Manchester United need a better strategy than chasing £100m valued midfield stars
Ralf Rangnick will stay on at Manchester United as consultant once his stint as interim manager is over. The two roles should be interlinked, yet from a transfer strategy point of view, the German is not being given enough leeway to make his mark at this early stage.
The Athletic report United prefer not to make a midfield signing this window because of hope top targets Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice could become available in the summer.
This could be a critical mistake. It is the sort of misguided error which has hurt United in the recent past.
Firstly, let’s assess the risk of not making a move this January for a midfield target. Leaving the situation as it is, United are very likely to miss out on a top four place and Champions League football, at the current rate, and the chance of success in cup competitions is also diminished.
United need to start acting smarter
The ‘we will wait to sign our dream target’ policy is the type of strategy which hurt United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
No first team winger was signed in 2020, after a failed pursuit of Jadon Sancho, and then in 2021 when United really needed a midfielder, Sancho was signed and a midfielder was ignored. It cost Solskjaer his job.
Waiting on Declan Rice or Jude Bellingham last summer cost United, when for a fraction of the price, Ruben Neves, for instance, could have been signed.
Declan Rice will cost United around £100 million, as would Jude Bellingham. To add to the complexity of the situation, there is no guarantee either will become available in summer 2022, in fact it is unlikely.
In Rice’s case, West Ham do not wish to sell, and if they did, it would not make sense to do so months before the World Cup, which could inflate his transfer value further or at least keep it as high, for 2023.
Dortmund are going to be resistant to selling Jude Bellingham, bearing in mind Erling Haaland will leave this summer. A 2023 exit is far more likely, and while United should be in the running then, the club need to put this to one side.
Without Champions League football, United are a distinctly less attractive proposition to star players. It’s time to start being smarter.
Rangnick needs to lead smarter strategy
United need to have some self-reflection, on how the club got into the situation we find ourselves in, eight years after Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Ed Woodward’s strategy has been to chase ‘star names’ and where has it led? United are worse off than ever.
United’s next permanent manager needs to build a real team, where nobody is guaranteed a starting spot based on name alone, and has to earn it based on form.
This means acting smarter in the transfer market, and looking for potential bargains. As we saw in 2019 when United spent £80 million on Harry Maguire and £50 million on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, this left little left to spend on other areas. That combined £130 million could have been used to buy four or five players, not two.
It is down to Rangnick to lead this strategy. He has plenty of experience buying players for more reasonable prices at RB Leipzig. United have done the hard part, bringing in one of football’s best strategists, now they need to actually let him do the work.
Spending all summer chasing Rice or Bellingham will lead to United ending up with neither. With Paul Pogba leaving, United are going to need at least two midfielders. Pinning all hopes on one star name will likely lead to it backfiring spectacularly.
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