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Man Utd & THAT £140M: Why they'll drive summer market - but won't be alone

COMMENT: Well, it's out of the bag now. Ed Woodward and Manchester United's dealmakers would rather have kept it hidden. But we now know United have some serious free cash to work with this summer - and it's news that should be welcomed by all across Europe....

£140m. That's the staggering amount United have drawn from their revolving credit facility with the Bank of America. Cliff Baty, United's chief financial officer, has confirmed the decision - though you fancy it was hoped the news would not have blown up as it has this past week.

Vice-chairman exec Woodward had been painstaking in stressing that United would have to be modest with their summer spend. He'd relayed this message to shareholders. To supporters' groups. Even in fanzines: United would not be going crazy once the transfer window's opening date was established.

Of course, this flew in the face of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's claims just a few weeks previous. United's manager admitting they could "exploit" a market hit by revenue concerns over the coronavirus pandemic: "...who knows how the market is going to react to this? Who knows which clubs need to sell players? There might be just a situation there where you can exploit, and I know that we at Man United we are one of the biggest and financially well-off".

And you fancy Solskjaer's words were closer to what those inside the club are actually thinking than the claims of Woodward. Of course, they didn't wish to show their hand so publicly, but United want to spend this summer. Jadon Sancho, the Borussia Dortmund winger, has been earmarked and promised the coveted No7 shirt. Aston Villa's captain Jack Grealish is counting down the days for when his dream Old Trafford move can be rubberstamped. And there remains a confidence that Jude Bellingham, Birmingham City's teenage wunderkind, will still choose them over Borussia Dortmund. This all before Solskjaer's main desire - a mobile, consistent centre-forward - can be identified and secured.

This will take money. And that £140m now sitting in the bank account will go a long way to satisfying those needs. Claims that United have taken the cash to absorb internal issues due to the pandemic don't really chime with the club's actions in recent weeks. Refunding season ticket holders. Waiving loan fees for their players from lower league teams. These aren't the actions of a club looking to pull up the draw bridge and hoard what's theirs.

And this is a good thing. For United fans. For clubs across Europe. And simply football in general. What United have seen going forward has given them a confidence to take out this loan. One which has left just £10m remaining to be redrawn. And one that will need to be paid back within five years. It's clear, doing their sums, that this money - even stretching to over 95 per cent of what they can borrow - will be paid back. It will soon be business as usual.

The doom and gloom merchants won't like it. Even despise it. The ones who trumpet out that phrase of the mediocre and mundane: 'a new normal'. The phrase of those with no solutions and nothing constructive to suggest. But the actions of United does suggest their research has produced results that things will spring back. It's no wild guess that it's only government demands that will keep fans from stadiums. Indeed, this column would argue if we could all attend Premier League games tomorrow, no amount of finger wagging or digital brow-beating would stop people coming back. Those same stadiums would be sold-out twice over.

And the same you expect will be seen in the transfer market. It'll work as it always has done: What do you want and what are you willing to pay for it? Some claim fees will be drastically slashed. But it will all depend - as it always has - on competition.

The £70m, £80m, £100m-plus fees we've been seeing weren't just plucked from thin air. They've been the going rate ever since the Qatari-backed PSG chose to meet the €222m buyout clause in Neymar's Barcelona contract three years ago. From there, Dortmund knew Barca had the money to pay €140m for Ousmane Dembele. And six months on Liverpool used that yardstick to demand similar from Barca for Philippe Coutinho. And so the market, as we see today, was set...

Before PSG, there was Roman Abramovich's Chelsea who set the bar. Then the UAE's takeover of Manchester City and their entry into football. Now, along with the established like United, there could be a new mover and shaker: Newcastle United and the spending power their imminent Saudi-backed owners possess.

Suddenly those aiming for a top four finish have a new rival. And not just on the pitch - but in the market too. Instantly, Crystal Palace aren't just negotiating with Arsenal and Tottenham regarding Wilfried Zaha, but a cashed up and ambitious Toon also. Will they refuse the chance of an auction? To keep their club on a sound financial footing? All to satisfy some anonymous finger waggers in cyberspace? Of course not. Steve Parish and co will happily sell to the highest bidder.

And from there, the bar will be set. Those clubs who missed out on Zaha will look elsewhere. The price he went for will be a barometer. And so it all rolls on...

But significantly, a new - and needed - cash injection will enter the Premier League via Newcastle. If those in charge can be encouraged to shop locally, it'll mean a boost for the football pyramid in England. Just as Abramovich did with Chelsea and Shelkh Mansour with City.

The faces may change, but it'll all run the same. The market will roll along as normal. And that will include - as ever - Manchester United again being among it's biggest spenders.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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