There’s not a whole lot wrong with Manchester United’s ability to spend. They demonstrated last year that even with the added competition of Manchester City, Alex Ferguson can still flex United’s financial muscle in the market.
Their problem, however, is that they may not have spent as wisely as they could have. Paul Scholes coming out of retirement would have been a good idea regardless of their movement in the summer window, but his return was a reaction to the lack of ruthlessness in the market.
While others around them were picking up marquee signings to varying degrees, there was nothing all that spectacular about what United did in the summer. Of course, being spectacular and creating sensational headlines with your transfer activity doesn’t always equate to a successful season. But there was a definite spark missing, one which the club were surely hoping would be filled by Wesley Sneijder.
What the club have done is reinforced various areas of the pitch for the future. Some might want to quiz the thinking behind the idea to sign two young centre backs in Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. But a move like that was always needed due to the age and injury concerns of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Whether it came in one window or spread out over two or three seasons, it brought the club two of England’s best young defenders.
This summer, however, the club need to reaffirm their place as one of the top two or three clubs in world football. Their spending power might not be equal to what others are capable, but Manchester United as a club are still a massive draw.
There are areas of the pitch that need to be addressed, and not in the flimsy, will they won’t they saga of Sneijder’s proposed move last year. Whether it was Inter rejecting United’s bids or simply the Premier League champion’s being unsure of themselves, it needs to be a completely different approach if the club are to be successful next season.
United can be confident that they have a good core group of players. Whether it’s an outstanding squad, however, needs to be questioned. Would they still be challenging for the title if everyone else got their summers right last year? And what about their poor showing in Europe? OK, the club had introduced a number of changes to the squad and were without Vidic for most of the season, but some of their performances this year were extremely out of character.
The club don’t need five, six or seven new signings; the necessity now is with one big summer signing to drive the club forward. Of course the midfield needs addressing above all else, but the Wesley Sneijder ship has obviously sailed—maybe a good thing now—and they’re heavily linked with Shinji Kagawa. Even he wouldn’t command a fee that team-mate Mario Gotze would require, but his signing would be a huge boost. In this case, going all out doesn’t necessarily mean spending big, rather it’s the need to identify a target and finish the deal.
Fullbacks will be an issue, as might the defensive midfield role if Darren Fletcher continues to struggle into next season. But again, United need to show the same urgency that landed them Phil Jones and Chris Smalling ahead of their rivals. That’s the extra mile that is needed from the club.