Although it pains to look at a rival with too much admiration, Liverpool’s transfer strategy in the past few years at least has relied on its excellent scouting and snapping up talent at the right time.
They paid approximately £100m for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino combined; all of whom were in their early twenties when signed and yet to hit their peak.
In contrast, United’s poor recruitment saw them shell out £67.5m on Angel Di Maria, £38m on Henrikh Mkhitaryan and £53m on Fred over the past five years without any real return.
The bad decision making leads to a whole host of effects on the club. The most immediately obvious being the poor performances on the pitch and the reduction in stature of the club in general.
It can, however, also hit the club in the pocket when they ignore potential talent and have to pay a premium for them a few years down the line.
Harry Maguire joined Leicester from Hull for just £12m two years ago. He was a highly rated defender even back then and it was a shock that the Foxes were the most high profile team in for him.
It appears a similar scenario will happen again with James Maddison. The club are targeting a playmaker in the January transfer window with the 22-year-old now being tipped as another £80m target.
Leicester stumped up £20m for the midfielder in the summer of 2018, after a stellar season in the Championship with Norwich. It seems that United may have to pay four times that figure; another direct result of their poor transfer strategy. A report in the Independent last week painted a bleak picture. A source inside the club described a situation where there is a no coherent plan when it comes to recruitment:
“They’ve got reports on so many players, but they mostly go ignored. Some of the players they’d spend fortunes on, they’re not as good as better players who they’ve got reports on, but mostly go ignored. There’s no unity of ideas”
Whether that is completely true or not, their failures in the transfer market indicate that the strategy that was in place was far from ideal. There were, however, signs of green shoots this summer.
Daniel James’s £15m signing from Swansea seems like an inspired piece of business, with the Welshman having scored three goals in four games, demonstrating that United can indeed find diamonds in the rough.
It is a slightly different situation with Aaron Wan-Bissaka. He was hardly an unknown and the £50m that United paid was certainly a premium, but much like with Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool, he could turn out to be a hugely important defensive reinforcement for the team.
He has already shown himself to be one of the best defensive fullbacks in the league, and at the age of 21, he could develop into one of the mainstays of the side for years to come. More of these types of signings will need to be made, though, to show whether United have actually turned a corner on the transfer front.