Tag Wesley Sneijder

Tag Wesley Sneijder

Fergie calls time on spending

July 26, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 96 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson claims that Manchester United is unlikely to spend again this close season but it is the 69-year-old manager’s assertion that this summer’s retirements have financed the club’s spending that will raise eyebrows. While United’s Cristiano Ronaldo-sized cash pile has finally enabled Ferguson to loosen a vice-like grip on the Glazers’ cheque book, it is seemingly the requirement to reign in spending on wages that may limit the Scot’s transfer market ambitions.

Indeed, as has become the parlance in recent times the “Ronaldo money is there,” with the Scot giving the green-light to spend heavily on Wesley Sneijder this summer but unable to afford the Dutchman’s admittedly astronomical wages. Plus ça change critics might add, with United still investing in promise rather than fulfilled talent under the Glazer regime, despite the squad requirements this summer.

“We lost five players in their 30s this summer,” said Ferguson in New York last night, ahead of United’s fixture with MLS All Stars at the Red Bull Arena.

“That helped finance the three younger players – Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David de Gea – I have brought to the club. At this moment, I can’t see another addition. The type of player we might have been looking for is not available. I am happy with the players I have got at this moment in time.”

Ferguson’s comments are a less than oblique reference to Luka Modric, Samir Nasri and Sneijder, each of whom has piqued the Scot’s interest. But with Tottenham Hotspur steadfastly refusing to sell the Croatian and Nasri more-than-likely joining Manchester City on a Bosman next summer, Ferguson’s options in a narrow field are now limited.

Yet the failure to secure Sneijder is disturbing. The Dutchman will remain at Internazionale for the foreseeable future after neatly slotting into a central midfield role in Gian Piero Gasperini’s 3-4-3 system during pre-season. Note to United supporters who doubted it: the Sneijder is, and has always been, tactically flexible enough to flourish in the deeper role identified for him at Old Trafford.

Financially speaking the aborted deal for Sneijder once again brings into question United’s muscle in the Glazer era. By far the world’s most profitable club – at least in EBITDA terms – with the third largest revenue on the planet, United could not close out the deal despite Inter’s willingness – read requirement – to sell and Sneijder’s openness to a move.

After all, Inter is more than £100 million behind United in annual revenues with a highly under-commercialised structure that requires the club to balance the books before UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) initiative kicks in.

What then of United’s prospects in the coming season, with Michael Carrick, Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs making up Ferguson’s limited options in central midfield. Each has a serious question mark about his quality and ability to perform.

After all Carrick’s improved performance last season may yet be the exception to prove a rule in an otherwise undistinguished three-season period. Anderson has offered glimpses of talent in an otherwise highly disappointing four-year spell at Old Trafford, while Fletcher cannot shake a serious virus that undermined the Scot’s last campaign. Giggs, the mainstay of United’s central midfield creativity towards the back-end of last season, is 38 in November.

Quibbles over quality aside when it comes to raw numbers Ferguson has fewer options in central midfield for the coming campaign than last.

Despite this United will begin the new season as favourites to retain the Premier League title. Chelsea’s dynamic new coach and Manchester City’s wealth notwithstanding, none of United’s domestic rivals is stronger. New midfielder or not, the nine-point gap at the head of the table  told of United’s ability to endure a long domestic and European campaign.

Yet there is a real debate about whether the club is any stronger for the coming season even if Ferguson has laid the seeds for long-term success. David de Gea  is an outstanding young goalkeeper under immense pressure during his first campaign at the club. Phil Jones will offer solid defensive back-up but less flexibility than Wes Brown and John O’Shea. Meanwhile, Ashley Young must perform from the start to convince many United supporters that the 26-year-0ld is the solution to closing the gap on Barcelona in European terms.

Indeed, in Europe’s premier competition it is hard to see United bettering last season’s performance, in which a spot in the final exceeded many expectations. The humiliating loss to Barcelona at Wembley, insisted Ferguson, was a challenge United would rise too. The Scot’s assertion that no new midfielder will join his ranks has surely negated the promise before a competitive ball has been kicked.

Not that the answer to all United’s challenges lies in the transfer market of course but just occasionally established talent is required amid the club’s policy of buying for the future. In this most pundits and supporters agree that United’s central midfield options are far more limited that even Ferguson must be comfortable with, despite the Scot’s assertion to the contrary.

Of course it  could be a ruse by the wily Scot, who has never been slow to offer the media a smokescreen or two. But with chief executive David Gill joining Ferguson’s party in New York this week it is safe to assume that there is no new signing on the immediate horizon.

Whether any future acquisition is of the quality United supporters hope for is seemingly very much down to economics.

Sneijder on the cards as the ‘V’ word comes into focus

July 12, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 40 comments

What defines value? A simple noun that has become a pseudonym for the Glazer era at Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson’s protestation over the past two summers – since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid in 2009 – centred on the word. Value, said the Scot, was absent from the transfer market. Value, he insisted, is the United way. Forget the six occasions on which United had broken the British transfer record; value was now the sole moniker with which the Reds approached the market.

