£100 million is a sign of desperate times … and worth every penny

July 27, 2016 Tags: , , Reads 29 comments
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It’s a simple equation: Manchester United needs Paul Pogba more than Paul Pogba needs to be with the Reds. Sign o’ the times. It’s little wonder that Juventus has backed Ed Woodward into a corner over the mooted £100 million transfer fee, with agent Mino Raiola battering the executive vice chairman into submission over his commission. Despite reports of a ‘stalled bid’ and renewed Real Madrid interest the Reds will probably end up paying all of it. It’ll still be a bargain if it helps bring the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford.

After all, the transfer, when complete, will create a very different feel to José Mourinho’s midfield heading into the new season – perhaps offering the Portuguese maestro title-winning strength-in-depth, which he palpably does not hold now.

The financial equation is stark because of what happened to United, in particular central midfield, under Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman thought that he had depth too. Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick were augmented in summer 2015 by the acquisitions of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The sextet promised so much more than it eventually delivered.

Indeed, questions surrounding the performance of United’s central midfield, from defensive to attacking positions, will shape the Reds’ season to come. Pogba will add genuine class when the transfer is complete (forgive Rant for jinxing it, etc and so on), but José must also eek out greater performance from others in his squad if his side is to challenge in the coming year.

Herrera remains an enigma, but the kind of player that should prosper under Mourinho. The Spaniard’s key qualities – a high-tempo passing game with frantic energy off-the-ball – were slowly eroded by Van Gaal’s dogmatic approach. The Dutchman seemingly never trusted the 26-year-old to the point that Herrera rarely gained rhythm last season – a campaign in which he was in and out of the first team far too often. There is more to come if Mourinho can foster greater consistency of performance.

Fans might come to a similar conclusion about Mata, whose numbers remain impressive, despite rarely being used in his natural position by David Moyes or Van Gaal. Mata is unlikely to spend the season on the wing for Mourinho though – he barely lasted six months under the Portuguese manager last time out. The real question is whether Mata is more likely to spend time on the bench or away from Old Trafford altogether? Mourinho says the former though that may well be rhetoric.

The old guard of Carrick and Schweinsteiger is a problem, especially if either is forced to play much in the coming season. Neither did much last season to justify selection in this. The German began the campaign physically out-of-shape, and ended it injured. Nobody at United should be surprised – it is a long-standing pattern. In between there were performances of genuine class and leadership, but far too many games where Schweinsteiger was over-run by physically stronger and more mobile opponents.

Paul Pogba

The same is true of Carrick, whose legs have obviously gone. Yet, the Geordie also remains a player of such experience that a newly signed one-year contract was a prudent and reasonably cheap move by the club. Logically only one should stay; José appears to have picked.

In a more surprising move still, it seems that Fellaini is set for a fourth campaign at Old Trafford. The Belgian is a neither defensive player, with sound covering instincts, nor a creative force in the final third, nor a player with the legs to run central midfield. He remains a strange acquisition three years on, although Mourinho is probably retaining the Belgian for his ‘physical presence and height’. The new manager will soon find out that this observation translates to little more than pointy elbows and a record in the air that is surprisingly poor for a player of his frame.

More could come from Morgan Schneiderlin though, whose box-to-box performances at Southampton were replaced under Van Gaal by a player inhibited within a more prosaic system. That Schneiderlin was fifth choice central midfielder for France this summer says much about his falling star. Yet, he is probably is set for a role as Mourinho’s principle defensive midfielder, perhaps alongside Pogba. Time will tell whether the Reds might yet regret not making a bid for compatriot N’Golo Kante, whose £30 million move to Chelsea is a relative steal.

Then, of course, there’s the big one: Wayne Rooney’s future. Back in May the Scouser admitted that his days as a marauding striker were effectively over by declaring that “sometimes you have to make choices in your career and at the moment it’s better for me to play deeper.” With a body aged beyond his years, the logic is that Rooney’s career and the team’s needs are better served in a midfield role where explosive pace is not essential.

"It’s a simple equation: United needs Pogba more than Pogba needs to be with the Reds. Sign o’ the times. Little wonder Juventus has backed Ed Woodward into a corner over the fee."

Mourinho doesn’t see it that way, of course, arguing that Rooney will “never be a six or an eight… 50 meters from goal” under his management. More concerning for Rooney is the new manager’s assertion that “maybe he’s not a striker any more” either.

