Manchester United’s Identity Has Not Been ‘Broken’ By Big Spending, It Is Being Fixed

Following the resolution of Radamel Falcao’s season-long loan switch from AS Monaco which completed Manchester United’s sixth signing of the summer, some fans and members of the media have labeled the club’s transfer spending spree as a ‘galactico’ policy.

After news of Danny Welbeck’s departure to league-rivals Arsenal, former United assistant manager Mike Phelan said he feels part of the club’s identity “has been broken”.

“They have probably lost the way of Manchester United a little bit,” Phelan said told BBC Sport. “Now, rather that produce, it may be the case where they are buying in.”

“What will happen in the future now, nobody knows. But that thread has been broken now.”

But United’s identity wasn’t broken by the club’s summer spending, it was damaged by years of neglect.

United have had a policy of developing home-grown talent over the years, from the Busby Babes to the Class of ’92. But the club have also spent money on big-name signings when it was necessary. So what has happened over the past several months is nothing new.

The overhaul of United’s squad has been something in the making for the past few seasons, but for whatever reason, the club failed to address the issue until now. That hesitancy has left the twenty-time champions scrambling to field a first team that can compete on the highest level of European football.

Yes, United won the Premier League by a comfortable margin two years ago. But many of those players were on board last season as the club fell to a disappointing seventh place finish in the league under David Moyes.

Part of the blame can be placed on Moyes. But very few could argue that United’s squad wasn’t aging and/or up to the standards required to compete on the highest level of the sport.

Outside of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and David de Gea, it would be hard to find a United player who would see first team action at a major European club.

Of course, a club doesn’t need marquee players dotting its roster in order to compete for domestic or European titles. But United’s “homegrown youth” and the players the club has acquired over the past few seasons are not on the same level as those at other top English or European sides. They also haven’t shown a chemistry or ability to adapt to new leadership following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. So it is time for new blood.

Louis van Gaal kept to his word and gave United’s players time to prove they could grasp a new philosophy and show some kind of progress towards helping the club retain its elite status. Some players have remained, a lot of have left and six additions were brought in during the summer window.

Van Gaal also retained Ryan Giggs, who serves the club as assistant manager and is never more than a shoulder’s length away from the Dutch boss during matches. The new United manager relies heavily on the knowledge and understanding of the club that Giggs brings.

Fans and experts have been crying out for an overhaul of the squad for a few years. But now that it has finally started to happen, the issue has become, “United has broken from its identity”.

That’s nonsense.

Van Gaal has kept a handful of United’s younger players and some (such as Tyler Blackett) have shown signs of being able to compete with England and Europe’s best players. But the others just weren’t up to snuff, or wouldn’t except a lesser role in the squad, so they had to leave. It’s that simple.

The Dutch manager previously stated that he plans to improve United from the youth academy all the way through the senior squad. But for now, Van Gaal’s priority is correcting what is wrong with the first team and leading United back into the Champions League. It was something he addressed in his very first press conference as manager.

Van Gaal was asked, “Will your philosophy extend all the way to the youth team?” The United boss responded: “The club have asked me to give advice but the main project is the first team. That’s more of a short-term [thing] than the youth – that’s a long term project. The first year or two years we have to separate them [the two projects]. Now, I need all my knowledge to transfer my philosophy into this selection.”

Outside of Falcao (who is 28), United have brought in young players who will immediately help the club challenge for titles over the next four to five years. That is a policy that was adopted by Sir Alex Ferguson and is being continued under Van Gaal.

Despite the summer signings, by no means is the club’s work done. During the next two transfer windows, United need to complete their midfield and find at least two more centre-backs before they can be considered serious title challengers. But the moves the club has made over the past few months has given United a shot at returning to European competition next season.

Until then, the club’s signings and the remaining United players (academy, reserves and first team players) will have to continue improving their chemistry and their understanding of Van Gaal’s footballing philosophy.

United’s identity has not been broken by the club’s summer spending, it’s being fixed.

46 thoughts on “Manchester United’s Identity Has Not Been ‘Broken’ By Big Spending, It Is Being Fixed”

  1. Agree with this. I don’t get the manufactured outrage of selling Welbeck and Cleverley. They are not good enough. Period.
    It should be a wake up call: not good enough and you need to leave if you want a first time football. Or we can’t guarantee you a first team football, if you want a guarantee then you can leave.
    Fergie did the same to Brown, O’Shea, Butt in their latter years. He did the same to Phil Mulryne, Ryan Shawcross, Darren Ferguson, etc.

