United has 'supposedly' lost its transfer aura - but when was it ever present?
One of the foremost reactions that came from the media after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement was that henceforth, United would lack the aura needed to bring in big players. A couple of days later when David Moyes was handed charge of the club, the majority of the fans felt the same.
The failure of the club to land its transfer targets before the start of the season added further fuel to the speculation that indeed, the club has lost its allure needed to attract the top players from the top clubs.
But then again, besides Robin Van Persie, when was the last time United bought a true superstar from another mega club? On closer observation of the transfers made by Sir Alex and United in the past, one begins to wonder whether the so-called ‘aura/allure’ was ever present.
Michael Owen was a star name but the Michael Owen that United bought was nowhere close to the form from his Liverpool or Real Madrid days. Dimitar Berbatov might have been prolific for Spurs, but – no disrespect intended – he was never a van Persie, and Spurs back in 2008 were just a middle tier team with high ambitions. The other Owen, the Hargreaves one, while brought in from Bayern, was by no means a headline-grabbing or glamorous star.
Patrice Evra was signed after the Monaco FC side started to decline from their Champions League heights. Rio Ferdinand, a top quality defender, could be purchased only because Leeds was in financial turmoil. Likewise, Laurent Blanc was past his heyday when he was signed on a free transfer. Home-sickness worked in United’s favour in Mark Hughes’ case. Of the other two signings from Barcelona, Jordi Cryuff was a fringe player and Gerard Pique, as a youngster, had many defenders ahead of him in the pecking order.
The transfer philosophy employed by the club was simple. First route: scout for young players with potential and develop them. That is what the club did/is doing with the likes of Macheda, Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson, the Da Silva twins, Powell, Jones. Wayne Rooney, although already a star at Everton, and brought in for huge money, also fits in the same category.
Second route: bring the big fish from the small ponds. Ashley Young, Tevez, Kuszczak, Evra, Vidic, Van Der Sar, Park Ji Sung, Saha, van Nistelrooy, Keane, Barthez, Yorke, Stam – for all of them, although they were big guns at their respective clubs, a move to United was always a step higher and thus presented a challenge – which naturally motivated them to join United.
The third route which regularly combined the first two was to raid the clubs from distant foreign lands. Bosnich, Kanchelskis, Forlan, Howard, Kleberson, Fangzou Dong, Possebon, Da Silva twins, Tosic, Chicharito and Henríquez all found the lure of playing for a mega European club too attractive to ignore.