An open letter to Louis van Gaal on Manchester United's approach to the transfer market
Dear Louis van Gaal,
Right off the bat, I would like to admit that I was one of the people who weren’t too happy with your appointment at Manchester United. Granted, you had a great CV, and that the club was coming off a disastrous season with David Moyes, but it was important that the club get a long term replacement than a short term solution. It was not like you were going to stay back for a decade or so and mould the club, nurse it back to a sustained winning mentality.
Having said that, the 3rd place on the table and the run of 10 games without a defeat show that you are doing a far better job than Moyes could ever do. Winning 5 games in a row is something no fan could dream of in the last season, much less going 10 games without a defeat.
More importantly, you seem to have brought back the mojo of all the important players who were performing so well just a couple of seasons ago. Players like Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, etc all seemed to have found their games again, and are performing admirably for the team.
But what’s with the incessant amount of money spent on players for positions that the team was already strong in? I mean, throughout pre-season and all through August, literally everyone could see that we needed more defensive signings, but by the time we made an expensive signing of Radamel Falcao and let Danny Welbeck leave relatively cheaply. Now, the team is having to depend on reserve team players who are nowhere close to the finished product, and the team has suffered for it.
While I have been persuaded that you are indeed what the club needs, it’s hard for me to reconcile with the fact that there seems to be a galactico policy in place. Huge amounts of money have been spent in trying to plug the gaps in the team, and while as a fan it is always good to see superstars playing for your club, it kind of hurts for a Manchester United supporter to see that the academy no longer is producing stars like it used to.
Like you probably already know, Manchester United’s academy was always known to bring out youngsters that could play in the first team, and the club depended on that more than outside help. Of course, it is not to say that the club never bought a player from another club, but for most of the time, it was academy graduates who got the first look in. Also, any players brought in from outside were more about potential than established players, barring an exception or two.
The class of ‘92 still holds a dear place for every Manchester United fan, and while nobody expects that there should be such an exceptional production scale every year, it is always wonderful to watch a youngster make the grade after being taught the United way throughout his formative years. For this reason, seeing so many imported products in the United starting XI is that much harder to digest.
For example, it was extremely surprising to see Danny Welbeck sold to Arsenal, and for as low as 15 million. The lad was United through and through and he didn’t get the chances he deserved. He was shunted out wide for a major part of his first team career, and the few times that he did get to play as the central striker that he is so much more suited for, he shone with a few noteworthy goals. The noises that were made when it was confirmed that he was being sold tell a story of their own.
In place of him, there is Radamel Falcao, a player who seems to be injury prone, and for all his superstar status, has just score three times for the more than 10 appearances he has had for the club so far. That is Arsenal’s Yaya Sanogo and Chelsea’s Fernando Torres territory. There is Luke Shaw, another expensive signing, that has hardly featured for the club so far. Halfway through the season and only 9 appearances is not good value for money.
The more superstar signings the club makes for every position, the more difficult it would be for the club to get youngsters into the first team, and this would mean prospective scholars will look at other clubs for better chances to get into the first XI. There would probably be more Aaron Ramsey like situations than Cristiano Ronaldo.
And it’s not just the fact that the academy graduates are being blocked from a route to the first team, the pressure on the finances that it will have due to the high wages and transfer fee that such players come with can be too much for the club to bear, considering it is already in a good deal of debt.
While that doesn’t mean United goes totally the Arsenal way and completely stop spending decent money, considering the club’s revenue sources are far greater, a certain caution is certainly needed. After all, Manchester United doesn’t have the luxury of Real Madrid, no taxes, not a lot of competition, etc.
While as fans rejoice the exciting signings like Angel Di Maria, who has certainly made a huge difference, it is also better if more internal solutions are looked at than always seeking an expensive solution. The academy is a great asset, and a long term manager would make full use of it. I hope you do too, and not just when injuries strike.