Tuesday Team Talk: Manchester United spending spree? Pigs might fly…

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, has emerged from his cubby hole after a short hibernation period in an attempt to quell the disquiet among the masses at the club.

This follows their worst ever Premier League season and he has attempted to assure fans they will be back to their best next term.

“Be assured that everyone at the club is working hard to make sure that our performances on the pitch next season will be what we and our fans expect of Manchester United,” he trumpeted.

“In the meantime, we continue to be active in the transfer market.”

Stirring stuff.

Of course, we now know that the worst kept secret in football has been confirmed and that Louis van Gaal will be in charge at Old Trafford next season.

But what piqued most people’s interest from Woodward’s statement was the next thing he uttered, something about a loss of Champions League income in the ‘mid-30 millions of pounds’ – £35 million, if you were interested.

Add that to the £8.4 million drop in broadcasting revenue compared to last season and the further £6.5 million that it cost the club to hire and fire David Moyes, and it all comes to healthy total of just under £50 million.

But let’s go back to the final statement, the message about being active in the transfer market.

Unlike last summer, Woodward’s words are being backed up by his actions with a £30 million bid for in-demand Southampton full-back Luke Shaw having been tabled after the initial £27 million offer was rejected.

For the first time in his tenure as executive vice-chairman, Woodward has exhibited persistence as well as the ability to put his money where his mouth is – two very admirable traits.

If United fans thought the reports of Van Gaal issuing a list of transfer targets to the club hierarchy – apparently including the likes of Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben – were a cause for optimism, then the rumours of £200 million being made available will initiate unbridled cavorting on the streets of Stretford.

But what are the real chances of that?

The idea of the men who have siphoned almost £700 million from the club since arriving in 2005 giving generously is alien – picture asking a Manchester City fan to kiss the feet of the Sir Alex Ferguson statue.

Malcolm and Co. have made their intentions clear since they saddled United with a mountain of debt, and, when compared to other club’s with similar revenue streams such as Real Madrid, those intentions have been reflected in the transfer market ever since the £80 million sale of Cristiano Ronaldo.

If in any doubt, look to their decision to appoint Woodward as the successor to the excellent David Gill.

As he demonstrated for many years, Woodward is in his element when it comes to capturing sponsors and sealing lucrative contracts with said clients, but why throw him into a pseudo-chief executive role when he has no experience?

To make money, of course.

The Glazers saw what a good job Woodward was doing over in the commercial department and decided to let him run the entire club as a reward – or rather, as a quicker route to selling United off whenever the debt is finally washed away.

But let’s not get bogged down in why the Glazers are bad for the club – there are already countless pages on that subject plastered all over the internet.

Take Woodward’s statement that performances on the pitch next season will match the fans’ expectations.

It’s the right thing to say, but it also happens to be completely at odds with the ethos of his employers, regardless of the fact that it’s the only viable way to keep the cash flowing in.

Then there was the bit about hiring a manager who will get United back into Europe, namely Van Gaal and the Champions League.

Van Gaal needs money to inject life back into an ageing and fractured squad – two centre-backs, a left-back, cover at right-back, two midfielders (box-to-box and creative) and, if we’re being optimistic, at least one winger.

All included, sounds a damn sight more than £200 million, especially if they are serious about spending £30 million on the left-back.

Naturally, with the bottomless wealth of City and Chelsea to compete with, even with Financial Fair Play looming, there is no other way back to the top – you have to spend money to make money.

But the Glazers are not in this game to provide joy to the fans or add to the club’s trophy cabinet – both are simply means to an end as far as they are concerned.

If they allow £200 million for transfers, they will expect, say, £300 million back through the (theoretical) prize money and increased revenue that results over the next five years or so.

Otherwise they wouldn’t do it – this isn’t Sheikh Mansour we’re talking about, and how are they going to erase all that debt by spending money?

No one can predict exactly what will happen over the next three months, but as far as £200 million goes, we can look at their track record since the 2005 takeover and say with sufficient confidence, not bloody likely.

Image courtesy of Edwin.11, with thanks

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