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Is United being pound foolish with the below-26 policy?

Reports filtered in yesterday, starting with the Guardian and the Independent that United have made it a long-term transfer policy of buying players only under 26 years of age.

The reports go on to claim that Berbatov’s purchase was regarded as an exception to this rule. The main thinking behind this is that the resale value of a player would go down significantly if a player over 26 signed on for the club.

Now, on the surface, this could represent sound business sense — going into cashing in on players when their value shoots up; the most recent Ronaldo transfer being a case in point. But it assumes almost every player we buy will always come good.

Scouting talent, as Arsene Wenger would attest, is not exactly a science. It comes with experience, knowledge of an area, and a gifted ability to spot talent. There are a host of intangibles such as ability of an incoming player to adjust to surroundings, weather, food, and physicality, in the case of the Premiership.

The under-26 policy could however assume that we continue our policy of signing exciting talent that’s probably also well known the world around. Nani and Anderson have been examples. However, we can’t really say both have set the world alight like Ronaldo. They may come good in time, but when we buy a lot of young players — hedging bets that they may come good — we must take into account that they might end up being absolute duds too.

This could still make good business sense, but is a blind policy to close one’s mind over an outstanding player over 26 years of age really sensible? Arsenal are considered to be financially prudent because Wenger’s transfer policy mirrors spending well within the club’s means and actually making a profit. But how many trophies do they have to show for it over the past three to four years? It came to a head such that Wenger had to concede defeat and sign Andrei Arshavin.

United’s recent history of signing players has been not in securing some obscure talent out of nowhere like Arsenal, but securing young but expensive talent like Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson, the Serbian duo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Park, Evra and Carrick to rattle a few off the top of my head. Of course, we also did sign the little known Brazilian twins, Macheda and Petrucci for a song, but at the end of the day, trophies and advancing deep into the Champions’ League would be more financially rewarding every single year, if debts are the main concern for the United board.

Currently this policy rules the likes of Ribery, David Villa, Samuel Eto’o out of the market. And whilst Klaas Jan-Huntelaar is 25 at the moment, he will turn 26 in August, and a strict transfer policy of this kind would completely rule them out.

And another crucial issue that would need to be addressed by the men in power at some point, in light of this policy, is the weight they are willing to put on money earned by selling players over the money earned by winning trophies. Winning more and more titles builds profiles. Building up talent that guarantees a £68m profit is harder to achieve. If more emphasis is put on developing players only to make a profit off them, it would represent a shift in thinking we Manchester United fans need to get used to: are we about to be a selling club? All this is fairly outlandish a thought, and I hope I am proven completely wrong over this.

But I personally think a close minded policy of this kind is foolish, and ridiculous. I really hope we aren’t really following this to the T and will make exceptions where need be. More likely than not, a player at 26 still will have about three years to offer at his peak. (Defenders can go even longer than that) A club must strike the right balance in flexibility of policy and financial prudence, and setting an age like that is far from smart.



  1. Craig Mc

    17 June 2009 at 18:07

    Snippets of gossip coming out of Spain, is that the Ronaldo transfer has hit a snag. Real Madrid and Ronaldo’s agent cannot come to agreement on Ronaldo’s commercial/trading rights and projects. Real M want 50% of Ronaldo’s rights, and Ronaldo and his team are not willing to concede so far on this. So Real M are saying that it would not be a viable financial project to them, to sign Ronaldo if he doesn’t concede said rights πŸ™„ .

  2. Grognard

    17 June 2009 at 18:08

    @Karl: I’m with you on that mate. I love Fergie too but I’ll be damned if I am going to tolerate the man’s tactics, lack of energy and seemingly lack of outward desire in regards to getting the things done that have to be done. His lack of urgency in the last two summer’s has driven me mad with rage and his tactical style adopted from Italy is the bane of my existence. There are moments where I wish he would retire because he seems driven these days by his own personal goals rather than continuing the traditions and styles of play that he made famous here for most of his career. I’m truly torn out of love, respect and admiration for the man as well as frustration anger and impatience with his current way of doing, or should I say not doing things.

  3. Craig Mc

    17 June 2009 at 18:08

    @Grognard: Grog very occasionally he does, Mark Hughes was sold on and then brought back?

  4. gator

    17 June 2009 at 18:14

    @Grognard: and i remember saf saying something like he was remorseful at loosing rosi but it was his decision to leave and that he retained first transfer rights.

