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 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