The obsession of world-class​ players at Manchester United needs to stop!

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, which also saw former chief executive David Gill leave the club, the trend Manchester United have been trying to achieve is by recruiting world-class players. That seems to be the obsession of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Now, different people will have a different understanding of the term world-class. Some will agree on player names being mentioned, some will disagree. In the last six years, United has signed Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao (on loan), Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba. These are the players that I feel were recognised as world-class, for different reasons.

Di Maria was signed to wear the famous number seven shirt in the summer of 2014, just after the FIFA World Cup. He left after one season, blaming the manager at the time, Louis van Gaal but he just did not seem to be able to cut it at United, despite saying he wanted just weeks before he departed. Sold at a loss from his £59.7 million British and club transfer record (at the time). It just did not work out.

Radamel Falcao was a world-class striker, recovering from a devastating knee injury at the time. He has a great goalscoring record and was a relatively low risk, being that he was on loan at the club. During the 2014/15 season, he scored four goals in 29 appearances, which was poor, to say the least. He spent the season on loan at Chelsea in the 2015/16 season, scoring once in 12 appearances. In the three seasons since, at Monaco, he’s scored 69 goals in 114 appearances. It didn’t work out in England.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of the considered world-class players which did work out at United, in some instances. The Swedish international came in as a free agent and changed the mentality at the club, changed the belief and gave the team something to work for. He was a leader, an inspiration and a player still at the best of his abilities. In March 2018, the Swede’s contract was terminated and he signed for LA Galaxy. In his time at United, he made 53 appearances, scoring 29 goals. In the MLS he has currently played 35 times, scoring 31 goals.

Paul Pogba was signed in the summer of 2016 for a then world record fee of £89 million, which is still a record at the club. At the time of his transfer, there were high expectations and most thought that United was back, based on him coming back with now UEFA Champions League football. The social media announcement in the early hours in England was fun at the time but looking back it seemed to be a barometer of the things to come.

This season, Pogba has had the best season, in terms of scoring goals, in his career, scoring 16 and assisting a further 10 goals. However, the constant speculation, coming from family, about him leaving the club has caused concern, not to mention the fact that he does not seem to be trying most of the time he’s on the pitch. It makes him look less than professional. It is a shame as he has the ability to become something and his time at United will cast a shadow on him, not that he cares about the club, which is not only how I personally feel, others do too.

Some may consider the likes of Juan Mata, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and even Alexis Sanchez as world-class, or near as damn it. Sanchez might be on a world-class wage but his performances, or lack of, at United may put end to that thinking. Schweinsteiger was once a world-class player but he was past his best when he arrived at United, which was a shame as his attitude was something that was required at the club.

The obsession with world-class players needs to be reigned in a little. It has not worked out in six years and that does not suggest it will work at any point in time. United need a stable foundation, which is what they really should have at this point in time. It is like the hierarchy of the club has no knowledge of the club, the game or anything in between. Oh, that’s a fact, isn’t it?

I would imagine, that if Ed Woodward was told to just focus on the commercial side of the club, having a football man to call the shots on the footballing side, things would start to improve pretty quickly. Woodward seems the type of person that will back a disgruntled player over a manager, he’s sacked three of them in his short time at the helm of the club and nothing seems to have been improved in that respect. The clueless nature of adding names to a club, paying big wages needs to be stopped.

In order for United to succeed, the club needs to be rebuilt so it can stand high in the stature of football again. Changes are needed from top to bottom. Players who have the desire, determination, pride, fight, the commitment to represent this club should be brought into the club. That alone is much better than a name who will help the club get retweets and followers on social media.

Having world-class players in a team is great and all but only if they fit the values of the club. It is safe to say that most world-class players the club has signed have come for the money, not the prestige of playing for this great club. Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic can say that he came to the club for the challenge and aside of the injuries, he raised the bar and fought the challenge head one, doing some good at the club, which was not really replaced when he left.

It is time that United allowed younger, talented players into the squad, allowed them the time to establish themselves, work for the badge on the front of the shirt and achieve things themselves, working towards becoming a name in the footballing world. That is, of course, the DNA of the club – giving youth a chance. “You can’t win anything with kids,” was once said and those kids achieved the biggest feat in British footballing history by helping the club win the impossible dream, the treble.

United seems to have forgotten the identity of the club over the past six years, becoming that commercial giant who seems to factor in being at the top of the Forbes richest sporting club in the world list, rather than doing what football clubs need to be doing; aiming to win league titles, domestic cups and European competitions. That seems a long way off this club right now but simple changes and an admission of failure from the guy in charge could change all of that. If your approach has not worked in six years, it is not going to work in the seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth.

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copyright: JW

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