Let me start off by saying two things. First off, I am totally gutted that we look set to lose out in the Thiago Alcantara sweepstakes. Secondly, I told you so a few weeks ago that we wouldn’t get our man. Having said that however, doesn’t numb the pain from not just losing out on Thiago but this escapade adding to a series of serious bruises inflicted on our collective ego’s when it comes to luring top ranked young talent to Old Trafford.
For those who are aware, the revelation that United are leaving an oily trail of failure in the transfer market these past few years is nothing new. In fact our failure to secure the signature of great young world-class talent can date back to the disastrous attempt that was the Ronaldinho affair.
Since then United have lost out on many a great young talent who either chose not to sign for us or just plain toyed with us, lied to us and then chose another. Names like Ronaldinho, Alex Sanchez, Michael Ballack, Lucas Moura, Eden Hazard and Mesut Ozil instantly come to mind. Young foreign players who toyed with our affections only to snub us for another.
In most past cases we always seemed to lose players to the allure and seductive trappingsof the Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. They with their charm, spicy food, warm sun, seductive ways and greasy charm. That was bad enough but what has really upset the apple cart in recent years is the unexpected hit United are taking to their brand and stature by losing out on hot prospects to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and lowly PSG. At the risk of disrespecting these clubs, I will say that we should never lose out on a target we really want to clubs like these. They don’t have an ounce of the history, pedigree or allure that Manchester United has worldwide.
So why then do players like David Silva, Samir Nasri and Kun Aguero choose a club like City over our club? Why does a Michael Ballack, Jon Obi Mikel or Eden Hazard snub Sir Alex Ferguson for Chlesea? And how in God’s name can a talent like Lucas Moura choose PSG and the lowly French League over United and Premier League football? I will give my take on this and although my opinions are mine, I really feel that Manchester United and it’s dead between the ears hierarchy need to wake the frak up and smell the bloody coffee.
First off let me say that many will blame the lack of pedigree and tactical coaching style that David Moyes brings as a reason why we failed to sign Thiago. While I think that argument has merit, I really do not feel it is the main reason for this most recent failure in the transfer market. I feel there is a number of serious factors at work here and there needs to be a complete overhaul in corporate culture within Manchester United in order for us to succeed once again in the transfer market. I will list these points first and discuss each one below.
2. Living in the past
4. Lacking the aggressive approach (killer instinct)
5. Going after unrealistic targets
6. Procrastinating and not having a clue on how to close the deal
7. The Manager
8. Lack of salesmanship
9. The Glazer’s
10. Northern England as opposed to warm sunny Spain
11. Naiveté when it comes to agent tactics
First and foremost, we must let go of the hubris that has defined our club and our policies when it comes to signing players. Sir Alex always walked with pride and hubris and he made it seem that anyone who didn’t sign with us was daft to not do so. After all, we are Manchester United. This means a lot in the UK and in a lot of parts of the world, but believe me when I say that the name Manchester United is definitely back in the pack when you speak of Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina to followers of the game in Spanish or Portuguese speaking countries. Oh they have all heard of us and even followed the club but believe me when I say that in 98% of the time, the clubs that consume these cultures hearts and minds are Real Madrid and Barcelona. Our brand is popular but with these cultures it falls as flat as British cuisine.
For years now United have been selling their brand based on their history. Fortunately for all of us our success is not just something in the distant past. But we seem to be stuck in a pattern of expecting players to sign with United just because of this rich history and what it means to be a Manchester United player. United need to realize that historically, they have had most of their success using mostly UK born players. Yes we have had the Cantona’s, Stam’s, van Nistelrooy’s and Veron’s show up and play for us but in the overall big picture, we just haven’t had as many foreign players play for us as have played for clubs in Spain or in Italy for example.
