The analysis of United’s search for a director of football has so far focused on how the position can be a benefit for bringing players to Old Trafford, but the absence of a transfer structure recently has cost United when it comes to selling players, rather than buying them.
This is a squad that is both bloated and yet lacking strength in depth, as witnessed by the average performances of some of those players given a chance against Reading in the FA Cup third round.
Beyond those key regulars that have inspired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s flying start, particularly in the Premier League, are a number of players whose futures at Old Trafford are, at best, in doubt, and many could have gone before now had United been more adept at selling players.
Just consider how streetwise their biggest rivals have become at getting rid of unwanted players. Manchester City and Liverpool have modern transfer structures in place and this has accelerated the squad overhauls that have been crucial in giving Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp the trimmed, talented squads they want. There’s very few passengers at Anfield or the Etihad now.
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That’s not the case at United. While City have found buyers for Samir Nasri, Aleksandar Kolarov, Fernando, Nolito, Wilfried Bony, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jason Denayer over the last two summers, raising over £60m in the process, United have found it tough to flog their deadwood and hard to strike the type of deals that their rivals have when selling players that were no longer needed.
Similarly to City, Liverpool have raised £40m from the recent sales of Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings alone, two fringe strikers who were rarely even troubling the bench.
In the summer City sold a goalkeeper who hadn’t played for them, in Angus Gunn, for the best part of £13m, while Liverpool raised £12m from the sale of Danny Ward, a goalkeeper who had made three appearances for them. Every little helps.
These are the type of outgoing deals that United have struggled to strike. They’ve either found it difficult to get rid of players or have failed to attract the eye-watering prices that are seen above for some of their unwanted squad members.
Both clubs have found it easier to sell players because they have a transfer structure in place, with a role responsible for selling as well as buying players, taking the pressure off the management and the executives when it comes to hawking the for sale players around clubs domestically and in Europe.
United now need to follow suit and make sure they have a director of football in place well ahead of the summer window opening, ready for the July sales that will trim this United squad, creating space and raising funds for whoever the next permanent manager is to put his own touch on it.
The final weeks of the transfer window will be too late for shifting out too many players, allowing little time for replacements to be sought. Instead, United need rid early. They need to be efficient when it comes to selling, but also capable of making sure they get the best possible fee.
It’s almost certainly going to be a busy summer, with Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo leading the way with the clear outs and the futures of Andreas Pereira, Fred, Juan Mata, Scott McTominay and more open to debate. United need a master auctioneer in to shift out the excess and raise funds for the new manager to begin his own squad transformation.