But we would then be able to more than comfortably match their valuation on the 2 players (assuming its realistic and not absurd), and then take both of them to Old Trafford. 

Step 7

Last roll of the dice. If Everton are determined not to sell us both Fellaini and Baines, then we will probably only go for Fellaini, meet their valuation (assuming realistic) and buy him. 

Findings and assessment of transfer strategy

1.) First the obvious, at United it is the manager that picks and chooses the targets and has some degree of influence as to who to bid for and how much to bid for him, but of course in the latter it is the CEO that has a huge and bigger influence than the manager. But both Moyes and Woodward, i feel, are working together on this transfer strategy

2.) CR7 was the main target throughout the transfer window. Most of the transfer funds were saved so that we can place a big bid for him in case Real Madrid were open to selling him once they signed Bale. A move by us for Bale was/is possible as well, but was always unlikely since Spurs would have made it a lot harder for us (price-wise) to buy Bale than Real Madrid. So, the CR7 could have been used to buy Bale, in case Real Madrid screwed up and Spurs softened up towards us (more likely that the Apocalypse is tomorrow). The only way we would bid big money (40m+) for other transfer targets (like Fabregas) is if the CR7 move failed. 

3.) At every Step, we bid for a central midfielder. CR7 was meant to be the the marquee signing, but the necessity no matter what was a central midfielder, and that could be someone as amazing as Fabregas, or someone less amazing like Fellaini, but who is determined by how much free money is actually available this window (since till Step 3, which we are in right now, most of the money is being saved up for an upcoming move for CR7, or one even more unlikely which is Bale. 

4.) Based on the bidding pattern, Fellaini is Moyes last choice of central midfielders to bring in. Thiago was probably his first choice, due to the fact that he was a quality player, available, and cheapest out of all the alternatives (Fabregas, Modric, Fellaini, etc). He seemed to want to join us, but it seems he kept delaying agreeing terms as long as possible till Bayern came in, which they did, and off he went to them since they and Pep were his first choice. 

5.) At no Step did we bid for more than 1 central midfielder. To me, it is clear that Moyes only wants only midfielder, and not 2 or more. He wasn’t willing to buy a midfielder that he felt wasn’t proven enough, hence no bid for Strootman, etc. Also, he might have been interested in Paulinho, but by time he entered the transfer market, in mid-July, Paulinho had already been signed by Spurs. Pretty much the same for Wanyama too, except he joined Southampton. 

6.) Baines was initially the bigger target for Moyes than Fellaini, but this was in Step 1, when he felt we could get Thiago and most of the rest of the money was reserved for a CR7 or Bale bid. When the money didn’t permit, he sacrificed Baines to raise funds for what he felt were more important transfer targets, which were a.) 1 central midfielder, and b.) marquee signing (CR7/Bale), and this happened in Step 2 (Baines was dropped from the transfer target list.

7.) Moyes probably rates Modric higher than Fellaini, but he doesn’t bid for him until Step 4, because in the previous 3 steps Moyes was trying to get CR7, and its very unlikely Real Madrid would sell us both CR7 and Modric in the same transfer window. So, Moyes might only bid for Modric in Step 4, when bids for CR7/Bale have failed, since Real Madrid might be open to selling Modric, if not CR7. Should the move for Modric fail, then a big bid is made for Fabregas, and if that fails, then Fellaini becomes the main CM target. 

Current Central Midfield evaluation, along with CM targets effect

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Table 3 houses 3 sub-tables. 

In Table 3a, individual quality points of each current CM at the club, and CM transfer targets are listed. 

In Table 3b, the total quality points of current first choice CM partnerships is listed, along with potential first choice CM partnerships is also listed. The average quality points of each partnership is also shown. Since Moyes never bid for 2 CMs at the same time, and since Carrick is the undisputed best, and most experienced, CM that we have, he will certainly be one of the first choice CMs, even if a CM transfer target is bought. Also, i don’t think Moyes would buy a CM for big money just to put that player on the bench. So, whichever CM that Moyes does buy, assuming he does buy someone, then that player will most likely be Carrick’s partner in central midfield.

In Table 3c, we look at the current CM average squad depth quality, and future quality if a CM transfer target is bought. We only have 3 CMs (Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson), and since we need at least 4, the total quality points of those 3 players is added up and divided by 4, thus showing that we do lack depth in CM. We then see what the average CM squad depth quality would be if we get one of our CM transfer targets. So, even though Fellaini has the same quality points as Anderson or Cleveley, the average CM squad depth quality still increases dramatically. Same can be seen if any other CM transfer target was added instead of Fellaini. Moyes recognises the need for another CM, but is trying to get the best one possible this transfer window.

Impact on transfer targets, if bought, on starting 11 quality and squad depth quality 

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Table 4, will now be explained. To understand it you will also need to refer to Table 2 (for player prices) and Table 3c

Starting 11 points explanation: If a transfer target is bought, and he is better than a current player of the same position in the starting 11, then that new player gets into the starting 11 (first team) and adds quality points. Example, Fellaini quality-wise is the same as Cleverley and Anderson, so he doesn’t necessarily get into the starting 11, therefore adds zero quality points, so can technically count as money wasted. Thiago has 1 more point than Cleverley and Anderson each, so he partners Carrick in the first team, and his presence adds 1 extra quality points to the quality of the starting 11. 