Run the logic to its conclusion and the Scouser is likely to start the season at 10. Forget the red-herring of Rooney’s end to the last campaign, where under little pressure he enjoyed clipping 50-yard ‘Hollywood Balls’ around Old Trafford. It is a role to which he is wholly unsuited and has rarely excelled.

Meanwhile, Mata, who remains the squad’s only natural 10, will sit on the bench or start the campaign elsewhere. Has Mourinho fallen into the same star-struck trap as Roy Hodgson, Moyes and Van Gaal – or is this the campaign that United’s captain is slowly eased out of the team? Either way, Mourinho is left with plenty of questions across midfield to ponder before the big kick off in August.

Should Pogba sign, United’s central midfield will contain a genuine world-class performer for the first time since Paul Scholes’ retirement. The Frenchman contributed eight goals and 12 assists in Serie A last season. Over the campaign he scored more goals, delivered more assists, created more chances, and took more shots per game than any current United central midfielder – by some distance. Mata made more successful passes and more key passes, but then with Pogba at eight and the Spaniard at 10 the pair should be a complement, not competitors for one position.

Beyond his value on the pitch, there are few players more globally marketable than Pogba off it. The ‘coming home’ narrative should be an embarrassment to the club, but can be spun for huge commercial gain. With Rooney on the wane, Pogba will emerge as United’s new face for a hot global sponsorship market just in time. A symbol of United’s financial muscle, even if the club has suffered three relatively gloryless years, save for Van Gaal’s parting gift of the FA Cup.

Which, of course, will leave much egg on Woodward’s face if the executive fails to pull off the world-record deal this summer… and Rant’s for being so presumptive. Then again, with United’s squad balance very much dependent on the completing the transfer, there are a lot in the proverbial basket.

Around £100 millions worth, wouldn’t you say?


Paul Keenan - July 27, 2016 Reply

let Rooney have the goals record then pack him off to China, free some wages up for the next…

MunroeL - July 27, 2016 Reply

I’ve said this before, but Fellaini is a world class irritant and not much more. Trouble is that’s a quality Jose quite likes.

wayne - July 27, 2016 Reply

No,the whole thing is embarrassing and he’s nothing more than a glorified DM,he’s not worth 50 mill

Ed - July 27, 2016 Reply

He’s not a defensive midfielder. Never has been.

Ted - July 29, 2016 Reply

Wazza? Is that you?

Mark Mcgrath - July 27, 2016 Reply

Lol,gotta psy his agent £25 million outta that, muppets

Pól O'hAodha - July 27, 2016 Reply

how much would an assassin cost?

Mark Mcgrath - July 27, 2016 Reply

Robbie Fowler ain’t for hire

Ed - July 27, 2016 Reply

That from a Liverpool fan. Muppets seems to be the right word.

takudzwa - July 27, 2016 Reply

i have read so many articles,pamphlets,novels etc and yours is just so well advise artilect it was a pleasure reading it and if I may you have an amazing extraodinary talent you GIFTED

Redzebs - July 30, 2016 Reply

You hear that ed, a PAMPHLET, you need to be pushing for first class on all these secret missions you are always off on, private jet to Cliftonville fc in the Europa league.

Greg - July 28, 2016 Reply

The manager knows what’s best for him, cus all I want is for man utd to bring us what we the fans are used to.

Redzebs - July 30, 2016 Reply

I’ve been getting used to us looking like complete twats for 3 years, do you mean, playing decent football and not fuckings up the biggest transfer in history or being successful regardless of the football quality as long as we are successful ala some of Fergies years

Greg - July 28, 2016 Reply

I will rather invest such amount on 23yrs old player than a 33yrs old. So the money is well spent.

bobbynoble - July 28, 2016 Reply

Woodward might be good at signing deals with noodle manufacturers but it’s a different story with high-end football transfers.

The guy shoots his mouth off about how United have lots of cash available for transfers and are prepared to spend. So it’s no wonder other clubs and players’ agents play hardball.

United is the only club around with 100 mill cash for Pogba yet somehow we have been backed into a corner? Madrid would need to sell players to raise the money so how strong is their competition?

Woodward is not ruthless enough as a negotiator. He looks a soft touch. Doing deals with willing ‘commercial partners’ is one thing but toughing it out with Juve and Pogba’s agent is beyond for him. The deal should have been sealed by now or United should have walked away and looked elsewhere.

