Manchester United and the assumption about ‘world class players’ 2

Old Trafford Stadium, inside

Manchester United’s opening day loss to Swansea City hasn’t prompted a meltdown, but it has intensified the fans’ desire to see fresh blood arrive at Old Trafford.  Understandably, too, because Louis Van Gaal’s options are currently so limited that the best team he was able to field yesterday was one of the weakest in the club’s recent history.

There’s a lot of incredulity about the way the club have conducted their Summer rebuilding and it hasn’t gone unnoticed that they have both failed to complete a deal in almost two months and have been the least active Premier League team in the market.

To a certain degree, United have brought this critique on themselves: Ed Woodward very publicly and very foolishly discussed the transfer budget last month and made some very bold claims about the club’s financial capabilities.  It was only natural, therefore, for signings to be expected and money to be thrown around. Yes, Woodward invited this pressure, but there also seems to be a misconception that simply being able to pay for top-tier players allows a club to buy them.  It doesn’t, there are all kinds of other factors involved.

“Sign Vidal! Sign Hummels! Sign Di Maria!”

Turn this on its head and imagine that those three players were owned by Manchester United.  How keen do you think the club would be to sell them?  How difficult would Ed Woodward make it for a Juventus or a Real Madrid to take any of them away?

Clubs in possession of world class players tend not to be overly keen on allowing them to leave.

There’s also some perspective needed here and some recognition of where United currently are within the European football hierarchy.  They have no European football of any sort, they aren’t really in contention for their domestic league and the team as a whole isn’t that strong - at least not in comparison to those at Chelsea or Manchester City.  If someone like Arturo Vidal was genuinely available he would be of interest to at least half-a-dozen clubs, and what is it about United that would make him choose Old Trafford ahead of the Allianz Arena, Camp Nou or the Santiago Bernabeu?

History is still very important and having a manager of Louis Van Gaal’s calibre is also unquestionably a draw, but times have changed and we no longer live in a football world in which Manchester United are a Mecca for the continent’s best players.  Business is slow and re-shaping the squad is taking longer than it was expected to, but the anger at that has to be tempered with the realisation that this is a fairly new situation for the club.

It’s unrealistic to expect Woodward and United just to take what they want from the market, so this lack of progress isn’t necessarily a symptom of dallying decision-makers or incompetence.

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