Evra is rated as the best LB at United, and has 7 quality points. Baines, a transfer target, has 8 quality points. So if Baines is bought, then he replaces Evra in the starting 11, and he adds 1 extra quality point, since he is 1 quality point better than Evra. 

The highest rated wingers at United, are Nani and Valencia, both have 7 quality points each. If CR7 is bought, then he replaces on them in the starting 11, and adds 3 extra quality points to the lineup, since he is a player rated with 10 quality points. 

So, if Thiago, Baines and CR7 are bought, then all 3 players make it into the starting 11, and combined they add 5 quality points to the starting 11.

Cost per quality point added to starting 11: This is simply, quality points added to the starting 11 at each Step, divided by the transfer fee required to buy those players. Transfer fees information is available in Table 2. 

Squad depth points explanation: Each player bought adds quality points to the squad depth of the position he plays in. Average CM depth quality (Table 3c) currently at United is 5.25 points. If Thiago is added, then the average rises to 7 points. So, Thiago signing for United, adds 1.75 quality points to the average CM depth quality. 

Evra is rated at 7 points, Buttner and Fabio at 5 points each. Therefore, the Average LB depth quality is rated at 5.6 points. Baines is rated at 8 points, so buying him would raise the Average LB depth quality by 0.65 points, to 6.25 points. 

Nani, Valencia, Zaha and Young are rated at 7, 7, 6, and 5 points. So, the Average Winger depth quality is rated at 6.25 points. CR7 is rated at 10 points, so adding him increases the squad depth average by 0.75 points, to 7 points.

So, if Thiago, CR7 and Baines are bought, then they add 3.15 quality points to the squad positions they play at. 

Cost per squad depth quality point : This can be calculated by dividing squad depth quality points added at each Step, by cost of buying those players.

Findings : Step 2 (Fabregas+CR7) adds the most quality to the starting 11 and is reasonably cheap. The high cost (all 100 million transfer budget spent) in getting those 2 players is made for the fact that they bring in a lot of quality to the starting 11. In terms of adding quality to the squad depth, this Step is also the best, but one of the most expensive. We learn that Fellaini would be great value for money in terms of adding to the squad depth quality, but would be a waste of money if ones expects him to add quality to the starting 11. Buying both Baines and Fellaini (Step 6) would be very expensive, and not worth it when it comes to adding quality to the starting 11. But, this Step would add squad depth quality, and for a reasonably cheap price. 

Is Ed Woodward supporting Moyes? Is Ed incompetent?

Most United fans have been bashing Ed, calling him an idiot, or a Glazer slave, or completely unfit to be handling United’s transfer business. First of all, i don’t think he is an idiot, and his CV can’t belong to an idiot. He is supportive of the Glazers, but they know that supporting United and letting us spend is good for business and the club, so i don’t see why Ed would go against their best interests. Finally, Ed may be incompetent and unfit to be David Gill’s successor, but only time will for sure. I think he will make it as a very good CEO if we give him the time. He is said to be a very good negotiator and as clever as a fox, so i think he can succeed in his new role as well. Its not like Ed has no experience when it comes to transfers, because he did say that we worked with Sir Alex on transfers in the past, so he probably does has some experience, but hasn’t exhibited it just yet. I think Ed has been supportive of Moyes, and both have formed a decent early partnership. I will explain why.

1.) Moyes is after a stellar signing, and Ed said that United would be willing to spend 60-70 million on a top signing that Moyes wants. 

2.) Woodward kept negotiating with Thiago for weeks, till the last days before he joined Bayern. Thiago was Moyes first choice central midfield target, and Woodward did what Moyes instructed/requested. During the tour, Moyes hinted that a player could join United while the tour was going on, and that was probably Thiago, so Woodward was working on this transfer for weeks. 

3.) The reason we didn’t make much bigger bids for Fabregas (as every United wanted) was because Moyes was after CR7/Bale. So, due to a lot of the transfer budget being reserved for bids for one of those two players, Woodward could never bid 40 million+ for Fabregas. I am sure Woodward knew at the time that Fabregas was worth more than he had bid, but the financial restraints due to other transfer targets prevented him from doing so, and made him and us look like fools. 

4.) Woodward probably felt that landing Fabregas for cheap (Step 2) was unrealistic, and playing the waiting game for CR7/Bale would result in a lot of time spent/wasted. All this time spent would probably mean that Fellaini’s release clause would expire (Martinez confirms the clause expired on 31st July) much before the Fabregas chase yielded a final response (Fabregas released his statement, on not leaving Barca, around 8th August). Woodward is not an idiot, and he probably anticipated these things would happen, and it did. Now, Everton have the final say on whether or not we can have Fellaini, assuming we have no other choice but him as our central midfield target (Step 6-7). Moyes certainly had higher priority targets for central midfield, and so Ed didn’t activate Fellaini’s release clause before its expiry date (31st July). 