  2. Agreed 100%.

    I love the idea of homegrown talent because there is a romance to hearing about a kid playing with the reserves and then seeing him burst onto the scene and play well. But, that usually doesn’t happen. Just for a player to make it to an EPL starting lineup is an amazing feat against the odds, but becoming someone who is an elite performer for a club that aspires to win the league every season is almost a pipe dream.

    I mean, I’d love to watch James Wilson score some goals this season, but he’ll be lucky to have Danny Welbeck’s career…..not to mention Falcao’s.

  3. Busy day covering those cracks in the United veneer. The arrogance of your supporters continues to crumble as you’ve just become a buying club. Something who you would do nothing but look down your nose at just a short time ago.

    Welcome to the muck.

    1. This comment makes no sense at all. United gave Debuts to Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard in the first premier league game.
      Tyler Blackett has started every game in the league since then with Lingard getting an injury against Swansea.
      Mind you Johnny Evans and Darren Fletcher are also academy products.
      Let’s not forget James Wilson playing in the league cup as well.
      How many youth players have City promoted since the start of the season?
      No thanks we’ll turn down the invitation into the muck.
      I don’t get why City fans are always commenting on United based articles at all.
      Your false criticism wasn’t even correct either. If you’re going to say that we’ve gone your way of highly paid stars with no homegrown lads at least be correct about it.

      1. Where will any of those homegrown players be once your purchases settle in? Just curious to see where you think players like that fit in once Blind, Rojo and Shaw are fit? Will Fletcher and Lindegard get to play over Falcao?

        1. That question itself is nonsensical Falcao is a Striker, Fletcher is a Central Midfielder, and Jesse Lingard is a winger they all play different positions so they won’t overlap with each other.
          United have Evans Rojo Blackett Jones as CBs. That’s 4 players for 3 spots or 2 for 4 spots if we switch to a back 4.
          Players coming from the Academy don’t need to start right away but 10-15 starts is good enough. The Class of 92 were eased in as well.

          1. So you’ll have 2 homegrown players? Maybe 3. For now? The overall point is you’ve bought the majority of your talent. A policy United supporters wore like armor for a long time.

        2. Christian, What are you talking about? Utd have always bought, big spending more than others, the only challenge they’ve had is in the last ten years. They have broke the transfer record more than any other club by miles, the success over the last 20 years was built on spending, out of the so called class of 92’only Ryan Giggs played in league the 92/93 season their squad was the league’s most expensive as it had been for years before that and after! The spending and record transfers continued remember Rio for £30m! How about Veron before him? Who else was spending even near the money Cole cost years before while they were blowing £28m,£30m etc? maybe the odd £15m player but thats it. The only reason the spending slowed as it certainly didn’t stop can be put down to the owners. They have always been in the top or second rarely maybe third spending clubs over a a set period. The owners and debt meant they couldn’t continue the spend fest of the previous 30 years at the levels they did, so they had to promote average players or over pay for average players who go on to do… well not much individually in all fairness, and put the club in the predicament it now find itself, basically throwing cash at anyone who’ll join. Around the World the biggest spenders are at the top FACT, except of course Utd, since fergie left that is. they now have maybe the most expensive squad on the planet or at least not far off.

          The group of youth players they had in the early 90’s benefited from having the big buys around them and are really a kinda one off in such numbers. Now the club has lost its Manager (worth 12 points on his own) the standard of that youth and first team has come to light, its garbage even though it cost a fortune. Forcing them to do what they know best from the past, spend, break transfer and records like no other team ever has, more new records for Utd. The current Utd squad costs over £100m more than Chelsea’s, City’s, Liverpool’s in fact anyone’s at just below £500m! Never did any team come near having a squad cost that much more than Utds. The youth players there are solely to sit on the bench and cover in emergencies or till they got the money together to replace them, they eventually move on to have average or below average careers after not been given the chance or not having the sense to take that chance elsewhere at a young age settling for the handful of game they’ll get till, fair enough they likely hood is they fail but you never know. There hasn’t been one top class player from Utd’s youth since the ‘class 0f 92, all of them average no different to most.

          1. Great response.

            My whole point in this is that United supporters have puffed their chests out at the rest of the league for buying players. Honestly, I don’t care that you do, it makes the league better. I just don’t see how some people don’t see the hypocrisy of a lot of the United crowd saying it’s ok now that we’re spending money after all the vitriol to the clubs who have been building for the past 10 years.

    2. If we spend over $100 million every summer for the next 3 years, then we may eventually match Citeh. But for now, LVG is rebuidling the foundation of this team. It will take some time, a few more players.

