Man United might have been handed a way to navigate through another big transfer window

Man United might have been handed a way to navigate through another big transfer window

By Karl Matchett

There have already been plenty of media soundbites, released by those within the club, about how the squad will get an overhaul this coming transfer window. A big spend is wanted, but this time with more purpose and value. More quality too, presumably. The one issue with that – and that’s even before considering whether Erik ten Hag is left in place or not – is that United have already spent heavily for little return of late, and there are concerns about profit and sustainability rules (PSR).

It’s approaching two years since they splurged £85m on Antony, for example. A year earlier Jadon Sancho cost a similar amount. Neither has offered anything like a valid return on investment. From a PSR perspective, we’re also still in the rolling three-year period of the signings – and ongoing salary expenditure – of Raphael Varane, Casemiro, Lisandro Martínez and Rasmus Højlund, the latter another £70-plus addition.

While at least a couple of those may depart this summer, one who wasn’t necessarily expected to is Bruno Fernandes – but apparent Bayern Munich interest might just be what Manchester United should seize upon to help them right three obvious wrongs of this campaign.

Firstly, is the fee he’d generate – this hasn’t been his best year, despite his high standing in the FotMob ratings, but he’s still highly regarded around Europe and would bring in a hefty addition to United’s spending power. Secondly, his on-pitch attitude, this term and previously, has been poor with far too great a frequency, while his antics of claiming non-existent free-kicks as play continues around him and berating officials while teammates scurry around all feed into the wider lack of conviction and determination at United. They have, without question, been cowardly in certain games over the past few years, and Fernandes is not exempt from that description. As the man who wears the armband, it shouldn’t just be that better is expected, it should be that those actions are never tolerated. There is a gulf between “setting an example” and what Fernandes has offered when the going gets tough. Dispensing with him might be just as important to resetting the dressing room culture as it was when offloading Cristiano Ronaldo, and United certainly need to do that one way or another if they hope to challenge for honours any time soon.

But perhaps more importantly than either of those first two reasons is the third, which links back into the spending without reward cycle: Mason Mount. An injury-hit first campaign at Old Trafford cannot hide the fact that he’s an awkward fit in a squad which contains Fernandes. Now aged 25, £60m Mount should be one of the pillars any new United side is built around: he’s previously shown the talent, the work rate and the guile that they could really have done with this term, but shoe-horning him into the side wider or deeper than he’s most effective from is not going to yield the rewards his transfer would have hoped for. Ten Hag has been unable – among other things – to pair Fernandes and Mount together. Perhaps another coach may, but surely the stronger route is to simply pick one over the other, not just for immediate talent but for team building purposes across the next three, four years. And reinvest the funds from the sale of the other, of course.

Because beyond restoring Mount’s prominence, there’s plenty more work to do.

Højlund has shown undoubted promise but needs a foil to play alongside or an experienced alternative to shoulder plenty of the burden. The incredible lack of centre-back partnerships still at the club needs fixing, fast. And hard decisions or hard talks must also be taken with some of those who have been at the club for many years – do they want them or not? Do they want to be at the club and compete, or just be in comfort? It has felt like too many pick the latter, again contributing to that culture of accepting mediocrity.

Ineos’ chosen leaders have a boatload to get through this first summer, and a managerial decision is probably the biggest part. But with so much to do on-pitch, taking advantage of interest in a saleable asset might be the wisest course to start with, resetting not just expectations but attitudes – and in turn trying to get far more out of those they have paid big money for than has been achieved so far.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow every Manchester United game with xG, deep stats, and players ratings, on FotMob this season. Download the free app here.


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