How Manchester United tackle the transfer market this summer will be crucial. The developing squad has signs of genuine long-term potential and a strong performance from Old Trafford recruiters over the coming weeks could bridge the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool.
If they get it right.
That means carefully considered arrivals who will improve the team, not just now but for years to come, as well as further stripping out deadwood that is a drain on resources. Getting the best price for those players, or at the very least temporarily removing them from the wage bill, is just as important when the current climate amid the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed finances.
It is generally understood that United will cope better than most as a result of their enormous commercial revenue, although limitations cannot be wilfully ignored.
What is Man Utd’s Transfer Budget?
According to The Athletic, United have calculated a hit of up to £115m in lost revenue for the season. It is unclear what the transfer budget will be and the same report suggests the club is refusing to set one as a result of some impacts remaining unknown - ‘industry experts’ believe United are discussing a net spend of £50m.
That means a spend of £50m in addition to what is brought back into the club. It would be hoped that a number of players, some of them high earners, could be sold ahead of next season to raise funds and boost the transfer budget.
It is worth noting here that last summer’s spend was half offset by selling Romelu Lukaku.
Alexis Sanchez is the most obvious in terms of removing the burden of his salary, while Chris Smalling is wanted by Roma after an impressive season on loan in Serie A. Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are two others who have no future at Old Trafford. Jesse Lingard and even the once impressive Diogo Dalot are also added into the equation.
Lingard in particular was linked with a move to West Ham earlier this week, as was Jones, but The Athletic suggests agent Mino Raiola engineering a possible move to Italy shouldn’t be discounted. The concern would be whether United can find buyers with the resources to meet asking prices.
Spreading the Cost?
United have the option of spreading the cost of transfers over the length of a player’s contract. The Athletic writes that the club has been known to pay fees in full in the past, notably for Harry Maguire when he was bought from Leicester last summer.
But instalments could stretch the budget and is a common tactic – one high profile example would be Arsenal’s club record £72m capture of Nicolas Pepe last summer, which was reported to have cost them actually only £20m up front. The other £52m is being spread over five years.
What it Means for the Jadon Sancho Pursuit
90min has understood since September that United are confident of signing Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho this year. That stance hasn’t changed even though the crisis has forced a wider re-think about spending and with the club no longer willing to go higher than £100m.
The Athletic reports that a ‘considerable amount of money’ has been earmarked for Sancho, a sum in excess of the £50m United were alleged to have told Dortmund they are not willing to exceed – if reported correctly, presumably a negotiating tactic rather than a genuine financial ceiling.
Dortmund’s Stance on Sancho
At the start of this week it was initially reported in Germany that Dortmund have set a 10 August deadline for the proposed deal to be done. United, however, are relaxed about the timeframe.
Dortmund are reported to want a guaranteed €100m (£87m) for Sancho, while a recent local German report claimed their overall valuation of the player remains at €120m (£108m).
Dortmund do at least appear to be preparing themselves for the real possibility that Sancho will not be at Westfalenstadion next season. An admission from sporting director Michael Zorc in the German media revealed they are now actively considering replacements.
“If Jadon should go, we would work again in the offensive area. There are certainly one or two players we are targeting,” Zorc, a former Dortmund player, told Kicker.
Other Man Utd Transfer Targets
Sancho is the primary target, a missing piece in the attacking jigsaw, but the 20-year-old isn’t the only player United are seeking this summer.
It had long been established that Sancho, Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham formed United priority wishlist this summer. A blow came as Bellingham looks set to choose Dortmund, but interest remains in Grealish and 90min revealed last month that the club has sought the opinion of former Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce on the player. The review was a positive one.
However, United will delay making an approach until it is known whether Villa will still be in the Premier League next season, as relegation could make Grealish cheaper and easier to sign.
As demands and needs constantly evolve and change, there are also rumours that United could even end up shelving interest in Grealish owing to the likelihood of Paul Pogba now staying. The Villa captain would still add much needed depth, but going back to overarching concerns about finances and more careful spending, more important priorities may now lie elsewhere.
That could be in the form of a new centre-back after defensive weaknesses, despite a healthy record, have become apparent since the season restarted. An ESPN report named Nathan Ake, Tyrone Mings and Alessio Romagnoli as potential targets under consideration.
The Athletic suggests a £40m price tag for Ake could be prohibitive in the current climate. They are there a ‘number of possible options’ but stop short of naming any others.
Less pressing is United’s need for a striker in light of Odion Ighalo’s loan being extended until next January, but it is still on the agenda and interest has been highlighted in Lyon’s Moussa Dembele, a player who has already been linked on and off for some time.
If Sancho negotiations break down, The Atheltic’s United sources suggest Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele could be available as a cheaper target.