  5. Grognard

    17 June 2009 at 18:16

    @Stephen: It’s sad to think that three world class players could easily and cheaply go to Spurs while Fergie sits back and tans his red nose more. My God, they have 100 million to spend and they don’t think it would be good business to throw 30 to 40 million to get Robben, Huntelaar and someone other than Heinze? Fergie wake up, Real Madrid are having a massive fire sale and have gone to two Spanish banks to bank roll their revolution. They are broke and you need to cash in on their desperation. Go to them and get Sneijder, Huntelaar and either Robben or van der Vaart. It will probably not cost you 40 million for three world class players. It will be the steal od the century as together their normal value in different conditions would be over 60 million easy. They are having a clearance sale and the prices are discounted so get back at them a bit and do us proud. Spend 40 on three great players and you still have 60 to go after payers who can fill out and reshape our team for the future. Wake the fuck up you old Gaffer. πŸ™„

  6. Andrei

    17 June 2009 at 18:26

    @Oli: How sure are we that this is genuine and not some made-up journalist scam to boost sales at The Guardian?

  7. Andrei

    17 June 2009 at 18:30

    @Craig Mc: Haha!! That would be hilarious – but maybe, just maybe, he will stay, though he will be booed everyday at OT.

    It also explains why we have made no attempt to sign anybody just yet.

  8. Grognard

    17 June 2009 at 18:44

    @Craig Mc: The longer we take to fill Ronaldo’s boots, the more desperate things will get and the more desperate things will look to others too. That will just make it harder for us to get players because if you think they are marking the price up now, wait until January when we are desperate and nobody is interested in selling unless they fleece us dry. Buy now, take our lumps financially and move on. The longer we wait, the more damage we do to ourselves.

    My God when I think we could have had Ribery for 22 million last year, and Torres had Fergie not waffled over his doubts the lad could truly cut it goals scoring wise? I just lose it thinking about his incredible ability to procrastinate until a player signs for somebody else or until that player value increase three times from where it was. You can see it in his tactics these days, for whatever reason, Fergie has become a chicken shit coward afraid to take chances and be bold. Sorry if that sounds harsh but I call it as I see it and as all of you know, I’m not timid or afraid to speak my mind.

    Regardless of my love and respect for Alex Ferguson, he has severely damaged or at least challenged my faith in him. Poor decision after poor decision for the last 14 months and despite that we still won a treble of silverware. Despite his boring tactics and lineup choices, despite his continual ignorance to our central midfield needs, despite his continuing faith in Scholes, Neville and even Giggs, despite his annoying faith in a the talentless and completely useless Anderson, despite his boring as Hell negative Italian tactics, despite his inability to see problems and aggressively correct them by going after new players with vigor and fire, despite his stubbornness to mistreat Tevez and overplay the faltering Berbatov, despite his annoying propensity to start the human pratt fall Park and despite his continual destruction of a super talent like Rooney by using him in all the wrong ways…….we still manage to win.

    It’s time he had a good look at himself and asked himself if he isn’t letting his own hubris get the better of him and whether it isn’t time to just retire and let another man lead this team? The game has not left him behind but he clearly is running out of gas an ideas and his focus and clarity on some issues I find rather disturbing. Honestly honestly honestly, I truly love the man. I have often said to friends of mine that of all the people in the world today, Fergie would be among the three I would most want to meet and chat with. The other two are Peter Jackson the movie director and Roger Clemens the baseball star.

    I have had a long and loyal admiration for the man but football is a cutthroat and competitive business and as the saying goes, you are only as good as your last game. Well Fergie’s last game opened up a Pandora’s box of trouble and exposed him as well as the team for what they really are. Good, but not good enough. Needing help in a lot of areas and having a manager who seemingly shows no urgency or desire to get the job done expediently and with hunger.

    These are just my views and how I honestly feel. I don’t expect any of you to agree with me as I realize they are the rants of an obsessed and rather angry and impatient supporter. So for my sake, kindly keep the personal jibes and negative remarks about my roasting of the Gaffer to a bare minimum or none at all. I am just speaking my peace as a fan and showing my frustration and dissatisfaction for how things have been not getting done of late. And leave it at that.

  9. Roge9

    17 June 2009 at 18:53

    @Red Ranter: Yeah, just providing a proper for those who may not have seen it.

