Since the retirement of legendary Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson, English powerhouse Manchester United has dug deep in its bank account spending over £500M on the recruitment of players. The increased spending power of the Premiership has been a topic for much discussion, but more alarmingly of one such club known for developing its own talent. This has led to many suggestions that the culture at Old Trafford is dying. Chief executive Ed Woodward has been ‘splashing the cash’ on players demanded by his respective managers. However, there’s very little to show for all that investment except for the FA Cup.

Is United becoming a spending club? Are the decision-makers more interested in generating revenue? Has their spending power changed the club’s approach to the beautiful game? These are just few of the questions as well as insinuations that have been making waves across the world of football. There are some genuine concerns among fans of the club while experts and managers of other clubs have taken this opportunity to take a few shots at the club on how they’ve been spending their money.

In the past, United has been praised by almost all parties over the professionalism of how they conducted business in terms of transfers and the treatment of fans. Their family-oriented nature was also praised as one of the major reasons for their success over such a long period. However, there is the opinion that the belief and fighting spirit instilled by Sir Alex in everyone around the club may have evaporated in thin air as the memory and legacy of English Football’s greatest manager hangs over the club. Despite all the talk, a closer examination may prove otherwise.

Giving youth a chance

Since October 1937, Manchester United has managed to include an academy graduate in their matchday squad boasting an exceptional 79-year record. The club’s most notable managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby, built the structure of the club upon a strong grassroots development program. Both managers insisted that producing their own players would provide a platform that will ensure success over the long term that can be sustainable. Names such as George Best, Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham were all been given an opportunity and today are now seen as legends and icons of the beautiful game.

Since August 2013, the Red Devils have handed debuts to several academy prospects. Under former boss David Moyes, Belgian starlet Adnan Januzaj was perhaps the only shining light while Louis van Gaal gave a host of youth players a chance. Tyler Blackett, Paddy McNair, Andreas Pereira, James Wilson, and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson were given opportunities to stake their claim. However, Marcus Rashford has perhaps given himself the best chance of becoming a top class player due to his consistent performances at a high level. Paul Pogba is also back at the club and, therefore, the record of having an academy graduate in the squad will surely go on for much longer.

Signing players with potential

One of the true strengths of United is the ability to spot a hidden gem, a diamond in the rough or an unknown quality then develop that talent into a first class player. The Red Devils has always tried to sign players at a young or suitable age – 27 and under – with the hope of maximising their potential. Signings such as Dennis Irwin, Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer, Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Peter Schmeichel, Ji-Sung Park, Nemanja Vidic and Javier Hernandez are just a few examples of spotting potential and then nurturing that talent to reach exceptional levels. In this present moment much of the same can be identified.

Perhaps the surprise package of last season was French forward Anthony Martial. The 21-year-old was branded a ‘panic buy’ and ‘waste of money’ after Woodward sanctioned a £36M deal with Monaco which could rise to £58M. The former Lyon youth player went on to score 17 goals last season in all competitions and also grabbed eight assists. The likes of Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Marcos Rojo, Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba were all bought at a relatively young age with the potential to take their game to higher levels.

Spending big when necessary

Like most if not all big clubs, the Red Devils have always done their share of spending a significant amount on a player or players when the need arises. In almost any organisation, it is simply impossible to produce all that is needed and therefore the phenomenon known as trade becomes necessary. In the early days, Sir Alex spent huge on the likes of Mark Hughes, Gary Pallister, Danny Wallace, Paul Parker, and Roy Keane. He also spent quite big on Karel Poborsky, Jaap Stam, Rio Ferdinand, Juan Sebastian Veron, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, and Anderson.

United has always been one of the clubs that breaks records in the transfer market. However, their marketability improved significantly which allowed the club to generate massive revenue. The money spent on Angel Di Maria and Paul Pogba has gone under tremendous scrutiny; however, it must now be accepted that the market in the present day has spiralled out of control especially when Premier League clubs are involved. The revenue generated in England is absolutely ridiculous and as such those clubs are asked to play perhaps £10-20M over the odds of the true/fair value of a player.