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Solskjaer's transfer gamble: Why going 'low-key' can rescue Man Utd

COMMENT: It'll do nothing for the share price. And those bonus targets for the marketing department won't be paid out. But having transfer policy back in the hands of the football men at Manchester United could be the decision that turns the place around...

Daniel James' arrival. As protracted as the negotiations were. It certainly didn't set the pulse racing. Ditto Aaron Wan-Bissaka. There's no great queue at the Megastore today wanting the shirts of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first two senior signings as United manager. And if he has his way, the same reception will be due those others on his shopping list. Sean Longstaff and James Maddison, the midfielders of Newcastle United and Leicester City respectively. John McGinn, Aston Villa's Scottish midfield schemer. Good players. Good British players. And with the potential to be great. But none to help claw back that £1bn loss on the club's market value from last season.

But so what? Football should be about what happens on the pitch. The rest will take care of itself. Liverpool aren't European champions thanks to a Galacticos approach to the market. They're not now threatening United's status as the country's richest club by buying players to sell shirts.

For many, though not all, Solskjaer has been celebrated for what he's tried to develop on the pitch. Pace. Flair. Attacking with speed. Taking the team back to it's traditions. It's roots. Emulating 'the boss', his old manager Sir Alex Ferguson. And with this summer's approach to transfer policy, it can be argued Solskjaer is drawing that same inspiration of how to work the market.

Yes he wasn't afraid to spend big, even record, money. But Ferguson more often than not sought to buy potential. Especially in those early years when laying the foundations. Raiding Real Madrid for Angel di Maria. Or ferrying Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich. That just wasn't his way. Yes, United were a different proposition 30 years ago. But he still had the money to break transfer records - only he didn't use such resources trying to pull a player from Barcelona or Juventus.

Instead, Ferguson did what we're now witnessing from United today. The Scot's first great team was built on a rash of local signings in a matter of weeks in 1989. Mike Phelan (Norwich City), Neil Webb (Nottingham Forest), Paul Ince (West Ham), Gary Pallister (Middlesbrough) and Danny Wallace (Southampton). Almost half a team. All identified. Signed for big fees. And thrown together by a Ferguson still smarting at being beaten by Terry Venables (and Glenn Roeder) to Paul Gascoigne's signature the year previous. Again, Gazza was just 21 at the time. His three seasons at Newcastle similar to the experience of the likes of Ince and Pallister, who would arrive for bigger money than Tottenham paid for Gascoigne.

That team Ferguson put together would win the FA Cup that season and go onto lift the European Cup Winners' Cup the following year. Two seasons on and the United dynasty would begin with that first League triumph for Sir Alex. All built from a raft of local signings he'd made three years earlier.

Consider today's approach and you can see a similar thread running through Solskjaer's plans. James and Wan-Bissaka. Young players who have proven themselves at one level, with the potential and mentality to go further. They've both had their setbacks. They've both had to overcome doubters. They know they're capable of looking within and finding a way back. All points considered by Solskjaer as he pushed his vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, to get both deals over the line. And it's significant, both players are of similar personalities. Not brash. Not boastful. But sure of themselves. Just like their new manager.

Which is the same you see in Longstaff and Maddison. Indeed, regarding the Leicester midfielder, United's interest actually intensified after the way he handled his demotion to England's U21 Euros squad.

Solskjaer, with Phelan alongside, has clearly drawn a line in the sand. United are reverting to type. It's a gamble. And there'll be little sympathy afforded should results not immediately arrive. But after six years of boom and bust, the manager is trying to lay foundations that will serve the team long-term.

Decisions made not by the marketing chiefs. Nor the shareholders. But by the football men at the club. And it could be just the policy shift this fallen giant needs.


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TransfersOpinion
Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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