    I think Pique is a better option than Evans: more versatile, better ball control, better and quicker passer with greater range, offensive awareness on corners and i think slightly fasters. Evans, to me, just has a better build.

  10. Grognard

    17 June 2009 at 19:15

    @Roge9: But he’s ordinary in th air and lacks pace which may not show up in La Liga or in Europe but is and Achilles heel in the faster English game. I like Pique too but I think we are better off long term with Evans.

  11. NicoQB

    17 June 2009 at 19:47

    Resumes well what we are are all going through:

  12. Stephen

    17 June 2009 at 19:58

    @Grognard: That mate is far to logical, you could throw in Drenthe into that Dutch mix also.
    @Craig Mc: Atkinson sold him and Fergie bought him back, I think to appease the fans!

  13. Craig Mc

    17 June 2009 at 20:41

    @Andrei: That’s what the reports were saying πŸ˜† . That the intransigence of Ronnie and his agent to concede on sharing 50% of his trading rights, is slowing up Man United doing business in the transfer market. Real M have to sign though don’t they, because they will have to pay 26 million to Ronaldo if they don’t. So if they lose on this deal financially, then it is going to be a very sever and well deserved message to Real M and their devious transfer dealings. So I hope they do get a bloody nose in all of this πŸ˜€ .

  14. Andrei

    17 June 2009 at 22:38

    @Stephen: Oh, God! Drenthe is a nightmare. He is as fast as a jack rabbit, as strong as Rio and with a lightning shot, but he sucks at just about everything else from finishing to ball control, dribbling, crossing, first touch, discipline, etc. If Fergie gets him, he will have gone mental. The same goes for Huntelaar. Sorry guys, but I just do not see him being United quality.

    I think that in the long term, we would much rather approve of a move for Alexis Sanchez or even Tevez.

  15. Andrei

    17 June 2009 at 22:41

    @Craig Mc: Unfortunately, I do not see them as having to pay the player if he does rejects them. Although that would be sweet.

    Still, I think it is just press-shit because this deal has been a year in the making and if they have not been able to set the matter of the player’s image rights, his agent would be ridiculous.

  16. Grognard

    18 June 2009 at 00:00

    @Andrei: I’m sorry Andrei but I so disagree with you mate. Did you watch the under 21 Euros a couple years back that the Dutch won? He was the player of the tournament and was absolutely awesome and a revelation. And he is a very good dribbler and ball handler. His Achilles heel and why he doesn’t play that much for Madrid is his propensity to get caught upfield because he is so attack oriented. He is just average at best as a defender but if I were his manager, I’d use him as a LMF or LW. He’s got great attacking skills.

  17. Roge9

    18 June 2009 at 00:02

    @Craig Mc: Regarding your post 48.

    Ronaldo’s depature will signals a herald a new psychological climate at the club this summer. Last season, the players reacted as they did because he was still an integral part of the team and there was no potential for replacement. His move will enforce an evolution not only in how we play but also in how SAF treats each member of the squad and in the players mind. Maybe I’m optimistic, but I fully expect them to embrace the new challenge and welcome the fresh taste of 100% whine-free football. All the attention that was allocated to soothing Ronaldo’s ego can and has to now be directed at players who need it. I don’t think the team has lost the culture or spirit of winning; just Ronaldo, despite his mecurial talents, was becoming a distraction and getting away with murder. He remains a fantastic professional in concrete ways (being punctual, meticulous work ethic etc.), but his passive aggressive, self centered behavoir grew too palpable, and ultimately dangerous and intolerable. Holding a club pscyhologically and emotionally hostage is the worst thing a player can do, and Ronnie became an expert at this. Why else the near unamimous relief, even joy, at his impending depature? I think back to Mourinho’s jibes the influence of Ronaldo’s upbringing on his perceived failings as person. While I deride the manner of the insult, it begs the question of what value system Ronaldo operates under.

    He owes us nothing, but to bite the hands that have feed you so fiercely is unforgivable. Gareth Barry for all the hooplah he created when he tried to secure the move to Cesspool (sorry, Liverpool…my hatred doth spilth over :smile:) last summer, returned to villa, kept his mouth shut (for the most part) and quietly moved on from the club. There’ll be some bitter feelings, and yes, the comparison is somewhat weak given the circumstances of Ronaldo’s talent and desire to leave, but he should have approached the matter similarly rather than resurrect the ‘only God knows’ bullshit and whine like a bitch every chance he got.

