Sunday 19 November 2017

Man United to prioritise luring world's biggest stars

Old Trafford transfer policy to shift from ensuring all bases are covered to luring the marquee signings that escaped club this window

Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal

Mark Ogden

Manchester United are to change their transfer strategy in future windows by adopting a 'less is more’ approach to player recruitment with world-class signings prioritised over squad-building.

United broke the £100 million spending barrier for the second successive summer window with six new arrivals adding to the seven players signed by the manager, Louis van Gaal, during his first season in charge at Old Trafford.

However, while Van Gaal and senior figures at the club regard the summer spending spree as a success, with David de Gea’s failure to leave for Real Madrid viewed as a positive outcome, United’s efforts to tempt a marquee signing to Old Trafford proved unsuccessful.

Long-term interest in the Real winger Gareth Bale did not result in the Welshman moving to United, while discussions over the Barcelona forward Neymar and Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller also came to nought.

However, with United’s owners, the Glazer family, now sanctioning the spending of more than £300 million on new players since the retirement in May 2013 of Sir Alex Ferguson, the club are determined to focus on high-end individual signings after reshaping the squad left behind by the Scot two years ago.

Read more: Comment: Ed Woodward is in danger of ruining Man United's reputation

Senior figures at Old Trafford ­believe that two summers of large‑scale recruitment have now left Van Gaal’s squad stocked with quality and top-level cover in every area of the pitch.

But there is also an acceptance that stability within the playing squad is required and that the way forward requires an evolution of the club’s transfer strategy that will see quality alone, rather than combined with quantity, become the cornerstone of recruitment.

Although recent links with Neymar have not been dismissed by United, the club’s position privately is that, while they will always be interested in such stellar individuals as the Brazil forward, speculation surrounding a move for the player has been overplayed.

United insist that it was their decision not to pursue a move for the Barcelona forward Pedro Rodríguez, with the club stalling on a move for three weeks before pursuing alternative options, which led to the French teenager Anthony Martial arriving on transfer deadline day from Monaco in a £36 million deal.

Efforts to sign Sadio Mané from Southampton did not prove successful, with a £20 million bid for the forward rejected by the St  Mary’s club, but United believe that mid-ranking Premier League clubs are now able to resist big-money offers for their players due to the financial windfall of the league’s television broadcasting deal.

Having issued a firm rebuttal of Real’s accusations that their actions led to the collapse of De  Gea’s £29 million move to the Bernabéu, United are confident that the 24-year-old will return to the club, following international duty with Spain, next Wednesday fully prepared to see out his contract in a professional and dedicated manner.

De Gea, who earns £60,000 a week at Old Trafford, is not expected to sign the five-year, £200,000-a-week deal offered by ­United, but Van Gaal is ready to restore him to the first team.

With De Gea locked in a battle with the former Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas for the Spain No 1 jersey, however, the national coach Vicente del Bosque has warned the United goalkeeper that he must quickly overcome the disappointment of his failed move to ensure that he remains in his plans for Euro 2016.

“He [De Gea] needs to be professional and move on from this episode,” Del Bosque said. “If I do feel the need to talk to him about it, then I will say something. I hope that he starts playing again and is happy and, if he plays well. we can bring him along [to the Euros]. Other­wise, if he doesn’t play, it will be very difficult for him to come.”

Read more: Monaco admit British riches are hard to resist after Anthony Martial sale

Sergio Ramos, the Real defender who United wanted to sign as part of any deal to sell De Gea, has echoed Del Bosque’s comments ahead of Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifying double-header against Slovakia and Macedonia by urging De Gea to put the Real saga behind him.

“I have not talked to David and do not know his opinion, but life goes on,” Ramos said . “Nobody has died for this. He has had a bumpy summer because he has decided his future and that of his family. But it is something we have to go through at times, everyone has to understand the facts and do their best wherever they are.”

The United midfielder Ander Herrera has backed his team-mate to regain his position in the team at Old Trafford and put the recent controversy behind him.

“David is my friend and I want the best for him,” Herrera said. “He has had a very, very good four years for United and he will do it again. He is a very good professional, you can see that every day . For me, he is the best goalkeeper in the world and I think for many people, the same. ”

As expected, De Gea has been included in United’s Champions League squad but Victor Valdés is excluded – a further sign of his banishment by Van Gaal.

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport