Manchester United have reportedly admitted that they can only complete two loan signings in January due to Financial Fair Play regulations.
Recently, in a December Fan Forum, Collette Roche who is United’s Chief Operating Officer told supporters not to expect a busy transfer window.
Roche blamed FFP for the issue but according to fresh revelations made by The Athletic in an explosive report, United are undoubtedly architects of their own downfall.
The newspaper relays just how much incompetence and recklessness ensured the Red Devils regularly overpaid for targets during the two summer windows in which Erik ten Hag has been in charge.
Led by football director – John Murtough – United massively overpaid for Antony for instance.
It’s understood that in Ten Hag’s first summer, one year of plans was crammed into three months in an effort to meet the Dutch coach’s wishes in the market.
As opposed to starting work on landing signings in September 2021, work was initiated in May 2022. The justification for this was that a new manager made it necessary to start afresh.
The Athletic states that scouts during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign had valued Antony at £25m. Internally, United resolved they wouldn’t pay anything above £60m for the Brazilian winger.
However, the Red Devils ended up forking out £86m (€95m guaranteed plus €5m add-ons) for the winger, who has been unable to justify his price tag and is increasingly looking like a flop with every passing game.
While Ten Hag was desperate to add Antony to his ranks, it’s a fact that final approval usually comes from above.
The Athletic states, “Those with an understanding of United’s structure say several directors are involved in “checks and balances” during a transfer window, including chief financial officer Cliff Baty and general counsel Patrick Stewart, who is now interim chief executive, which leads to slower progress on negotiations. Joel Glazer, based in the US, adds a final layer of sign-off.”
Ten Hag’s second summer in charge saw a similar pattern during negotiations to sign Mason Mount, Rasmus Hojlund and Sofyan Amrabat.
” Internally, the price set for Mount was £40m because he had only a year left on his Chelsea contract, but that was the first offer Chelsea received. United’s bidding rose 50 per cent to a total of £55m plus £5m in add-ons. If the full £60m is realised, United will be delighted, however, as they will make a £1m payment every time Mount plays 70 per cent of games in a title-winning campaign during his five-year contract.”
The Athletic relays on Hojlund, “Atalanta had told Hojlund he could leave for £50m, and United communicated they would draw the line at £60m, but then agreed a fee worth £72m during all-day talks in Bergamo that lasted until 3am. Atalanta had demanded £86m for a player they signed for less than £15m just 11 months earlier.”
It’s believed that United opted to pay a hefty £8m loan fee for Amrabat as this was necessary to make his loan option an option rather than an obligation.
Already, there have been suggestions that Ten Hag has already made his mind up about the Moroccan and he will not be retained permanently as he hasn’t met expectations.
Laurie Whitwell adds that as a result of overpaying significantly for so many players, United have been pushed into a corner and can only get two loan deals over the line in January without violating UEFA and FIFA’s financial rules. Internally, this is considered shocking considering the 20-time English champions registered record revenues.
United are also thought to have overpaid for Amad Diallo in 2020, who had at that point, only managed 24 minutes of senior football.
“Murtough worked on the deal, flying out to Bergamo and then spending two weeks in a makeshift office in his garage as a quarantine for Covid-19 regulations. Solskjaer had given his blessing to the signing 48 hours before the announcement, having watched some video footage, but he was unaware of the significant fee, which rose dramatically from when prospective buyers enquired at Atalanta earlier that year.”
“Solskjaer initially believed Amad, an exciting talent, was an academy player but realised after the move was finalised that the money involved meant he was expected to soon feature in the first team.”
Amad cost United £37m.
The Athletic points out that when Richard Arnold took over as CEO in February 2022 he embarked on a campaign to determine why United had very little to show for the £1billion on new players.
The result of his inquiry was that Jim Lawlor and Marcel Bout, two long-standing chief scouts lost their jobs.
Peculiarly, Murtough who was the main culprit kept his role at United.
It’s believed that Arnold consulted Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill about who to appoint as sporting director. Ferguson recommended Dan Ashworth.
An approach was made for Ashworth but when he realized he’d be reporting to Murtough rather than working as his superior, pulled out of talks completely.