    The point is Ronnie’s exit is beneficial to the psychological and emotional health of us fans and to the players; there is also the small good fortune of 80 Million pounds: small because it will disappear faster than most people’s 401K did this past U.S election cycle. Even so we can, at least, enjoy our summer as we nervously anticipate signings; we can celebrate and reflect on a season that delivered 3 trophies (with reservation of course since we failed conjure up more than 2 entertaining and/or convincing victories, let alone performances), and we ought to be grateful that we are no longer slave to, as John McCain would say, “that one.”

    We’ll miss “that one’s” ruthless efficiency, but getting escaping the idea that we are nothing without him needs to begin somewhere….why not here?

  18. Grognard

    18 June 2009 at 00:02

    @Stephen: Logic and common sense seems to be a rare entity at Old Trafford these days, isn’t it? I just don’t get them anymore? πŸ™„

  19. Andrei

    18 June 2009 at 00:16

    @Grognard: Yep watched the whole tournament and he impressed. But keep in mind that he was playing against 19 year-olds at the time. Since his move to Real Madrid, he has been horrible every time he came on. I have seen him on about two dozen occasions do absolutely nothing and letting his team-mates down.

    At the time of the Euro U21 Championships, I was really worried that Chelsea might get their hands on the guy, but now I would not mind he he played against us every week because he is Tottenham-quality at best.

  20. Madschester United

    18 June 2009 at 00:41

    I like this policy. But every rule has exceptions… it is called Ribery!

  21. ooh-aah

    18 June 2009 at 02:14

    one name comes to mind: jordi cruyff!!!!!!
    great piece of writing!10/10!!

  22. Grognard

    18 June 2009 at 02:40

    @Andrei: Yes he was playing against 19 year olds but also in fairness to him, he excelled against them which is all you can ask of a player much in the same way Pique and Aquero excelled in the world under 21 tournament in Canada two years ago. They couyld have choked and played poorly too, which they did not. Lets also not forget that Real Madrid has a terrible history of wasting and not playing good talent. They have completely wasted van der Vaart, Sneijder and Huntelaar and have preferred players inferior to them. The players are not at fault here. They need to play in order to find their form. I feel Drenthe is a true star of the future but he was too young and too inexperienced to get such a start with a big club like Madrid. They have no patience with youth and in fact have no youth program of any repute. It was just a bad move to go there.

  23. Craig Mc

    18 June 2009 at 02:43

    @Roge9: A good read mate, and of course I would agree with most of it. I hope with Ronaldo know, for club, players and fans, it will be ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Not because I don’t appreciate all the magic moments, and trophies brought to us by Ronaldo’s abilities, but for all the reasons you mentioned Roge, and particularly for the psychological GOING ON of the team having a point to prove now Ronnie’s gone πŸ™‚ .

  24. Craig Mc

    18 June 2009 at 02:49

    @Andrei: Its being more widely reported now Andrei, so I think there is some truth to it mate, and not just media speculation. Latest is that Ronnie wants 55% to Real M’s 45% of his image rights. Real M feel they cannot agree to this, as all the players at the club have 50-50% shares with the club of image rights. Ronnie is saying though that he should have MORE wages than the others too. The EGO has landed, over to you lot Real Madrid πŸ˜† .

  25. Onkar

    18 June 2009 at 05:40

    @Grognard: bro… I can’t say I disagree with you. I think the problem of late (last year or so…) is that Gaffer has become more reactive then proactive. I mean he reacts to things. OK, we have to agree that he reacts good enough by bringing all his experience and knowledge in play and that’s why probably he managed to won all those accolades in an year when we were probably not the best. But, the problem for me is in a Club like MANCHESTER UNITED you need a person who’s proactive rather than reactive. I mean just have a look at someone like Jose Mourinho, few times i have seen him changing things or teams at half time by accepting that the first half was bad rather than waiting to see another 15 mins of second half to see how team plays. I mean does Fergi do that (with an exception of Hotspur game i think & the CL finals). No, he never does. i mean even if you are reacting react quickly which Fergi can’t anymore may be because of his age.
    By the to all the who like bashing Jose Mourinho and his style of football, in his second season at Chelsea, Chelsea were highest scoring and least conceding team. They were frequently scoring goals in excess of 2-3. And were scoring them at will. I mean, I cant see a team who score the highest no of goal can be boring to the extent people make out. May be league might was because, he always knew once he was on top he was never going to loose. Such was the domination… Food for thought for all may be….

