Manchester United’s executive vice chairman Ed Woodward has warned fans not to expect any big money transfers this summer.
Speaking at a Fans Forum held by conference call, the director said that even though United were in a stronger position than most clubs in relation to the financial crisis caused by lockdown, they would nonetheless not be able to operate as they would have normally.
‘Nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of challenge facing everyone in football and it may not be “business as usual” for any clubs, including ourselves, in the transfer market this summer’, Woodward said.
‘As ever, the priority is the success of team but we need visibility of the impact across the whole industry, including timings of the transfer window, and the wider financial picture, before we can talk about a return to normality.’
‘On this basis, I cannot help feeling that speculation around transfers of individual players for hundreds of millions of pounds this summer seems to ignore the realities that face the sport.’
The comments suggest that United will adopt a ‘wait and see’ policy before diving into the transfer market this summer, in which they will analyse the financial capabilities of other clubs as well as their own before making any decisions.
It puts paid to fans’ optimism that the Red Devils could use their financial strength to leapfrog ahead of their opponents this year, for example, by being able to trigger release clauses such as those of Timo Werner and Erling Haaland, reported to be £52 million and £65 million respectively, whilst rivals for their signatures struggle to make ends meet.
Most importantly, it would seem to put the signing of top target Jadon Sancho on hold, whose asking price is over £100 million – exactly the kind of figure Woodward specifically said would not be paid.
Sancho’s current club Borussia Dortmund is reportedly financially stable and unlikely to need to slash Sancho’s price. So on the surface of it, the director’s comments seem to be putting an end to fans’ hopes of seeing the 20-year-old in a red shirt at the start of next season.
Reds’ manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently expressed optimism that due to United’s financial ‘greater resilience than most clubs’ – to quote Woodward – he might be able to ‘exploit’ opportunities in the transfer market.
Coupled with Woodward’s comments, the scenario presented to us is that United will more or less abandon the transfer targets they were working on prior to the coronavirus and instead scour the market for bargain signings from clubs that have to sell due to their financial problems.
In other words, we won’t be walking into the showroom to buy that Ferrari, we’ll be looking for any car that we think would suit us that is being sold for a knockdown price.
It is a worrying prospect for United fans, the majority of whom felt that Solskjaer’s transfer strategy, in which very specific players are targeted who fit the correct profile, was bringing stability. Now we may be faced with Woodward driving the decisions based on price and availabity, with Solskjaer at best simply having the power of veto should he not like what is being offered to him.
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