Those countries had open door policies allowing more foreigners for much longer than England has and even if that were not the case, England really did not welcome many foreign players let alone world class foreigners until the creation of the Premier League. Spain on the other hand had player like Puskas, Di Stefano, Netzer, Kempes and Maradona way before England opened up her doors. Those players created an aura of success and their fellow countrymen followed their careers in those countries. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter all became household names in these countries. Meanwhile back in England clubs were cashing in on Scots, Welshmen and Irish. In Germany clubs were sticking with home grown talent with the odd Eastern European jumping borders. The game had a territorial essence to it based on cultural compatibility.
Cultural compatibility is a very serious element to what is presently going on in the transfer market. Yes money occasionally defies that element but most of the time players like to sign with clubs where there is a cultural compatibility or familiar faces that can make the change easier. For Brazilians, Argentines and other South Americans, moving to countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy have greater appeal due to factors like the language, cultural trappings, cuisine and weather. For United to think that getting players to come to play for the club based on history and pedigree is all that’s required is just the height of arrogance and stupidity. Sorry but that’s just not good enough. It wasn’t good enough under Sir Alex Ferguson and it certainly is not going to cut the mustard under an unproven David Moyes.
United is stuck with this attitude that because of it’s successfully marketed world brand and history, they should be able to get whatever player they covet and that fits within their budgetary restraints and guidelines. If it was only that easy. Lucas Moura never chose PSG for the money, despite what many will think. Neither did Ronaldinho choose Barca for that reason alone. Yes the money was appealing but the players just felt that culturally, those clubs suited them better. Paris is not as warm as Spain but the food and cultural trappings are second to none. Add to that the guarantees many of these clubs will offer players and one can start to get a better picture as to why United are losing out.
United have for a while now been hampered greatly by financial factors that must also be considered. Yes United may be the largest revenue gathering club in the world but we all would have to be considered idiots if we felt that a strong portion of those revenues were going to player development. Our player wage structure is strong but it still does not compare with Chelsea’s, City’s or the elite of the continental clubs. Perhaps if we had more money to offer some of these players, maybe, just maybe they would forego all the trappings of others and sign for us just for the greed. We lost Eden Hazard and Michael Ballack as well as David Silva and Samir Nasri on money alone. It seems that guaranteed starting status means nothing also.
People need to realize that as long as the Glazer’s run this club, we will not be able to compete with other “rich” clubs who also have other more alluring factors in their favour. I have nothing against the city of Manchester or Northern England. In fact culturally, I’d love to live there but I can say that the region hasn’t the allure for many others who do not have a cultural or ethnic tie to the region.
Only cold hard cash and player friendly, tactically strong foreign managers can solve the problem we are presently experiencing when it comes to signing attractive Latin based players. Lets not counter with the argument that we have the Twins, Chicharito, Luis Valencia and David De Gea. Instead lets come to the realization that Chicharito was a bargain bin purchase, the twins were relative unknowns when they signed, even in Brazil, Valencia was not deemed good enough by the big clubs in Spain and David De Gea had Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes blocking his way to the Spanish giants. Fact is we have been feeding off sloppy seconds.
The money it takes to bring in a world-class player under the age of 25 is way more than the Glazer’s will sanction. So we have had to adapt and go for “Plan B” signings like Ashley Young, Shinji Kagawa etc. Nothing against those players but the reason we went for them was they were cheaper and there was less serious competition for their signatures. You can bet your bottom dollar that as soon as Barcelona or Real Madrid show interest in a player we are targeting, we have automatically lost out on that player. One of the main reasons Fergie adopted a policy for buying older players like Berbatov and RVP was their willingness to play for a winner and stay in a league they were comfortable in.
Look at what has happened to the once proud Liverpool FC. Once they were the beacon of English football and a standard bearer in Europe. Once financial hard times hit however, players bolted and even worse, top talent stopped coming to Anfield. Now they are rummaging through the trash bins of world football bargain bins looking for players who will sign for them. Are we headed in the same direction, but perhaps a little more slowly? I hope not but then again I look around and I cannot say with certainty any longer that our position at the top of the English game is insured like it was under Fergie. Fact is David Moyes is relatively unproven as a manager of a top tier world club. Even worse is the fact many players around the world know this too be the truth too. They may like United as a Plan B, but we are not the first choice. And if foreign players come to play in England, would they feel more secure playing for a Jose Mourinho, a Manuel Pelligrini or even an Arsene Wenger or and Andres Villas-Boas instead of Moyes?