      1. LVG is remodeling the top of the Manchester United structure (which apparently is the priority), not the foundation. The foundation is the youth academy.

        Regardless, it looks like they are giving him time and money to work with. As far as buying a new team, how many of Man. U’s notable strikers were purchased over the years. The criticism seems poorly placed.

    3. Oh, give it a rest already, you git. Name the last homegrown or academy player your club promoted to the first eleven squad in the last two years. Exactly. Just what I thought.

    4. The identity of the Club is all around, the fans, the spirit, the history, myth and legend, not just the players. Typical Citeh, no matter how rich, ALWAYS small club mind. Want to see the difference between a Club with an identity and spirit and Club with a sugardaddy with small minded fans?…just look at United getting smacked 0-4 away to little MK Dons, all you hear were United fans singing and dancing…now…look at the end of super rich citeh losing at home 0-1, and what are their tiny minded fans doing? silent, or grumbling, thousands leaving for home way before final whistle! Champions!? what a waste, on those “fans”. Citeh now have the prawn cocktail brigade.
      They have a fantastic sense of humour in the North of England, and up there, in Manchester, it isn’t known as the “Emptihad” for no reason.
      It’s about time we started keeping up with the big spenders,long time coming, only genius Fergie could do it on the cheap.
      remember citeh.chelski, BOTH your owners really wanted UNITED but could not afford it, and would drop you like a stone if they could in the future, you know it.
      Shirt sales alone easily pays for Falcao’s wages, thats CLUB revenue NOT oil sales for your guys.
      What happened, how on Earth citeh didn’tland Falcao. not allabout the money then? No identity see, he asked “whats manchester city?” oh, just money, no legend? I’ll take the legend, fortune and glory kid, fortune and glory. Some clubs have it, United, liverpool, Spurs etc… have it…citeh,chelski, sorry, you can’t buy it,you really can’t!

  4. Let’s be honest, English homegrown players are currently not good enough for the top teams in the league (given a few exceptions) so Utd are given no choice but to buy. It’s not the 90’s anymore so anyone team who wants to compete must buy foreigners. That’s modern day football.

  5. People trying to throw United into yet another Catch-22 situation: do nothing and we lack ambition. Do something and we’re doing it at the expense of our soul.

    Some days you just can’t piss a drop.


  6. What are the United fans who were (and in some cases still are) shouting at Chelsea and City fans “you’re buying titles” saying now?

    Do they have mixed feelings?

          1. Ill play “butthurt fan who cant take someone saying something bad about his team even if said with a pinch of humour” since thats what United fans seem to be doing.

            City’s academy is currently the highest-rated in England and they just massively upgraded it. It is now as big as La Masia in scope. The investment in youth is there; it is just not reached the first team yet. Ever hear of Karim Rekik? Marcos Lopes? You will soon. There is a large crop of players not quite good enough that are already being sold. Emyr Huws. John Guidetti. Luca Scapuzzi. To name a few.

            Several past United players’ sons are in City’s academy as well.

            The plan is that the next generation of City stars will at least partially be homegrown (no top team uses only academy-trained players).

            As far as the spending money they dont have blah blah blah: ever hear of a long-term business investment? When someone builds a hotel they have to spend a lot of money first. After a few years if successful they break even and eventually turn profits.
            NEWSFLASH: City are almost breaking even and will turn profits within 2 years.

            Abu Dhabi group should be allowed to spend its money however it wishes. They bought the club as a long-term investment since oil reserves wont last forever.

            Manchester City is a very well-run club from the top down. Under Marwood and Hughes maybe one could say we were just a manager and a director/CEO/president throwing large sums of money at every available player. (Sound familiar?) Those days are long gone (paying 15m for Javi Garcia when letting the far superior Nigel De Jong go for 4m was the end of that).
            There is a chairman working for the owners, a CEO and a director working together under him and with the manager. Another branch of the club focuses on yourh and the academy under the CEO and director.

            And hey if u have a problem, cry me a river. Enjoy seventh place; we at City who were once happy to be in the Prem and beat the rags once in awhile are enjoying some well-deserved time in the sun.

            Peace out, my friend.

          2. Since I can’t reply to Christian or Flavanescence, I’ll reply here.

            As has been pointed out by others, there are 7 homegrown players in the United squad that will probably get some first team action this year. As to United being a buying club, again, as others have pointed out, United have bought big players in the past, e.g. Andy Cole, Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy and, as many City fans remember, Roy Keane. :) Besides buying players, United has in the past been able to mix those players with homegrown players. One wonders where Christian is going with the “pretending to be something you’re not” comment.