Supporters cried foul of course. Value has always had that ephemeral quality. Here in Javier Hernández, Mesut Özil, Rafael van der Vaart – Sneijder himself – Nurin Sahin and many others. Gone, some might say, in a half-a-dozen ringers brought to Eastlands, and Fernando Torres acquired so expensively by Chelsea. Add Andy Carroll, Bébé and £18.5 million Stuart Downing to that list.

What then to make of United’s apparent £35 million offer for Wesley Sneijder, the brilliant Dutchman employed by Internazionale. He is, after all, a player who led Inter to a famous treble 12 months ago and Holland to the World Cup final. For the quality Sneijder possesses the Dutchman is, arguably, cheap at the price.

Yet there is something unsettling too, exciting though the potential transfer is. Why, if Sneijder is the player so admired by Ferguson, did United not acquire the 27-year-old when he left Real Madrid just two years ago? Hungrier, younger, more dynamic in 2009; one wonders whether Sneijder is the same player after a relatively mediocre season with Inter over the past year. This question is especially pertinent given Inter paid around £20 million  less for the player.

Of course, Ferguson retained Paul Scholes in his squad over the past two years. Yet, the now retired Scholes has not started 30 Premier League games for the Scot in six years.

Ferguson did not mention Sneijder in a remarkably open press conference in Boston last night but the heavy recognition of United’s requirement for quality laced the Scot’s comments. In the midst of a youth-driven evolution of United’s squad, value, it seems may be cast aside.

“We try to look ahead, we try to make sure we have an influx of young players coming through to replace the older players,” said Ferguson.

“We’ve been well aware of the need to replace Ryan Giggs. And with Gary Neville , Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar leaving, we were well aware that we were going to have to replace them at some point.

“So the work we’ve done in the last few years has been centred around that. The big problem, of course, is how do you replace somebody like Paul Scholes?  It’s very, very difficult. If you bracket four of the best midfield players in the world, Scholes would be there along with Xavi and Iniesta.

“How will we overcome it? Maybe the next few weeks will help us in that respect. As they often do at Manchester United, maybe somebody will emerge out of the youth team or one of the young players emerges. It would be impossible to get another Paul Scholes, but if we can get a player along similar lines in terms of the quality of his passing and vision, then yes we’d have to do something.”

If that fourth player in Ferguson’s quartet of midfield quality is indeed Sneijder the acquisition will transform United’s midfield. The party now touring the United States includes just Anderson and Michael Carrick as recognised central midfielders, with Ryan Giggs and Tom Cleverley providing potential support.

Yet the economics are truly eye-watering on any deal to bring Sneijder to Old Trafford; a point fans might do well to remember until the Dutchman is sitting beside a beaming David Gill, signature pen in hand. The £35 million transfer fee will be augmented by a salary not less than £200,000 per week, or £10.4 million per year.

Even if United knock Sneijder down to those wages it will represent a significant pay cut for the player and a total investment of more than £80 million over a five-year contract with the club. With Sneijder 32 at the contract’s end, and therefore commanding little resale fee, one wonders where the deal sits in Ferguson’s characterisation of value.

Indeed, United’s decision to pursue multiple targets this summer is unlikely to have ended, despite Ferguson’s apparent admission that Samir Nasri has slipped through the Scot’s fingers. Label it ‘mind games’ perhaps, but Ferguson’s assertion that Arsene Wenger is “brave” to make Nasri wait out the final year on the Frenchman’s contract is more than a little cheeky.

“I don’t think he’s coming to United. That’s all I can tell you. I think he’s agreed to go somewhere else,” added the Scot.

“Maybe he has to stay at Arsenal, also. That’s a possibility. That’s a decision [Wenger] has made. If he stands by that decision it’s a brave one. I’m not sure the Arsenal directors will enjoy that one, but it’s possible.”

United had remained confident of luring the Frenchman to Old Trafford up to and beyond faxing a £20 million bid to Arsenal three weeks ago. This for a player available for nothing in 12 months time. Some reports even suggested that the club is countenancing acquiring both Sneijder and Nasri this summer.

It’s a proposition that brings the question right back to the issue of value and what it means.

Poll: Nasri or Sneijder?

July 10, 2011 Tags: , , Polls 60 comments

Question most Manchester United supporters and the majority will say that the club’s priority this summer is to acquire a top-class creative central midfielder. With Anderson having failed to blossom into the attacking talent once displayed at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup and Darron Gibson never good enough to make it at Old Trafford many pundits claim that Sir Alex Ferguson will spend this summer. It’s a feeling strengthened by Paul Scholes’ expected retirement and move into coaching.