5.) Ed Woodward was part of the United party when they went on tour. He was due to be with the squad for a few more days, but cancelled the plan and went back to Europe due to urgent transfer business. This was around the time Thiago rejected us for Bayern, and we had now made Fabregas our main central midfield target (Step 2). Flying half was across the world, on a moments notice, is not a joke. He did that because United/Moyes needed him to, and so he did what he was supposed to do. 

6.) Most United fans call Ed an idiot for the opening Baines bid, around 10-12 million. Yes, it was far less than Baines true worth and i am sure Ed knew that, but look at it from Ed’s point of view, which is, a.) who doesn’t start off with the lowest bid possible? b.) Financial restraints in Step 1, due to most money saved for CR7 and Thiago bids, meant he couldn’t just bid 20 million for Baines. He did what any sensible CEO would do (i know his title isn’t CEO, but he is effectively acting like a CEO, like David Gill was). He probably planned to raise the bid for Baines.  The transfer budget i estimate is 100 million pounds, of which 60 million or so was saved for CR7. The remainder was saved for Thiago and Baines, but once Thiago had gone to Bayern, the central midfield target was now Fabregas. Since Fabregas was going to be far more expensive than Thiago, the bidding for Baines stopped after that initial bid (which was rejected). 

Final Notes

1.) The prices of players, and quality points, is subjective. So, knowing that and after explaining the format of the tables, you should be able to construct your own table, with your own values, findings, opinions, etc. 

2.) It’s possible that United could change their transfer targets. Rumours been going around recently (at the time of writing) that we could be interested in buying Bale if we dont get CR7, or maybe even getting Ozil. This could happen, but i think its very unlikely Bale will join us, since Real Madrid want him and Spurs hate us. As for Ozil, its possible that we can get him, but it can only happen if CR7 doesn’t join us this summer. So, its possible that we could end up with Ozil and one or two other players. The main thing i am very certain of is that Moyes will do anything to get one CM signing, and a marquee signing too (if the CM doesn’t count as a marquee signing, such as Fellaini). 

3.) I am confident we had a transfer budget of around 70 million pounds net, last season. I expect the transfer budget to be higher than that, probably between 80-100 million, but some speculate even higher than that, so i am went for the middle ground, which was 100 million pounds net. This is a realistic transfer budget, due to increases in sponsorship revenue and EPL league TV payments. 

Conclusion

Ed Woodward doesn’t look like an idiot to me, nor do his actions paint him as one, especially if my interpretation of events this summer are accurate. Woodward and Moyes seem to be working with each other, and do have a strategy. Moyes is most likely the one who chose this transfer strategy, which is risky, but very ambitious. I applaud his ambition, which is helped by the fact that if his strategy fails, then he still has a good squad to rely on since it won the league last year by a big margin. He seems intent on buying a central midfielder, and i think he will end up getting someone. He wants that player to be a quality CM, but he would settle for a lesser player if he had no other choice. I am sure he realises that his transfer strategy this summer was very risky, but as a United supporter, i am comfortable with it because he is showing ambition. Its clear to me that Moyes is in charge of the transfer business, and that he has the support of Woodward, and the financial backing of the Glazers. Even if the transfer strategy flops, and lets say he only ends up with Fellaini, that won’t change the fact that Woodward and Glazers gave Moyes full financial backing. It is a risky strategy Moyes chose, some fans will accept the consequences if it fails, and some will throw their toys out of the pram. The question is, will fans honour Sir Alex Ferguson’s desire/wish/command of supporting Moyes and standing by him? I know some won’t, but i most certainly will, because i think he was the best man for the job. I wasn’t sure when he was appointed, but he convinced me pretty fast since then. Also, if Sir Alex thinks he is the best man for the job, then who knows better than him? Those saying that Sir Alex chose Moyes because he was going to be a Glazer-slave, or other candidates declined (Pep, Mourinho, etc) are just trying to stir up trouble, with no facts to back them. Such fans take much delight in playing the devil’s advocate even when its not required, and its best to ignore them and let them gossip like little girls in a corner. Unfortunately, twitter is filled with such idiots, and we have to read their nonsense opinions a lot more than we want to. 

Moyes will learn that he can’t satisfy the entire United fanbase when it comes to transfers and the transfer market. Had he bought Fellaini and Strootman, some fans would have applauded him for acting decisively in the market, whereas another group of fans would have been after his head for not going after the top quality players, and would have branded him a Glazer-slave for trying to save the clubs money. Moyes can’t please all the fan groups, but i am happy that he showed ambition, even though its a risky strategy he has employed.

United fans, most of them, are behaving as if managing Manchester United in real life is like playing Football Manager 2013. I have explained this in much detail in a previous article, so i will just leave the link to it below. 

https://khalid7891234.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/united-fans-this-summer-are-like-pacific-rim-when-it-comes-to-transfers/

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