Superstar signings are not what Manchester United need to get them challenging for the Premier League title

Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suggested that singing superstar players is not something that is necessarily going to work for the club, moving forward. For more than six years now, there has been an obsession with Ed Woodward and superstar signings, chasing the unattainable players such as Raphael Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale and even Neymar Jr.

Woodward seems to think that if you have the best players in the world, it means you have the best team in the world and football is not like that. During the past six years, there have been many teams who have arrived at Old Trafford, on paper with a much worse team than United, getting a result whether it be in David Moyes’, Louis van Gaal’s or even Jose Mourinho’s tenure at the club. The shows that teams with chemistry, ability and that team ethic can always prevail.

For years, United supporters have been obsessed with world-class players, more recently bringing them to the club. In the past six years, United have signed Angel Di Maria, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Radamel Falcao and more recently, Alexis Sanchez. All of the mentioned players could be considered world-class, even Memphis, who came to the club with ambition, all failed to establish anything with Sanchez struggling a year after he arrived.

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To me, United is a team that develops talent and brings out the world-class qualities in players. If you think about the likes of Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, it was United that developed them, nurtured them and helped them get to their various abilities. Cristiano Ronaldo was another, brought to the club at 18 and given the time to become what he became, the world’s most expensive player at one stage of his career.

Currently, it would be fair to say that there are few world-class players. Paul Pogba is definitely one, David De Gea another. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are both emerging, although some will suggest they are world-class too. If you had 11 or even 15 world-class players, it would not work as well as many think it could. United is a club based on developing youth and giving them a path to first team football, whether it be at United or another team. That is what United needs to be continuing.

Solskjaer spoke about superstars in his press conference on Friday, suggesting that it is not the way he would go if he was given the permanent position at the club, which I believe is the right frame of mind. Woodward has no clue about football, that seems to be a given after a turbulent six years at the club, which has resulted in a fourth manager having to be employed this summer. The appointments of managers are on him, a new avenue needs to be created and Solskjaer fits that. Solskjaer, speaking about superstars, said:

“I think it is about who we’ve got here. It is not about signing x amount of players, it has to be the right one and one who fits, the personality has to fit with the team. It is not just ‘buy a superstar and that will fix things’ and suddenly we go from challenging to being top four and be champions.”

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Whilst the media will always link United to high-profile players, they are not always necessary to become part of the team. United have a good core in the team right now which consists of De Gea, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and even Romelu Lukaku. Then there are the more experienced players, such as, Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic – who all play a role in this team.

It is important for United and the new manager, whoever that may be, sit down and find a path that the club needs to take. Manchester United is a football club first and a business second, over the past six years, the club has been run as a business first with football being a side role. That is one of the most important things that needs to change. Then, it is recruitment. United have some very talented Academy players, finding roles for them would be important, first of all.

From there, United will need to look at the shortcomings of the Academy, positions that players worthy of playing for the first team fill. Not every Academy graduate is guaranteed to be a first team player on a regular basis, that is on the player to develop, work hard and earn the opportunity. Some fall short of the requirements and head elsewhere, where they seem to have good careers. United will need to fill these positions, possibly at Academy level or seek players to fit the first team. This will take time and patience.

United seem to have a massive scouting network yet missed players such as Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, who were both sold to Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur for £12 million, which could rise to £17 million, and £3.5 million respectively. What was United’s large scouting network doing to miss these players, who between them, could cost £20.5 million? There are many more players United have missed out on, missing out on guiding the club in the right direction.

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Spurs signed Dele Alli from MK Dons for an initial fee of £5 million, immediately loaning him back to the club for the remainder of the season. That was just four years ago and now Alli is considered as one of the best players in the country and has been in great form for Spurs, which has seen them break into the top four of the Premier League, challenging for the title but not actually winning anything. If United looked for similar players in a similar way, spent the time developing them, similar results would ensue.

Right now, United are linked with Norwich City defender Ben Godfrey, who has also been linked to Arsenal, according to the Mirror. I’m not saying the 21-year-old has what it takes to play for United or Arsenal but he is the type of player United needs to be looking at. He could cost just £10 million, a steal considering the amount United would need to pay for a capable defender in the summer. If they were able to bring him, or other players like him to the club, spend time developing them, the club could be onto a winner.

It does not take a lot of intellect to understand that Academies at football clubs are there to feed the first team with purchases filling in the blanks which the Academy could not fill. Not every player makes it and not every position is filled from an Academy but if United went in this direction, they would have a plan rather than letting the supporters and the media watch a game of cat and mouse with United just being used time and time again to get a better contract for the particular player.

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