WHAT’S that old saying about buses. You wait all year for one and then…ahh you get where I’m going with this.
What a week it was for Manchester United. Just as the transfer rumour merry-go-round was about to go into meltdown, the nightmarish summer fever that we succumbed to in 2013 was wiped away from memory with two big name signings in 24 hours.
Big names in big positions too.
Finally, we got a midfielder we actually coveted in Ander Herrera, and then on Friday, June 27, Ed Woodward turned perceptions about him on their head when he completed the purchase of Luke Shaw.
In two days, United had splashed almost £60million without batting an eyelid.
Some fans scoffed, and there’s been a lot of criticism from the anti-United crowd too. £27m for an 18-year-old? The most expensive teenager in history? And he’s a bloody defender.
Who cares? It’s not your money being spent, and it can’t have escaped your attention that the transfer market in general these days is getting more and more inflated. Clubs are paying over the odds for players, and with the amount of Englishmen in the Premier League becoming rarer than a David Moyes plus point, young home grown ones that are good enough to play are never going to be bought on the cheap. Think Jordan Henderson (£20m), Shaun Wright-Phillips (£21m), Andy Carroll (£35m), James Milner (£26m), Darren Bent (£24m) and Joleon Lescott (£22m).
Honestly, I couldn’t care less that United sanctioned the record breaking bid for Shaw. Yes he’s young and still has a lot to learn, but left back has become a worrying position for us in recent years and if he cements himself into that left sided full back slot for the next 12 or so years, the final cost of the deal (£27m plus add ons) will look like daylight robbery – think Rio Ferdinand, who cost us £31.1m 12 years ago (2002).
There are many pros and cons to buying domestic or buying foreign.
With the threat of FIFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations looming over European clubs, having a hub of English players in your squad is as vital as it should be necessary.
The problem is that with the academies of the top clubs (especially Chelsea) becoming saturated with the best young talents from around the globe, there are fewer and fewer home grown players coming through our junior ranks. So in the clamour to acquire home nation players, astronomical fees are being paid for the cream of the crop, when in reality they do not warrant those price tags, talented though they may be.
The dearth of young English talent in the Premier League is clearly having a negative impact on the English national team and the fact that has shown no sign of improving over the last decade, nor does it, is testament to the increasing belief that club football is now the pinnacle of the game – despite the refreshingly roaring success of this summer’s World Cup.
The FA is often heard to criticise the big English clubs for stunting the grass roots level of the game by cramming their academies with foreign youngsters, but I don’t see them doing an awful lot to assist.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger sparked controversy in a Premier League match between his Gunners and Crystal Palace in 2005 when he named an entire 16 man squad bereft of a single British player.
His team included Jens Lehmann, of Germany, Frenchmen Gael Clichy, Pascal Cygan, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Mathieu Flamini, Spaniards Jose Antonio Reyes, Manuel Almunia and Cesc Fabregas, Dutchmen Dennis Bergkamp and Robin Van Persie, as well as Cameroon’s Lauren, Kolo Toure of the Ivory Coast, Brazilian Edu and Philippe Senderos of Switzerland.
In recent seasons, Newcastle United have taken up the mantle of being pioneers of Wenger’s foreign legion. But as the Magpies manager Alan Pardew said in a recent Independent on Sunday article, the huge fees being paid for young English players like Shaw and Adam Lallana explain why clubs like Newcastle are forced to buy foreigners.
Anti-United fans have mocked and criticised the Shaw deal. I’ve been laughed at by my mates who support Liverpool. They’ve just spent £26m on Lallana. That’s £1m less for a player eight years older than the emerging young talent we’ve acquired at full back.
I don’t listen to the cynics and critics. To me, Shaw feels like a United player. Blessed with pace and strength, in his 60 odd games for Southampton it’s clear he’s very much in the mould of the modern day full back. You have to be adept at defending and going forward and Shaw has done that with aplomb for the Saints. He’s excellent at crossing and has a fierce shot on him too, he can even take free kicks.
Patrice Evra has very much been one of the godfathers of today’s generation of full backs and with Shaw arriving, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Frenchman.
Obviously, since the arrival of the teenager, his future has been a topic of conversation again, and if the press is to be believed, he is seemingly close to joining Juventus, despite signing a one year extension to his contract a few weeks ago. In addition to this, stories have grown that the club is in hot pursuit of Wolfsburg’s talented young Swiss left back Ricardo Rodriguez, who caught the eye at the World Cup.
It’s all a bit odd. Clearly, Evra loves the club, but if the Old Lady rumours are to be believed, then perhaps he’s not happy at a new player being brought in his position.
Ideally for United fans, Evra would stay and help ease Shaw’s transition into the club, teaching him and grooming him to take over from him.
I love Evra, both for what he’s given United as a player and his bond with the club, but his form has tailed off drastically in the last two or three seasons, and a left back signing of quality was definitely required.
If he is going, then the Rodriguez talk makes sense, as we can’t have just one left back, and after the mind boggling Alex Buttner fiasco, it would be nice to actually have two quality players in the position.
Whatever Evra decides, I don’t think Shaw should simply waltz straight into the starting left back berth, he must earn it. But Evra needs a suitable challenge and in all honesty he needs to be usurped.
In regards to the critics of the Shaw deal, it honestly doesn’t bother me what rival fans think. On the back of the business we’ve conducted so far this summer, on top of our appointment of Louis van Gaal, plus the form of his Dutch team at the World Cup in Brazil, I think our rivals are actually scared of us again anyway.
If you hate United, you’ve had a right good laugh this past season. I don’t even begrudge you your fun either. United have been dominant for such a long time, it’s about time we were brought down a peg or two.
However, while the vultures were circling throughout the last campaign and doom-mongers were prophesying the death of the Reds – all of a sudden we look like we could be a force to be feared again.
With United parting with nearly £30m for Shaw a day after giving Athletic Bilbao £28m to acquire Herrera, it’s clear the club is intent on making amends for the debacle of last season. It’s also clear we have the money. And, after our worst season in 40 years, there’s still bound to be many more millions spent in the pursuit of redemption.