            Fly, you give a pretty detailed outlook as to the future of City’s team with the present youth set-up and its accomplishments. But, the premise is that United are now a “buying club” and doesn’t have homegrown players PRESENTLY. So, the question back to you is not who are going to be City’s homegrown players in the future, but who CURRENTLY in City’s first team is homegrown?

            There’s an interesting point in that Christian says that MCFC are in zero debt while Fly says that “City are almost breaking even and will turn profits within 2 years.” While there may not be any “debt” per se, City are losing money and are under FFP restrictions. Meanwhile, even with a 7th place finish, MUFC posts rising income and profits.

            Peace out.

        1. Once again an article that’s about United devolves into a philosophical debate with Manchester City fans again.
          This is getting quite annoying.
          Having the best Academy yet not one player from said Academy is in the first team is ironic isn’t it?
          Yes we’ve heard the same thing about the Sheik having the right to invest in City etc. and I’m tired of hearing it.
          But why is a post about the City Academy in an Article related to United? 


            THATS bloody annoying and bloody rich coming from fans whose team has had sustained success probably most of their lifetime. And that fact that every half-wit comment and bit of banter garners a long, drawn out response that shows a complete misunderstanding of sarcasm, wit or humour. I have not gone on a rant like you and a few United fans have been doing regularly until now because i have a bloody sense of humour. I tried to stay off this thread and others today since i realized ive ruffled a few too many feathers but you people have drove me into it as i am sick of the crap we keep hearing from all you BITTERS.

          2. I’ve never resorted to childish name calling. Before you called me dense for not understanding your tone through a screen and now you’re calling me bitter when I have nothing to be bitter about.
            You know that commenting negatively on articles not about your team will ruffle feathers and then you get upset when people respond to your comments. Do you expect say the hundreds of people that may read the article will assume that your just creating banter?
            The funny part is you call me dense yet look at what your doing.
            I guess you speak for the tone of Christian’s comment as well assuming you can read his mind or you are him because his comment didn’t come across as just “banter” but quite inflammatory and wanted to provoke a reaction.
            See there someone as “dense” as I didn’t resort to petty name calling and writing in all caps to prove a point.
            The fact that you have to fight the itch to comment on a United article yet I have no such problems when it comes to City articles says something about you.

    1. They always bought the league anyway. They spent 30 million on Ferdinand and Rooney (and Veron) way before any other team could spend that kind of money.

      1. Just because they could.
        If you understand the history, even before the Glazers, United had been conservative. They were a PLC. Yes, they spent money but as a PLC they made tons of money and it was their money. It wasn’t a sugardady comes and pour money on them. That’s the difference.

        1. Is that right taylor? They weren’t a PLC when they had the most epensive team seen ever in the UK in the late 80’s where did that money come from? Oh sorry football didn’t esist then, You weren’t born, you don’t know etc. etc

          1. It came from club revenue, always has, its the foundation for all.

            If you don’t have that amount of wealth coming in, you stagnate, OR one other option…a suggardaddy buys you’ cos he couldn’t get United.

            Another reason you see citeh fans on United board, cos they small, still obsessed over United. Being Champs isn’t good enough for their small town minds, they already want the Champs League, then what? That won’t be good enough will it, you’ll still be reading United articles. We could be in 4th division and we’ll still and always dwarf citeh.

            Thanks for keeping liverpool 2nd, really, thanks…’cos thats how little you mean to us, as long as ‘the dirties’ didn’t get it…you have it, we can handle you little guys winning it, true would have preferred cheslki, but ANYONE better than liverpool (“real” big team rivals)

        2. Unitedsince 1968 ur talking rubbish, how on god’s green earth did it come from ‘club revenue’? 1989 the Utd squad cost £18m a ticket to a game was £1-£3 so with a 39,36 and 39k av attendances in the three years including and before 89 come to about £1.5m per season in attendances TV money was practically none existent and kit sales wouldn’t have been near £100k! So please enlighten me to where this ‘club revenue’ came from, you can also then explain how they were in so much debt? and desperately trying to sell the club to anyone who’d take it strange as they had all that ‘club revenue’ LOL, of course being United since 68 you’ll remember it well!!

          Yet another clueless rag talking rubbish, if it happened before your success in the 90’s you don’t have a clue!Unitedsince92 more like and that’s at best!

      2. Leeds spent that kind of money in the early 200’s. They were spending money like it was water. One thing though, they were not generating any revenue.