However, Ferguson’s reported first choice Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur will not be allowed to leave White Hart Lane this summer. Could Arsenal’s Samir Nasri or Wesley Sneijder of Internazionale be the cherry on top of the icing on a decent transfer window for United to date? Neither will come cheap, in terms of transfer fee or wages, but each has the quality to improve United’s central midfield in the coming season. Only time and the Glazer family’s desire to spend millions of their hard pilfered cash will tell.

But which of the pair would you, the fans, prefer to grace Old Trafford next season? To aid the decision here are some  facts, as Rafael Benítez might add.

Samir Nasri

Age – 24
Fee – c£25 million
Wage – £120,000 per week
Total financial commitment (five years) – £56.2 million

2010/11 statistics (all club competitions):
Games – 50
Goals – 17
Assists – 4
Shots – 108
On goal – 50
Pass completion – 88 per cent

Wesley Sneijder

Age – 27
Fee – c£35 million
Wage – £250,000 per week
Total financial commitment (five years) – £100 million

2010/11 statistics (all club competitions):
Games – 38
Goals – 7
Assists – 7
Shots – 148
On goal – 44
Pass completion – 85 per cent

Poll: Nasri or Sneijder?

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Bids reveal United’s weaknesses

July 8, 2010 Tags: , , , Opinion 47 comments

Manchester United’s apparent bid for Wesley Sneijder, together with ongoing interest in Karim Benzema and Mario Ballotelli, is a better indicator of the squad’s current state than Sir Alex Ferguson’s public statements of happiness. Huge shortcommings in central midfield and attack were brutally exposed towards the tail-end of last season.

It’s a problem Ferguson at least recognises but whether the Scot is allowed to repair his ageing squad is another question altogether. The club’s £;20 million bid for World Cup superstar Sneijder hardly bore the hallmarks of authenticity, much akin to United’s late, undervalued, offer for Benzema last summer.

After all the market price for Sneijder has been set with City spending £27 million on Barcelona reserve Yaya Toure and even more on the brilliant Spaniard David Silva. Sneijder’s form is better than either, having won a treble with Inter Milan last season and guided Holland into the World Cup final.

Inter, quite rightly, stood firm and the player himself has indicated his preference to remain in Milan. Already on a wage superior to anybody at Old Trafford and winning trophies by the bucketload, why would Sneijder move? It’s a fact that United almost certainly already knew, having resisted the option to include the Dutch playmaker in Real Madrid’s deal for Cristiano Ronaldo last summer.

Indeed the bid for Sneijder now smacks of grandstanding from the club’s management, who have failed to sell out Old Trafford’s allocation of season tickets this summer, with executive seats again well down on last season too. No surprise then that Inter President Massimo Moratti described United’s interest as “an advertising campaign”.

Ballotelli, however, is available following a series of clashes with Jose Mourinho last season and a public expression of love for Inter’s crosstown rivals AC. Inter simply want to start an auction.

The talented Italian has plenty of critics in Milan, not least because the forward’s temperament is more that of a hormonal teenager than professional footballer. But with Manchester City sniffing around there’s little chance of United succeeding with a bid – if the interest is at all genuine. Take the speculation with a large pinch of salt.

While United supporters should drop any hope of signing Sneijder, Ballotelli, or indeed Benzema as Rant argued last week, Ferguson has at least revealed his hand. The World Cup has taught us nothing if not that ball retention, the playmaker and the 4-2-3-1 system are king at the highest level. Ferguson it seems has watched.

The club’s complete reliance on Rooney as the lone spearhead in the all but the games Ferguson is confident of winning handsomely was unmasked after the striker’s injury in March last season. Hope that Dimitar Berbatov will come good or that Javier Hernández can hit the ground running in England is no kind of strategy on which to base a season and Ferguson knows it.

The paucity of both goals and creativity from central midfield was perhaps an even greater problem though. Six of United’s losses last season came when Ferguson’s side failed to score. If the bus is parked, United’s strategy dries up with Paul Scholes playing deeper – and slower – than ever and Michael Carrick permanently out of form.

Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Owen Hargreaves will compete with Carrick for two deep central midfield slots next season, leaving Ferguson reliant on Darron Gibson to provide flair from midfield. Few believe the Ulsterman is the ‘world class’ option United requires.

But with Silva already off the market and Sneijder’s “heart in Milan,” Ferguson is left with few options even if he has the money.

Exclusive: Sneijder offer doc leaked

July 7, 2010 Tags: Just for fun 17 comments

Secret documents leaked to United Rant conclusively prove Manchester United has made a bid for Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch international, currently at the World Cup in South Africa, is thought to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s primary transfer target this summer as the Scot aims to regain the Premier League from Chelsea.

Sneijder has proven an astute purchase since joining Inter from Real Madrid in a £12.4 million deal last summer. The former Ajax midfielder led Inter to a Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League treble in his first season with the club. One of the players of the tournament, Sneijder has led Holland to the 2010 World Cup final, scoring four goals.

The faxed offer represents Sir Alex Ferguson’s attempt to find value in the transfer market.

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