In July, Manchester United announced a record-breaking £750m 10-year kit deal with Adidas. One of the world’s richest clubs became even richer but it was also noted that the colossal £75m annual minimum guarantee is “subject to certain adjustments”, as per the club’s website.
This has been interpreted that if the club continues its unwanted trend of no Champions League football next season, the highly lucrative annual fee received from the German sportwear giants will be reduced by a significant 30 percent.
Despite their substantial cash reserves enabling them to throw money at the problem, many a self-confessed expert, in addition to former players, asserted their concerns whether United could still attract the world’s best talent given they would not be rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite—for this season at least.
The Glazers, the focal point of criticism amongst the club’s supporters throughout their tenure, loosened the purse strings, allowing United to flex their financial might in the transfer market, to the extent that they have almost doubled the spending of their closest rivals during in the last two seasons.
The marquee signings of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria demonstrated that—even without the glitz and the glamour of the Champions League—Old Trafford remains an attractive destination, at a price.
Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Di Maria and Falcao are an intriguing, if not desperate, cacophony of signings. It would not be unfair could conclude that United’s transfer policy appears to be rudderless and bears an uncanny resemblance to a trigger happy teenager playing Championship Manager.
With arch-rivals Liverpool firmly planting their place amongst the domestic top-four, United are in panic mode. At the beginning of the campaign, Louis van Gaal told the press not to expect any miracles but reiterated the achievements on his own CV that he, unlike his predecessor David Moyes, was a proven winner.
His confidence rubbed off on everyone. Furthermore, the fixture list could not have been kinder. An opening home fixture against Swansea plus trips to Burnley and Sunderland meant United had the chance to start the season on a high.
Yet three games later, two points from a possible nine, underlined the Dutchman’s task and the transfer frenzy commenced.
The recent splurge means that over the past half decade United have spent £300m net—surprisingly more than Chelsea and only Manchester City have exceeded this amount (£321m).
However, by digging further into the figures, it is startling that immediately after United were crowned English champions and both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill stepped down, United’s net spend almost touches £200m.
By comparison, City and Arsenal are in a distant second and third place with a net expenditure of £120m and £110m respectively. Was Ferguson’s team that poor? And, if so, was he a genius for winning the league with a team suffering from such severe decay?
The figures themselves however leave no room for conjecture. It is what it is. Both van Gaal, and Ed Woodward, are under immense pressure and unlike last season, there can be no excuses for failure—Champions League qualification is a prerequisite. A club who was last crowned best team in the land only two seasons ago cannot bemoan its luck after a net spend of £200m since that period, and their new-found Galatico business model means fans may look forward to regular unveilings of Falcao-esque signings in the future.
For the present though, van Gaal only has league matches to focus on for the remainder of 2014, following his side’s embarrassing mauling at the hands of MK Dons.
The Dutchman’s claims that one of the reasons he has been employed at Old Trafford is to oversee the transition of the club’s promising youth talent into United’s next generation of stars. How this approach ties in with the megalomaniac expenditure remains to be seen but one thing is absolutely certain—Louis van Gaal must deliver a top-four finish this season otherwise it will take more than a schmoke and schome pancaiks to ease the pain.