I have said from day one and even before it was announced that David Moyes was the wrong choice as manager for this club. I personally like the man and I really do feel he is a fine manager but my reasoning has more to do with world perception than actual skill set and qualifications. Part of what makes a club successful and alluring to mercenary minded players today is the man in charge and the success and tactical flair he utilizes to get the job done. Fergie had enough of that to convince young prospects like Ronaldo, Anderson, Nani, RVN, Veron and others to choose United. Despite having lost out on many we still had those successes. Also, Fergie never had a problem buying older more accomplished players with Premier League experience like Cantona, Berbatov or van Persie. But David Moyes has built a reputation on buying from the bargain bins and not carrying the pedigree of his contemporaries at Chelsea, City or Arsenal. I really worry that unless he has instant success that as time goes by Manchester United will lose more and more of it’s drawing power when it comes to elite talent. For that reason alone, I wanted Jose Mourinho to be our next manager. I really believe that Fergie was caught in an old mindset when he selected Moyes. He would have been a great choice in 1986 or evening the 90’s, but not today as the game has become much more universal and the English League has opened it’s doors to foreigners in such a major way. Excluding Fergie, there is not a great deal of faith or respect in UK born managers by high priced foreign talent.
Some other factors that need to be looked at are United’s lack of aggressive tactics in negotiations with clubs and with agents and not having the killer instinct to wrap up a deal quickly. Instead they dilly dally around, sit back, go on vacation and naively expect the player to choose them at the end of the day. Again for the umpteenth time I say to Manchester United, wake up and smell the bloody coffee. You snooze, you lose, and that’s the bottom line. A proactive aggressive approach that requires dirty tactics and money needs to be incorporated here. Barcelona and Madrid are masters at this. They constantly tap up players, seduce them, have team ambassador’s wine and dine them and above all, they know how to talk and blow sweet kisses in the ear of player agents. United on the other hand have had a terrible and very tempestuous relationship with player agents. Fergie had come out on numerous occasions bad mouthing agents and vilifying them as nothing less than the scum of the earth. Well he was right of course but wrong in feeling that this tactic was going to win him player signings. Agents want their cut and they want only what is best for their client as it pertains to their percentage in commissions and royalties. United never play’s ball with agents and often tries to negotiate around them. Like I said, naïve.
United need to understand that today’s professional sports environment is run and controlled by player agents. The Glazer’s themselves could tell horror stories of their dealings with agents representing NFL players. Agents like Scott Boras have become billionaires and are known for their cutthroat approach in negotiating for their clients.
Only the rich survive and again, those who snooze, loose. United need to act quicker, and attract a player and then sign him before other clubs even get a sniff at his availability. Bayern Munich pulled of the coup of this transfer season at the end of last season when they saw the opening to go after Mario Goetze and took it before others even got a sniff. They did the same the season before in buying Xherdan Shaqiri also.
Of course those player’s agents tipped them off. Their history is littered with proactive deals that happened under the noses of clubs waiting for transfer season to start or vacation time to end. Ballack, Gomez, Javi Martinez, Ribery, Robben, and many others have been bought early and with an aggressive approach. Whatever it takes within reason. Now they have a Catalan influence, which is added drawing power for them. Smart move. If they weren’t successful already, they just ensured themselves dominance over Europe for years to come. Pep Guardiola has the drawing power that David Moyes doesn’t have, not to mention the coaching pedigree. That is why we lost out on Thiago Alcantara. Pep was his mentor, but Pep offered him cultural stability, and a footballing style Thiago was comfortable and familiar with. Moyes offered 4-4-2 and not much else.
