The contrast between Manchester United’s on-field and off-field performance could hardly be starker.

Under performance on the pitch appears to be tolerated for as long as the cash rolls in and there was one quote from Richard Arnold at Tuesday’s address to club investors which caught the eye.

United have been involved in so many long-running but ultimately failed transfer sagas in recent years, which do little but frustrate the fans who know by now when a target is unrealistic.

But that quote shed some light on why they keep happening year after year, and it’s a worrying trend.

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United will clearly encourage transfer rumours

Most other elite European clubs would see a series of ultimately fruitless pursuits of high-profile players, where United have often been used by stars to leverage higher contracts, as an embarrassment.

It’s just one obvious symptom of the need for change at board level at Old Trafford and should show how out of his depth Ed Woodward is.

But Arnold’s comments hint that the powers that be at United will embrace these long-running failed pursuits because it keeps the interest ultimately, the money rolling in.

United should be focusing on securing their targets with a minimum of fuss, and continuing down their track of securing emerging talent in favour of superstars who make the headlines.

 

Instead, their commerical focus leaves their transfer policy a shambles, with high-profile, unattainable names taking the eye away from a ruthless pursuit of identified, scouted targets.

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Bruno Fernandes saga is just the latest example

United’s reputation is such now that clubs, agents and players can throw their name into the mix in order to elevate their valuation.

Under Woodward, United have thrown around silly money and he thinks the best way to operate is to be clear that he will spend whatever it takes to get the club back to the top.

Why didn’t United make a stronger point of saying they were not interested in Fernandes? Instead, they let the saga rumble on unchecked until the final couple of days of the window. It’s hardly fair on the supporters, let alone the player.

Sean Longstaff was a far more underwhelming but perhaps sensible transfer option, but that just fizzled out while Fernandes’ name was linked with United for months on end.

Failed, high-profile pursuits have become a hallmark of post-Ferguson transfer windows.

Perhaps they have been seen as a simple sign of incompetence at board level before. Arnold’s comments make it clear that they’re actively embraced as once again, the commercial arm of the club takes precedence over matters on the pitch.

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