This has been a topic I had been meaning to touch upon for a while but haven’t until now.
Tim Rich, who seems to be The Guardian‘s man accompanying the United travelling party, has been doing his share of sending postcards from the far-east. Topics covered in his daily dispatches range from describing the boredom of our poor, grossly overpaid, footballers [boo, hoo. The players have exhausted their stockpile of DVDs and can’t get out of their hotel rooms. How are they ever going to survive? Cue: an idea for network executives for a pilot of ‘I’m a Premier League footballer, get me out of this claustrophobic, yet plush hotel room’] to pointing us towards the 1.2 million South Korean owners of Manchester United credit cards, for the 98247th time.
But in between the humdrum that is expected of these pre-season travel diaries, comes two interesting pieces, one about comments from the Glazer camp, and another on United’s commercial interests in Asia.
The Glazer family comments [rather the comments of his spokesman] have already been out for a while now; blogs [it’s been briefly touched upon here], and mainstream media outlets in general have already been talking about it for over two days.
Tehsin Nayani, the spokesman defended Ferguson’s spending. He made it clear that the manager has £60m to spend. Some of it is quite interesting, and mildly [well, if you look closely, grossly] ironic; well get to it in a bit:
The manager has a significant amount of money to invest if he wants to. The delay has been because the manager has not been able to locate the players he believes fit the Manchester United mindset -– players who are motivated to play for United. You don’t want mercenaries and you don’t want to pay over the odds for players not willing to give their all for the club.”
If, for a moment, you stand back and decide to not read in between the lines and not second-guess, it could possibly point towards Ferguson learning from the Ronaldo and Tevez experience. Granted, both players’ cases could be debated either way, but Ferguson seems to be in a mindset of identifying players would gladly sign for United. Of course, this logic falls flat in the face of our attempts to sign Benzema, who clearly had his head turned towards the Iberian peninsula.
But it’s hard to imagine the manager not finding anyone of reasonable quality who’d be glad to wear the Red shirt. I am certainly behind Ferguson’s decisions, based on how he’s managed to come out well in face of criticism. I am willing to give him the benefit of doubt, because he has so clearly earned that right from fans. But I do scratch my head, at times, at some of the very good defensive midfielders and attackers we have actually let slip.
But the under-26 policy, this theory of not buying ‘mercenaries’ [of course, the irony bit was, these comments were made during a money spinning tour of the far-east, signing deals left, right and centre] all explain, sort of, the mindset Ferguson has adopted this summer. He sees the inflation of prices brought about by Real Madrid and Man City as far from ideal situations to dip into the market. [As an aside, some fans have blamed Ferguson for accepting a fee of £80m, hence causing an explosion of transfer fees in the market — which I find absolutely ridiculous. If Ferguson had a choice, he wouldn’t sell Ronaldo. Imagine the outrage from the same set of fans had he told Madrid that he’ll sell him at a lower price, so that this act of philanthropy on his part wouldn’t inflate the market. ]
Obertan, Mame Biram Diouf and Owen were bought for a combined fee of about £10m; Valencia at £17m. So a further £60m budget means Ferguson was handed a £90m war chest. I am not going to judge these signings till I see them in action in the season, but, for what it’s worth, this summer we’ve learned a lot more about our transfer strategy than we ever have in the Glazer era.
* * *
I’ve grumbled along at how almost every conceivable European powerhouse is busy scurrying about in sunny California, or sweltering Dallas or, umm, (I don’t know the weather) Baltimore, selling shirts, and playing some football in front of packed houses, yet, Manchester United somehow manage to stay away from the soccer-fuss here in Stateside. I can understand why United see Asia as the bigger market. Apparently they are looking at billion-strong India next year. Conquer China and India, and you’ll have over a third of the world’s market covered. With rumours of Manchester United cafes in India, that would be the next frontier indeed. I am still puzzled that a club as commercially savvy as United would choose to consciously ignore the American market when there has been a sea change in the general perception of the game in the US.
Perhaps, Tim Rich and Dominic Fifield (the Guardian’s US pre-season correspondent) should do a joint piece on the merits of touring one continent over the other.
Meanwhile the club continue to rake in the dough, with football being incidental for now. At least, until they return to Munich for the friendlies against more serious opposition.
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