Tracey Piggott - July 28, 2016 Reply

Jose has finally lost the plot….well he went to our bitter rivals so he was halfway there…but Pogba never turns up for the big games

Rich - July 28, 2016 Reply

Game’s changed. Once the Chinese league and American leagues pick up 100 million will be common place. The money isn’t even so much for the player but for his commercial potential. If you can find a mega star who sells mega shirts who can even play good football.. Invest.

Emmyleo - July 28, 2016 Reply

Dont really know how to do it ds days wt ds paul pogba transfer saga……. Jux similar to new of LVG exit.
United rant writers should better be prepare for stones if ds tranfer didn’t work out good

Redzebs - July 29, 2016 Reply


What you on about you numpty

Dayusdred - July 28, 2016 Reply

8goals, 12 assists and Pogba is worth every penny of 100m.? Suddenly Pogba is the peice of the jig saw in our mid field. I hope we dont end up with another Di maria. Apparently United is not his first choice. He is only coming if he does come because of the money been thrown at him.

Dayusdred - July 28, 2016 Reply

If United is the only club seemingly read to sign Pogba and we are still willing to pay the figures been qouted depending on which one you believe, its only mean one thing. Desperation.

Vikka - July 29, 2016 Reply

No mention of Mkhitaryan. Will be be interesting to see if Jose will eventually find a method to play Mata and Mkhitaryan.

NazManUnited - July 29, 2016 Reply

Spend it Spend it, Funking Spend it, Pay More 😂, MUFC cannot get outspent by Bloody Juve!

NazManUnited - July 29, 2016 Reply

I wanna sing, Snap , I’ve got the Pogba!

Redzebs - July 30, 2016 Reply

Fuck me, a good article but some complete whoppers posting on here and not on the forums and for once it’s a good thing. “I’d rather pay £100 million for a 23 year old than a 33 year old

Marco - July 30, 2016 Reply

£100 million does seem a wee bit excessive but you can already hear the wheels turning in Raiola’s mind about how much he’ll make when Pogba ups sticks and moves to Madrid in three years. Maybe we’ll get our money back and a bit of a profit too.

I remember the day Frank O’Farrell gave Bournemouth something north of £200,000 for Ted MacDougall, a Third Division striker unproven in the First Division and an ex-Liverpool player to boot. At the time, that was seen as utter madness with United having more money than sense. Maybe we still do but football has changed so much in the last five years, let alone the past forty-five, that a £100,000,000 transfer fee is seen as just another milestone in the game.

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Harald - August 1, 2016 Reply

We’re spending a lot of money, but winning one major trophy under Pogba will recoup the investment. I think the biggest triumph here is that we’ve now turned the corner on our debt thanks to United’s gem of a corporate wing. Our transfer policy has been encumbered by a gargantuan debt obligation thanks to the Glazer’s hostile take over in 2005. We lost Ronaldo, Tevez and nearly Rooney, and also have been unable replenish our squad with real world beaters. When debt service payments are 70m GBP you’re essentially forfeiting your total earnings from the EPL. This transfer window signals that we now have a more sustainable income model (debt service payments are down to 20m GBP, and revenue and profit is unrivaled across all football clubs in 2015). We also finally have a manager who can attract top talent. Nobody wanted to play under Moyes or Van Gaal, even when the latter was given full access to the purse for rebuilding.

It is absolutely imperative that we secure UEFA this season if we are to keep this momentum going. We are finally shaking off this debt (~300m GBP left from an initial ~700m GBP, which is still the largest of any Intl club). This window for me offers a small but encouraging glimpse of what we will be able to do in the coming years.

Julian - August 2, 2016 Reply

This potential deal concerns me. It’s not just that United are being well and truly taken to the cleaners on this, not least by Pogba’s agent who previously engineered his move away from OT for comparatively next to nothing, I’m wondering if the lad is really as good as he is made out to be? Ok he’s only 23 and under Mourinho he is sure to become even better but is it possible that a player like Sanches who is even younger, probably better and would have cost half the money would have been a better bet. Ok, he’s gone to Bayern after we botched the deal, so no crying over spilt milk. I’m also wondering if Pogba has all the makings of a prima donna type with an ultra ego to go with it. This latest report that he is off to NYC ostensibly to watch Real might give an indication of a sort of “couldn’t care less” attitude. That might be unfair and I admit these concerns could be considered totally unjustified and that Mourinho sees him as fitting the picture perfectly but it’s not a deal, if indeed it is actually finalised, which fills me with unbounded joyous expectation.

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