As another transfer window has closed, another Premier League spending record has been elapsed. This summer Premier League clubs have spent £870 million on new players and nearly £270 million of that sum has been spent in Manchester. Whilst you might expect the majority of that to have been spent in the blue side of the city, the Red Devils have also been busy and Ed Woodward been at the forefront of media attention all summer.
Despite the similarities in outlay, there has been a vastly different context to the two club’s behaviour and few would disagree that one side of Manchester has fared a lot better than the other. For argument sake, it’s worth analysing both of the club’s activity and what they have achieved.
Manchester City (£154.2 million)
On the back of a disappointing season, Manchester City had a lot of work to do in order to challenge for the title this season – but they’ve done exactly that. With Milner, Lampard, Richards and Sinclair all set to leave, City had a slightly different problem on their hands – fulfilling their home-grown quota whilst also improving their already packed out squad.
And as you’d expect with City, they set their sights on several targets and landed every single one of them. Three home-grown players: Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Patrick Roberts; and two superstars: Nicolás Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne.
It would seem from the start that City had a clear plan which they executed perfectly, albeit by spending a lot of money. However, that doesn’t seem to be as much as a problem as before either. Despite accepting a fine a little over a year ago from Uefa for breaching financial regulations, City seem in little trouble of facing any further punishment this time round.
UEFA’s Financial Fair Play has recently allowed ‘building room’ for rich owners to invest in their clubs in the short-term and, despite being intended for newly-rich smaller clubs, there’s no reason why the City can’t take advantage of such a system. Moreover, the delayed sales of Negredo and Nastasić are helping this year’s net spend, whereas the eventual sales of the recently loaned Džeko and Jovetić will help the next. City have suitably pushed every boundary of FFP to allow them to execute a perfect summer of spending, and it’s hard not to admire.
What also can be admired is their embedding of Raheem Sterling. A player seemingly loathed by all of England after his controversial departure from Liverpool is now thriving just four games into life at the Etihad. Whether by chance or by planning, the Kevin De Bruyne move has also taken a lot of the media attention off of Sterling’s move as well, which will allow the young England star some time to breath – something they are ill-afforded.
A resounding window by Manchester City which has already placed them in pole position to win the league.
Manchester United (£115 million)
Manchester United headed into the same transfer window with entirely different objectives. With a big spend the summer before, it looked like United needed a final few players to take Van Gaal’s side into a title challenge. United needed to sort their central defence, their central midfield, and also boost their striking options; although this seems like a huge task at first, each area only needed one or two additions in order to reach the required standard. But, above all this, United needed to sort the looming David De Gea situation.
We’ll start with the midfield recruitment, arguably United’s only success in the window. The Red Devils brought in Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, which when you add to Michael Carrick, forms one of the strongest central options in the league. For years, even with Fergie at the helm, it was baffling how United were winning leagues with the likes of Anderson, Kleberson and Cleverley all getting playing time in the middle but yet Moyes didn’t seem rushed to address this during his time at the club – much to his demise.
Van Gaal proved his common sense (Schneiderlin) alongside his pulling power (Schweinsteiger) to finally stop the popular criticism levied at his team. However, the other criticism, their central defence, was addressed with nowhere near as much efficiency and has resulted in Daley Blind learning a completely new role at the club. Their main targets, Hummels and Otamendi, both chose not to join United and it seemed that the hierarchy thought little beyond that. With Blind, Smalling, Jones and Rojo as the main options in the middle, it seems that United have set themselves up for a fall.
Moreover, United’s approach to the Pedro deal was similarly baffling. United seemed to lose Pedro to the prying arms of Mourinho because they were unprepared to pay an extra few million to meet the player’s buyout clause, and even when they did, the player had already been convinced elsewhere. With frugal negotiations on the agenda, United then splashed £36 million on Anthony Martial, making him the most expensive teenager in histor. Although Martial looks to have tremendous potential, many are struggling to find any common sense amongst United’s policy. Although Woodward seems in charge of negotiations, it would seem that Van Gaal’s personality is having a huge influence on their chaotic dealings.
Exhibit two, David De Gea. United knew fairly early that the Spaniard had little intention of signing a new contract at the club so they were left with two options: sell for value now, or keep their asset for a final season. In the end, United seemed to do neither. Although the blame seems to be on Real Madrid, United could have helped their situation no end by sorting the problem early but again they seemed determined to come away a few million better off by leaving the deal late. Madrid panicked that they would be left without De Gea or Navas, so they decided to pull the plug, but they were in a position to do so.
However, all is not lost for De Gea and United and they could still reach a scenario in which De Gea can perform for the club again this season, but it all just seemed to make a lot more sense with Keylor Navas and £20 million in hand.
United have conducted themselves in a bizarre way this window, and although they have recruited a lot of talent, the highlight being Memphis Depay, they have left themselves in all kind of uncertainty which they seem to be in all too often during this endless ‘transition period‘ at the club.
When you compare their behaviour to City, it’s hard to defend Van Gaal’s side and that will only be reflected in the Premier League table.
City have been slick, efficient and clever, whereas United have been none of those things.