Manchester United’s executive vice chairman Ed Woodward’s recent claims that United’s transfer investment has been as good if not better than that of most of their rivals do not hold much water.
Speaking on an investor conference call to present the club’s fourth quarter financial results, Woodward claimed that United had outspent all their rivals in the transfer market, despite widespread criticism for underinvestment and the failure to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.
‘We are pleased with our recent additions to the first team squad of Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles, two players we had been tracking as part of our recruitment process for a long period, and Edinson Cavani, a top striker who adds a new option to our forward line,’ Woodward said.
‘Added to the arrival of Bruno Fernandes earlier this year, these recruits underscore our continued commitment to strengthening the squad and take our net investment in new players since summer 2019 to over €200 million — more, I believe, than any other major European club over that time period.’
(It seems odd that Woodward felt obliged to state that United had been scouting extensively four of the five summer signings. Surely that goes without saying? Trying hard to convince us they weren’t panic buys, perhaps? But that is an aside.)
Then came what was in part perhaps a sideswipe at Borussia Dortmund’s refusal to lower their asking price for Jadon Sancho in light of the current situation.
‘Gross transfer spending across the big five European leagues was down about 40 per cent this summer, driven by both a lower volume of transactions and lower average fees … including a 30 per cent reduction in the average fee for the top 30 transfers’.
He then went on to compare United’s spending to that of some of the world’s elite.
‘At a club level, many of our peers were cautious, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain having a combined net spend of €9 million or a median net spend of €13 million.’
He also had an excuse for United being outspent by Chelsea this summer.
‘Of course there were one or two outliers, most notably Chelsea, who were making up for not being able to be active during their transfer ban in summer 2019. But one needs to look across multiple windows to gain a clearer perspective.
‘Our aggregate net investment over the last three transfer windows compares very favourably with our peers.’
‘The bottom line is we are investing and will continue to invest to back the manager.’
The problem with Mr Woodward is that he picks time periods and clubs to suit his argument while conveniently overlooking others.
For example, he chose the last three windows to make a comparison. If the last four, or the last five, or the last two or the last one are compared, United do not fare so well.
He also chooses to compare United to Real Madrid, Barcelona and co rather than other Premier League clubs.
The fact is that this summer, United invested the fifth most of the top six clubs in terms of transfers.
Chelsea €247.2 million
Man City €163.3 million
Spurs €110.5 million
Arsenal €86 million
United €83.5 million
Liverpool €79.7 million.
Another fact Woodward did not address is that €36 million of that €83.5 was invested in two raw 18-year-old talents, one with just 26 minutes of professional football to his name, who will not even be able to join the club until January. So in terms of investment into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s current squad, the true figure is more like €47.5 million – little over half of Liverpool’s investment and less than one fifth of that of Chelsea.
This summer’s transfer window was at times frustrating and disappointing. So cast your mind back to less stressful days and test your knowledge of past United arrivals and departures in our quiz below.