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Manchester United need experience and youth to move forward

Under Jose Mourinho’s watch, Manchester United have spent plenty of money. They spent loads before he arrived and will spend even more this summer. Much has been made of the vast sums the club have thrown around in trying to reclaim their place atop the Premier League, but they’d be fools not to spend the vast resources at their disposal. Certainly, their crosstown rivals, Manchester City, have not been shy in using money to upgrade the squad at any and all costs.

No, the issue for United since beginning their spending spree to rebuild the squad since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement has not been so much about how much, but rather who they have spent on. Cash was splashed on the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay among others were brought in by Mourinho’s predecessors.

Some have exited, while others still remain. None did much to raise the level of the squad to what is expected and required of a club with ambitions of challenging for league titles and competing in Europe.

One of the major issues with United’s approach in the transfer market was the lack of coherent strategy linking the signings together.

David Moyes’ plan was, well, unclear and almost certainly bad.

Louis van Gaal wanted to play a possession-based game with a high line. He then spent money on players who never fit that vision and as a result whatever progress was made after his 1st season was halted and even regressed in his second year at the helm.

Enter Mourinho.

While the progress being made under him and whether it’s been good enough is a topic unto itself, that progress has been made is certain. Two trophies in his first season and a second place finish with the first 80 plus points haul since Ferguson’s retirement attest to that.

While some of this is down to the progression of players he inherited and his own management — divisive and imperfect in its own right has been a marked improvement over his predecessors — a more clear and defined transfer strategy bolstering the squad’s strength has also been a key factor.

Direct and powerful with the technical ability to transition quickly from end-to-end in a flash. All the signings he has made fit that category though the age bracket they fall under has varied.

Obviously, the goal for any club is to improve the squad moving into a new season. Since Mourinho took over as manager United’s approach in doing so has been twofold: adding young players to the squad of proven quality with potential to improve further to create a platform for long-term, sustainable success, and buying in prime, veterans with the experience and quality required to return United to the top.

Players like Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof fall under the former, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Nemanja Matic, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, later swapped for Alexis Sanchez, the latter. While no official signings have been made this summer, the rumored targets fit under the same plan and that’s a good thing.

Many fans want immediate success, yet also get frustrated when the club target players in their prime, closer to 30, of proven quality. These are the same fans who will slag off younger players like Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford when they experience normal dips in form that most all young players go through.

Having a mix of both youth and experience is ideal. Experience is necessary for younger players to lean on and learn from during a long season and experienced veterans need players who can step in for them when they need a rest and can put in some of the required harder yards.

There’s a misnomer Mourinho is falling short of the club’s traditions of bringing along youth, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, by buying older players. It’s foolish to believe his approach, at least in terms of age, is any departure from methods used by Ferguson.

The Glaswegian bought 29-year-old Robin van Persie to lead the line for his final team. He also brought in Laurent Blanc at age 35 to replace Jaap Stam. The great man knew that while you could win with kids, you needed a certain level of requisite experience sprinkled in to shepherd them through to turn them into champions.

The club always should, and still is, buying young talent to plan for the future. The reported transfer of the highly sought after 19-year-old Porto right back, Diogo Dalot, to be completed in the coming days speaks to that. But the club must always strive for success in the present as well. For that, players closer to the finished article are required. Balancing both the short and the long-term is the key to United challenging for honors next season and well into the future.

Written by Ashwin Ramnath

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