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Manchester United’s deadwood problem

MacFinder

Since Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United eight years ago, United’s recruitment has been questionable; there’s been some great signings like Bruno Fernandes but some terrible signings like Alexis Sanchez. These recruitment issues have caused a major build-up of deadwood in the United ranks over the years leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a lot of the previous manager’s mess. 

Subsequently this causes an influx of players to be left at United who are clearly not good enough, but they are eating the wages up, increasing United’s overall wage bill making it harder to offload these players and thus harder to recruit other players because the wage bill needs to be lowered.

The root to this problem is the structure at the club. Once Ferguson retired, a lot of the footballing men at the club also left. leaving a complex hierarchy that needs experienced personnel with the football clubs’ best interests at heart, to the role of businessmen. These businessmen include Matt Judge and Ed Woodward in particular. 

The main issue with these businessmen is priorities. Their priority is capital, and what will save and raise the most amount of money as possible. They don’t put the team’s best interests at heart but more the club’s financial position treating it like a business. 

As a result, when in the transfer window, despite the managers best wishes, players can be signed due to their public relations value rather than their footballing ability. Signings like Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria where PR signings that were there to please the fans resulting in huge shirt sales and media attention. 

This doesn’t help the team at all as it can often mean bringing in a player that doesn’t have his heart set on a move and thus doesn’t respect the United shirt enough and soon becomes deadwood as their effort levels drop. To combat this, Solskjaer has started a rebuild on the team as well as the actual structure at United bringing in Darren Fletcher and John Murtough into roles that footballing men are more suited to. 

Murtough was recently hired as the ‘football director’ who’s role is to discusses directly with Solskjaer on targets before the negotiators approach the club and player. Previously, Woodward had had a lot of power in these situations, and this led to the deadwood being brought in but now with a footballing man discussing these transfers it can help reduce this. However, as seen with this current transfer window, despite the changes in structure, United are still struggling to sell off their deadwood. 

This is due to the astronomical wages these players have been put on under the poor recruitment. In previous years, too many signings were because of money rather than the passion and desire to play for the club. This summer the approach has changed as United are bringing in players like Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo who are all players who are hungry and want to play for the club. This is a testament to Solskjaer’s progression with the rebuild as players of this calibre were not signing for United previously. 

With these new signings having a real desire to play for United, it means the club doesn’t have to offer them huge wages making them harder to sell off in the future. To ensure that this deadwood problem doesn’t get worse, Solskjaer must keep only looking at players who will fight for the badge and aren’t in it for the money. 

Solskjaer and United should keep looking at upgrading the recruitment and changing staff to fit the clubs DNA and morals better. These gradual changes will ultimately make United a much better run club in general taking them back to the efficiency under Ferguson. 

At the club now there’s several players that United need to ship out. This includes Phil Jones, Andreas Pereira, Diogo Dalot, arguably Juan Mata and potentially Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic. Some view Mata as a vital member of the squad especially for his presence in the dressing room and thus not to be considered as deadwood, whereas others perceive him as past his best and now eating up wages. 

Lingard, on the other hand, is loved by a lot of United fans but could become deadwood if he stays at United because he’s unlikely to get many minutes for the team. Meanwhile, with the injury of Scott McTominay and the unlikely chance that a midfielder comes in so late in the window, Matic could prove a crucial part of the squad especially as he’s the only natural defensive midfielder. 

However, some feel due to his age he’s no longer at his best and can be a liability. Due to his unique skill set that United currently lack, I feel he is more important than some people realise and could be key for United this season so shouldn’t be sold off unless another defensive midfielder is brought in. Diogo Dalot is still a young player being only 22 and with Aaron Wan-Bissaka lacking competition some feel he must stay. 

Solskjaer, on the other hand, doesn’t seem particularly satisfied with Dalot and looks keen to get him out on loan or permanently sell him and thus he might be seen as deadwood especially in Solskjaer’s eyes. A player Solskjaer has looked at with great interest is Kieran Trippier. He’s a 30-year-old English right-back playing for Atletico Madrid in Spain and being a Manchester boy would love to go to United. 

This would fit the requirements that Solskjaer is trying to create as despite his age he would work incredibly hard and provide great competition for Wan-Bissaka. Therefore, if United can move Dalot on loan, that could open the opportunity to bring in Trippier who would strengthen the right-hand side even more. With Phil Jones and Andreas Pereira, most fans believe they are deadwood and their time at the club is up. Since Fernandes’ arrival, Pereira has barely had a look in and was loaned off out to Lazio last year but wasn’t majorly successful. 

If Lingard is to stay at the club, he would be third choice which would be a waste of his time and United’s. Phil Jones at one point looked like he could be a great player with Sir Alex Ferguson saying “I think Jones may be one of the best players we have ever had.” But he’s been plagued with injuries in the last couple years and with the recent signing of Raphael Varane it just pushes him further down the pecking order. Jones is on high wages, and many believe he must go as he’ll never play and is wasted at the club but due to his horrendous injury record and high wages it’s difficult to find any suitors. 

Overall, I feel the structure at this club is improving under Solskjaer’s management and with more time he could make it more and more effective. United must focus on only bringing in players that want to play for the club and keeping the wage bill down else they’ll struggle with deadwood issues again as they can’t ship these players off as their wages are too high. 

Then to keep taking this team forward, Solskjaer must get Pereira and Jones out definitely and then look to ease out Dalot, Lingard, Matic and Mata in the coming years if suitable replacements are available as it’ll reduce the wage bill and as these players are getting older it will bring fresh impetus into the club which could lead to a successful tenure for Manchester United under Solskjaer.

Written by Ethan Bents

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