United are pay­ing price for strug­gling to sell play­ers

Club are un­der fire for lack of big-money sign­ings, but they first must clear out dead wood in bloated squad

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - Chief Foot­ball Cor­re­spon­dent

The big­gest prob­lem with Manch­ester United is not the lack of spend­ing – it is the lack of sell­ing. When was the last time that the club got top dol­lar for a player they were pre­pared to let go?

The big­gest sales of the past few years have been Romelu Lukaku and An­gel Di Maria, al­though United re­ceived less than they spent to sign them in the first place.

Be­fore that? Academy prod­uct Danny Wel­beck was sold to Ar­se­nal for £16mil­lion in 2014 – only for sub­se­quent man­agers, such as Jose Mour­inho, to de­clare they would not have let him leave, while United just about broke even on Da­ley Blind. And then?

You prob­a­bly have to go back to the world-record trans­fer of Cris­tiano Ron­aldo in 2009, when United turned a £12.2 mil­lion pur­chase from Sport­ing six years ear­lier into an as­set worth more than £80 mil­lion.

They did not want to sell Ron­aldo, of course, and clearly if they cashed in on the likes of Mar­cus Rash­ford or even Ma­son Greenwood there would be a sig­nif­i­cant profit, as well as a re­bel­lion among fans. But nei­ther is for sale or should be sold, while United had the em­bar­rass­ment of mov­ing Michael Keane to Burn­ley for £2mil­lion in 2015, only for Ever­ton to pay up to £30 mil­lion for him two years later. And ev­ery­one knows what a prob­lem po­si­tion cen­tre-half has been for United.

It did not mat­ter in the Sir Alex Fer­gu­son years be­cause United were win­ning tro­phies and the in­vest­ments were ob­vi­ously largely pos­i­tive. But when he re­tired the club’s trad­ing – as they strove to com­pete again – be­came ever more im­por­tant. And that means “outs” as well as “ins”.

In his pro­gramme notes be­fore their first Pre­mier League game of the sea­son on Satur­day, the ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man, Ed Wood­ward, rightly wrote: “We must be re­spon­si­ble with our re­sources dur­ing this chal­leng­ing time.”

But how re­spon­si­ble

Sold off: Michael Keane (left) and Wil­fried Zaha have thrived af­ter leav­ing United on the cheap

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