    2. You do not understand where clubs get their money!

      United EARN their vast wealth from CLUB REVENUE and its about bloody time, some of it went into World Class players instead of the Glazers debt!

      Citeh and Chelski get their money from OIL & GAS pumped INTO THE CLUB, the CLUBs do NOT produce the wealth, the owners do.

      Uniteds owners are full of debt, shows you how huge Uniteds power is, even with them sucking us we still can get it.

      Citeh and Chelski FALL BACK INTO MEDIOCRITY without their owners. UNITED ARE STILL UNITED.

      United were the most supported club in England in 50’s,60’s,70’s,80’s with decades no titles and relegation! That doesn’t come and go with “money”, it STAYS whatever, rich and poor.

      To show you how small citeh are, why do you think United fans allover breathed a sigh of relief when citeh won the title? Cos’ citeh are small and liverpool are BIG, proper rivals. Liverpool will always be bigger than citeh or chelski, who matter not. Just small (citeh) and medium (cheslki) clubs with suggardaddys, who one day willleave.

      Anyone hear PSG owner crying about fifa fair play? saying suggardaddys will “invest” into Formula 1 instead if they can’t keep “buying trophies”…proof their and something the suggardaddy clubs should worry about. United are not affected by fair play, why? COS UNITED EARN IT!!! A billion fans Worldwide all willingly supporting their passion! Citeh,Chelki don’t have it, and get it into your heads, you can’t buy it!

      1. Heres where you are wrong: City’s owners arent leaving because they are about to start turning profits at City, which to them is a long term investment. Its about sustaining money stream because oil reserves last forever.

        And you know what, we as fans still the small club mentality and maybe always will. Thats what weve gotten used to thru years of bad owners and management dragging us thru the various divisions of English football. So yes, seeing United fail (while we win titles) after being in their shadow since Denis Law’s backheel, DOES give us happiness.
        Maybe it always will.

        We havent been spoilt by titles and success for 20 or 30 straight years. Which makes the current success even sweeter.

        And hey: a billion (of mostly) plastics who decided to root for the first club theyve heard of.

  7. As a sometimes poster on this website, I’ll call for some civility please. The single best thing about this site is the respect the posters have for one another. If you wish to name call, fox has a site and so does espn. Each person has a right to post their view. Trolling, if I get the meaning of the word, is uncalled for and unnecessary.

    Just because everyone isn’t a United fan only means that they haven’t seen their true calling yet. (Comic relief !!)

    Most of us Americans chose the team they wish to follow. Some have even changed teams. Some of us were told by dead ancestors (in 1959 in my case) whom to follow. I continued the tradition with my grandson. My son, whom I believe is of diminished capacity, follows another path. But I love the scouser still, in spite of his failure. (again, tongue in cheek).
    Let’s all have a lively, friendly discussion.

    1. Im with you on this although from an opposite viewpoint. And i admit ive been one of the guilty ones. So im trying to tone it back. Most of my responses the last couple of days have been to the mostly misinformed tired (or should i say beaten to death) cliches from rival fans who cant seem to come up with anything original to say.

      1. Fly, I’m glad that you’re tired of the unoriginal cliches like “you’re not who you claim to be” or “you’re pretending to be something you’re not”. 😉

        Still waiting for your response as to who’s homegrown in City’s first XI. :)


        1. There are none at the moment. I didnt claim that there were. I was stating that our youth system is one of the highest rated with a crop of players close to breaking on to the scene and major investment has been made there in the future. City’s aim is not to be like Real Madrid as many United fans seem to claim.

          We dont claim to be not a buying club. Every successful team right now is with the partial exception of Barcelona, who are the scum of the football world

          Was sad to see Micah Richards’ career ruined by injuries, as he was a major talent and was a regular before the injuries. Fans want Marcos Lopes and Karim Rekik playing sooner rather than later (on loan for now instead of rotting on the bench).

          So we are not pretending to be anything we are not. And we dont have to pretend to be the Champions of England. :-)

        2. Oh and i never was a part of the “your not who you claim to be” bs about United. You can look back thru this thread if you dont believe me.

          1. If you’ll look back through this thread yourself, I never said that you were part of the “you’re not who you claim to be” bs.

  8. So, when Man city gets an entire new team a couple years ago, that’s okay. Arsenal gets half of the German squad and no problem, Liverpool signs Sanchez and Balotelli, oh, yeah good signings. Now when United get rid of some bums and signs top quality players then they are “losing their identity?” What a bunch of horse crap. All that is is a bunch of haters who are scared once more of Manchester United.

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