I’m sorry if this rant has been hard on many of you. Like I said when I started, I am really gutted over this latest loss in the transfer roller coaster. I am also very frustrated and fed up with the same factors coming into play year in and year out. Lack of money, a clueless approach, lack of aggressiveness and little to offer culturally has left us staring at the dirt in front of us and kicking it in disgust. The fact is we need to stop going after players that are 1000/1 shots at signing. We need to be looking at countries where cultures and football style is more compatible to us. We need to look to regions of the world where Barcelona and Madrid are not kings in scouting and creating recruitment networks, but where Manchester United carries the same strength and allure if not more.
Ask yourself why in the rich history of this club have we never signed one top notch German player? Germany is not exactly a minnow. They are a football giant and are a factory for great young technically gifted talent. Italy and Spain have always pilfered many of the greats in German football so the excuse cannot be made that German players do not leave Germany. Culturally there are differences with England but not as great as those with Spanish or Portuguese speaking players. Cuisine is more similar, weather factors are similar and the passion and style of play is more similar. Yet we continue to ignore this country’s talents like the plague. Sure we have half-heartedly tried for players like Ballack and Ozil but over the past five or six decades that seems like an awful small sample to base an argument against my point.
Croatia, Serbia, Russia, other former Eastern Block nations as well as countries like The Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, France etc should be places we should be concentrating our searches and efforts in finding the best talent available and signing them. Real Madrid and Barcelona already have a saturated net on South America. Our success rate there will be small and of the Plan B variety whereas we could really create a presence Eastern and Northern Europe and perhaps Africa and Asia. I do not feel that bypassing Spain, Italy, Brazil and Argentina means we are searching for second tier talent. I personally would take a German or Dutch talent over a Brazilian or Argentine anyway. It’s a personal preference in style and discipline. At least for United I would. Countries, which made up the former Yugoslavia have always been fertile football factories to pilfer from among others. We need to broaden our search engine and stop thinking that football talent only exists in Brazil and Spain.
I really could go on and on because I am so pissed off with the status quo. For those of you who aren’t aware, I am also a fanatically loyal Bayern Munich supporter. Having said that, I am absolutely gutted and pissed off that United lost out on Thiago. You see Bayern don’t really need him. They are already on paper and on the field maybe one of the greatest clubs of all time talent wise. I love United as much or even more than Bayern and so it really hurts to see that our policies and clueless naiveté have robbed us again of another super talent. At least this time we never lost the player to Madrid and Barcelona. But even more disturbing now is that we are losing players to the likes of Bayern and PSG.
We are falling farther down the pecking order and like Liverpool, I am very concerned about our eventual destination. A Jose Mourinho would have guaranteed us a strong chance in signing any player regardless of all the other factors I mentioned. Instead United went with the safe choice who would not make unrealistic demands of the owners and who would just put up with the Glazer’s status quo, which is to parade our selves throughout the world with delusions of grandeur based on our past accomplishments through Fergie, our licensing agreements and sponsors . A sad state of affairs and if I were a Mancunian I’d be in front of Old Trafford calling for heads.
I am sick and bloody tired of this club knowing how to make money but having no clue how and where to spend it in a manner that benefits the fans for a change. And by the way, good luck in getting Ronaldo or Gareth Bale. Is it the targeted players and their agents who are conning us and having fun at our expense? All we have become to the Thiago’s and Ronaldo’s of the world is a leverage mechanism to ensure a better deal elsewhere or a pay raise.
Or how about this theory, I feel it is our ownership who know that certain targets carry a low percentage of capture and the reason we go after them is because the financial risk is low and the appearance conveys that United are a serious player trying to sign the very best, when in fact all they are doing is kicking tires at the local Ferrari dealership while they have money in their wallet for Vauxhall. I personally think the fans are being used and conned by both targeted player and club, and I for one have had enough. How long do we put up with that many obstacles in our way to success? Tier 2 talent and players closing in on the age of 30 is what we have to look forward to in the future. Pretty grim I think.
That is the way it is in Glazerville.
I may be proven wrong with 50 days of the transfer window remaining, but this isn’t a knee jerk reaction to one alledged failure, it’s a reaction to an uncomfortable all-too-familiar pattern.