Manchester United’s decision to lavish £37million on the signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea and then follow it up with a plan to lay out £200million on further star players says much about the club’s desire to ensure their position at the top of English football is maintained. What it also says however is that the ‘squad legacy’ left by Sir Alex Ferguson is far less glistening than was thought to be the case.
Last season saw United comfortably cantering to the title as champions in Sir Alex Ferguson’s swan song. The received wisdom was then that when David Moyes moved into the Old Trafford hot seat in the summer, all that was required was to add a new face or two to freshen up the squad, and then continue to road to untrammelled success. The reality didn’t work out like that however.
Even after a few months the cracks in the squad became pretty clear, and by the turn of the year, the fact that drastic surgery on the squad was becoming self-evident. The point then becomes clear that one of the most significant factors in ensuring that United won the title last year, was not one of the players, but the genius of Ferguson himself to wring performances out of a squad that now looks every inch the collection of players of a mid-table club.
Of course there was always going to be a reaction when Ferguson left. Tearing the heart out of the club was understood to be the price that was to be paid. What perhaps was less well understood was the severely adverse effect it would have on the playing staff. A temporary dip in performances was perhaps expected. The collapse of quality now being envisaged probably wasn’t.
Some would probably argue that Ferguson saw the writing on the wall with his players, and got out whilst the going was good. It’s a harsh assessment. Even had he made such an evaluation, at his age was the desire to build a new squad still there. Ambition probably still burnt brightly, but time and tide waits for no man, not even Ferguson.
All of this is of course good and well, but as we lie United appear in need of not only tying Wayne Rooney in five year deal that will cost some £65million but also making massive investment in the squad. Given that the end of next week will see the closing of the transfer window, it’s going to be a frantic rush if United want to get a number of big players in before the end of the month. The reality of that proposition surely has to be questioned. Perhaps gaining one more this month before undertaking the overhaul in the summer is more realistic. This is especially the case as a number of existing player’s contracts at the club will expire then and can be moved on to open up spaces for new signings.
This will of course mean, in effect, writing off this season with the desire to build for the future. The danger is thought that if they fail to hit the top four by the end of the season, the ability to attract the type of players they have evidently targeted may be compromised. The legacy of Ferguson’s squad may have a heave price tag in more ways than one.
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