Irrespective of any suspicions that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson may be simply covering up for his debt laden club owners when he refuses to splash out millions in a transfer market which he regards as having ‘no value’, there can be little doubt that he is nevertheless talking a lot of sense when he accuses clubs like Manchester City of “going on a kamikaze spending spree.” Ferguson did not mention City by name of course but there can be very little doubt as to who his remarks were aimed at.
The cash rich Blues will not only have spent in the vicinity of £125million on transfer fees this summer when James Milner finally completes his deal this week, the amount of wages the club has agreed to pay their star signings have reached astronomical proportions. Can anyone possibly put forward any valid argument why any player will refuse a contract worth £100,000 a week rather than the two hundred which City are putting into the pockets of Yaya Toure in order to lure him from Barcelona?
We are surely talking ‘funny money’ here. Let’s face it, even £50,000 a week guaranteed for the duration of a three or four year contract is overly generous. Can you imagine how much money we are talking about here or has everyone lost all sense of proportion? It’s little wonder that the situation has led Ferguson to do some straight talking “Over the last two or three years we have seen very wealthy owners become part of football clubs and therefore go on this kamikaze effort to spend their money” he said.
His own transfer dealings for the new season only involved three sensible acquisitions with an eye on the future. Critics will point out that Ferguson has never resisted on splashing out big money in the past and has only been reined in by financial constraints placed on the club by its owners. While there may well be some truth in that line of thinking, there can also be no argument that the money involved in those days pales into insignificance when compared to current expenditures – and Sir Alex sees no quick end to it.
“I don’t see it abating” he admits “the kind of spending we are seeing at the moment will be here for two or three years until such time as they understand you can’t necessarily achieve all the time by spending. It is amazing the amounts of money that are being bandied about in the present day game” he continues “some people may think it could be dangerous but if they have that kind of money they are certainly using it.”
Ferguson freely admits that there would have been little benefit for the club if he had also gone on a spending spree saying that “We could have bought players in the summer for a lot of money. But I didn’t think they would have made a really big difference. They wouldn’t have done what Cantona, Rooney, or Ronaldo did for us. They wouldn’t have given us that quantum leap.”
Sir Alex is firmly of the opinion that investing in younger players can bring far better results for the club. There are no enormous transfer fees involved to start off with then crucially, those youngsters will gain an inbuilt sense of loyalty towards the club. “Young players develop if you are looking after them properly” Ferguson insists “they do have a loyalty because they appreciate the education you give them as coaches. How we treat players is important” he says.
“It is difficult to know what other clubs think. We are just the type of club who can do it. The foundations of this club were built on young people going back to the 1950s. It has not really left. Maybe the difference is that other clubs don’t have the consistency in manager and staff that Manchester United have.”
Despite those firmly held beliefs, Ferguson is realistic enough to realise that going into the transfer market must not be completely ruled out “There will be a time when we have to buy a more mature player” he concedes “at the moment this is a young players club but they will grow old too. In 10 years’ time we will be looking to replace them. Hopefully they are there in 10 years’ time. That is the object in terms of having a long term vision for the club.”
The harsh reality is that every club manager worth his salt will have exactly the same principles but unfortunately, the vast majority will not be allowed the time required to live by them. Ferguson has succeeded purely because he has the unique ability of combining the short term success every club craves for with the long term vision that he sees as being necessary. Sadly, without the first, very few managers will ever be given the opportunity to realise the second.
Will Ferguson’s eventual successor be likely to be given the same opportunity by the club?