Last week saw the Louis van Gaal era at Old Trafford well and truly kick off. Although the Dutchman is yet officially relocate to the Theatre of Dreams – a wait which may well go on as Holland continue to impress at the World Cup – the first two arrivals of his reign came through the door in the shape of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw.
Despite having a combined age of just 42 – only two years older than the evergreen Ryan Giggs – the double act cost around £60m combined, giving some gusto to the claims that massive spending will be a trait that will echo through the summer 2014 for Manchester United.
Although fans and anyone associated with the club will be thrilled to get some big names through the door after the frustrations of the last 12 months, there is genuine cause for concern at United right about now.
Simply put, anything less than the top four next season and the future of English football’s most decorated team in the era of the Premier League may be in doubt.
Why else would they be willing to spend such amounts? The Champions League and the funds it brings are needed to keep United operating at the level they do. One summer of huge transfers can be bankrolled by getting a seat at Europe’s top table once again, and the club’s board know just that.
In some ways the situation at Spurs last year shares similarities with the one in the North West. Tottenham embarked on a mega £110m before the 2013/14 season kicked off, bringing in top talent from across Europe in a bid to build a team capable of breaking into the top four. Okay their pursuit was funded by the sale of their best player – something United will surely avoid – but the warning signs are there for van Gaal.
The Lilywhites are now no nearer being a Champions League side than they were prior to their transfer market exploits, and also face the unenviable task of shifting on a number of flop signings to free up funds and space. Mauricio Pochettino is unlikely to be handed the riches he needs to achieve Daniel Levy’s aims – then again who has ever been able to cope with his demands? – and will, most likely miss out again.
Further to this, the gap between those in the top club competition and those out of it is set to increase in the coming years. The Champions League already brings in vast levels of cash for participants, and those figures are set to swell between 2015 and 2018, with the competition’s revenue streams ready to thicken.
Last season’s UCL teams shared $1.24 billion and although new figures are as of yet unclear, the income is set for a substantial boost for those who qualify at the end of 2014/15.
”It is a fantastic time ’15 to ’18, we will generate growth and we will see happy clubs with the results, clubs are expecting growth and we will manage that.”
These are the words the director of Swiss marketing agency TEAM, who are already selling rights to the Champions League for the coming years. When these are processed, it soon becomes apparent that this season is bigger than ever for United, who simply cannot afford to fail again.
Although new names are needed in the transfer market, some caution must be exercised by van Gaal’s side, who would do well to learn from Spurs’ high risk strategy. The Dutchman cannot simply parachute a number of new names into his squad and expect success, he will have to work with what he has and compliment his ranks with one or two high-class individuals.
No offense to Herrera and Shaw – who are talented players – but they present a high level of risk for United. And with so much spent to get them, van Gaal might well need to alter his approach a little for his next additions. After all, Spurs signed some Premier League unknowns last year, and look how that worked out…