United plan sweeping overhaul of squad as Moyes re-asserts his authority in face of plane protest
Manchester United will attempt a spectacular clear-out of their under-performing squad in the summer as they bid to win the Premier League title next season.
In theory United could commit more than £200 million on transfer fees alone, with the club planning to attempt to undertake its ambitious overhaul in just one transfer window.
Such a bold approach will be met with some scepticism from supporters, given the perception there have been constraints on spending, but the club is adamant the cash is available.
David Moyes, the manager, remains clear that players want to join United and that he has the support of the club.
His position was bolstered when he delivered a defiant riposte to supporters who called for him to be sacked via a banner carried by aeroplane ahead of the game against Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
A group of fans had paid £840 for a plane to fly over Old Trafford trailing a “Wrong One – Moyes Out” banner, but Moyes chose to walk to his dug-out five minutes before kick-off in order to be on the touchline when the stunt took place.
After the game, which United won 4-1 thanks to two goals from Wayne Rooney and one apiece from Juan Mata and Javier Hernández, the Scot said: “I just wanted everyone to know that I’m manager of the club and you know where I am.
“I’ll be standing on the side of the pitch every week and that is my job. The truth was that I was focused on the game. That was my be all and end all – to make sure that we, as a club, would win the game. Not anything else. But the support inside Old Trafford has been terrific and, if there was ever a show of support for the football club and team, it was in this game. Inside Old Trafford it was terrific, it really was.”
United believe that not playing in the Champions League next season will improve their chances of winning the Premier League again. The club also have a target of winning the Champions League again within the next five years.
United have a significant number of transfer targets under consideration, headed by the Southampton left-back Luke Shaw and Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos.
The club have also held discussions about signing Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho – although they will not pay anywhere near the £37 million buy-out clause in the 21-year-old midfielder’s contract – and Ilkay Gündogan who has been unsettled at Borussia Dortmund.
Clearly United will not sign all their targets but they are accelerating their plans with central midfield, left-back and centre-half their priorities. The clear-out will involve an unprecedented number of departures headed by Nemanja Vidic, who is joining Inter Milan, Rio Ferdinand, Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernández, Wilfried Zaha, Nani and Anderson.
United are adamant that Robin van Persie, who has two years left on his contract, will not be sold and still regard the Dutch striker as a cornerstone of their side along with Rooney.
The club are undecided over the future of Patrice Evra but it is likely that the 32-year-old vice-captain will also leave.
United have plenty of cash to spend with £100 million up front available, plus another £100 million next year – deals are usually paid 50 per cent up front and the rest later. In addition, there will also be whatever the club can bring in via transfer fees.
Moyes’s most immediate problem is an injury to right-back Rafael da Silva, which could lead to defensive problems for the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night as United’s left-back, Evra, is already out due to suspension.
“Rafael has an injury that we need to check out,” Moyes said yesterday. “Antonio Valencia has tendonitis in his knee and he would probably be the one to go to full-back.
“We have a lot of defenders missing, but we will know better on Sunday.”