  26. Roge9

    18 June 2009 at 06:13

    @Grognard: but speed and strength in the air are things that can be worked on, and i would say he is better in the air than Evans, In 23 games for us Pique managed 2 (both headers I believe)albeit in Europe, but Evans is yet to score in 37. I just believe Pique has more attributes to work with. Still Evans is a good CB in the making, wish we had kept both though along with Rossi.

  27. Onkar

    18 June 2009 at 06:28

    @Roge9: And do not forget that lad called Ritchi De Leat. I know he played against minnows on his debut. But boy, he was great. I mean i dont remember a mistimed tackle from him in a whole game. That to playing at LB position and he is naturally a Cb (if i am not wrong).
    As for Rossi i agree totally…

  28. Karl

    18 June 2009 at 09:09

    @Roge9: I know we’re onto a different thread now, but I have to comment on your post. Brilliant!

  29. Stephen

    18 June 2009 at 10:44

    @Andrei: Mate he is still only 22 and has been in and out of the Real side in a very disjointed perod, personally I think he is ideal for the premiership, he speaks English will learn and can only get better, but he does look like Lil Wayne πŸ˜† πŸ˜† πŸ˜†

  30. Roge9

    18 June 2009 at 14:51

    @Onkar: Yeah he did impress at LB, but I still prefer Fabio. Fabio in his 2 outings even looked better than Rafael, and word around the club is, he’s more highly rated. But I think we shipped too many of a second wave of promosing youngers: pique, Rossi, Eagles, and campbell (if he leaves) among them.

  31. Roge9

    18 June 2009 at 14:55

    @Karl: thank you sir, but i far more impressed with, even in awe of, the consistently good writing and ideas that come from our fellow ranters, craig MC, RR, Grog, stephen, reddevil, onkar, and you among. It’s an excellent site; sad it took me til this year to find it.

  32. Craig Mc

    18 June 2009 at 15:14

    @Roge9: What about De Laet??? He was just too fantastic against Hull in our final game of season. He tackles like his life depended on it, fierce, hard tackles, and very few mistimed. I like him very much, and he didn’t get skinned either, so I can see what our scouts saw in him! I wonder if he wouldn’t profit from a swop to DMF, where we need a great tackler in there. Also he has real pace, and gets up and down the field with ease. Could he do it on a regular basis? I’m not sure, but he is consistently bloody good for our reserves. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the lad. Also Eckersley I am convinced could play in MF. He is all over the bloody pitch, when he is supposed to be a RB. He always drifts inside, and likes to get stuck into players in the middle, and he loves going forward more than he loves staying back? πŸ™‚ .

  33. Roge9

    18 June 2009 at 16:03

    @Craig Mc: yeah my comment with regards to Fabio, referenced De Laet, the first line. Wonderful prospect no doubt, but i still prefer Fabio to him. Fabio offers more going forward. De Laet is certainly the better tackler though. I hope both push Evra next season to wisen him up because he’s been pathetic lately.

  34. Stephen

    18 June 2009 at 16:40

    @Craig Mc: My take on Ronaldo is simple really, yes he is a very dislikable person, he is arrogant selfish BUT he has never hidden the fact that he wanted to sign for Real Madrid as he was always a β€œReal Fan” so getting on his back and slating him is pointless.
    I for one was never going to get excited about going to his testimonial and always expected him to leave this summer, Fergie probably said give us one more season and you can go with blessing.
    One player who everyone seems to still respect and who I dislike immensely is David Beckham an equally arrogant selfish person, just ask LA Galaxy, he is also a self proclaimed β€œUnited fan” but like Tevez to degree played the fans off against the club, he left simply for the money and the glamour oh and his wife probably told him to.
    At least Ronaldo had the balls to admit he was a fan of Real and wanted to play for them, and it is understandable he is not English and has never professed his undieing love for the club.
    With Beckham he was constantly saying he is a life long United fan and yes he had his falling out with Fergie, but he was never man enough to come out and say why he left, but that’s Sir David for you he never has to justify himself at least not to the supporters who buy tickets, his addidas boots, aftershave, pants ect…………………… what does he care how we feel as long as we line his pockets.

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