2011/12 Campaign (2nd in Premier League)
For as long as the Premier League has existed Manchester United have been there or thereabouts at the top come May. In fact, the most Entitled Club since 1888/1889 is Manchester United. Out of the 20 Premier League competitions there have been, United have won 12. Sir Alex Ferguson has been in charge for each and every one of them and Ryan Giggs has played in all 20, too. Manchester United have always dominated the Premier League and so they should. Since the formation of the Premier League in February 1992, the club with the highest revenues has usually won the title. 10 of United’s twelve titles came during 1993-2008 and since Chelsea were taken over by Roman Abramovich they have won two.
Unfortunately, however, the trend can be bucked and last season it was. despite revenues in the year preceding the 2011/12 campaign of just €169.6m, a 22% increase, at Manchester City, Just shy of €300m less than Manchester United, City took the title. They did, however, have a higher wage bill and higher net expenditure than United.
On the pitch, United struggled defensively at times: Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were often exploited when their inexperience shone through and Jonny Evans was criticised in the first half of the season for his regular ineptitude. He did, though, have a strong second half to the season in the absence of United’s Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic, who’s presence was sorely missed. David De Gea, United’s costly long-term replacement for Edwin Van Der Sar was also subject for criticism and Ferguson’s willingness to both back and change his no.1 throughout the season was symbolic of the transition underway at Old Trafford. Uncharacteristically, United finished the season trophyless. Unless, of course, the Community Shield counts.
Between October 2003 and October 2009 Liverpool’s net spend was £122m. Simply put, they had spent £122m more on transfers than they had made. Alex Ferguson’s net spend at Manchester United during that same time period was nearly £100m less at £27m. Arsenal’s was -£27m. That’s right, Arsenal had actually spent £27m less on transfer fees than they had received in them. So who won the most titles in that period? Liverpool didn’t win a single one, Arsenal won just one (the first one in that time period) and Manchester United won three. However, the dying out of the School of ’92 (only Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, rightly, remain) and the presence of Manchester City has forced United to change that. Since 2010 United’s transfer spending has increased year-on-year, actually doubling since 2010.
Since the Glazers purchased Manchester United in 2005, fans, as well as rivals, have put the pressure on Manchester United to increase their spending. The Glazers are not liked by the United faithful: they have leveraged the club with debts, spent little, comparatively, on improving the squad and have faced stiff yellow and green opposition on the terraces. Yet, Sir Alex Ferguson defends the club’s owners: “They have always backed me whenever I have asked them. I have never faced any opposition,” said the Scot, “When the Glazers took over here there was dissatisfaction, so there have always been pockets of supporters who have their views. But I think the majority of real fans will look at it realistically and say it’s not affecting the team. We’ve won four championships since they’ve been there and one European Cup.” But, City’s spending hath no cap and thus how true does Ferguson’s claim that “it’s not affecting the team” ring?
Either way, Manchester United are this summer transfer window splashing the cash and it may well be in retaliation to the accusations and/or in stark realization that City can buy success where United have chosen to harvest it over two decades: “We can play 18-year-olds because it’s part of our history,” explained Ferguson, ”No other clubs can do that. City won’t do it. They definitely won’t play any young players who have come up through their system.” But what City have done is force United to swing the balance slightly towards outward investment rather than inward investment in the short term and the signings of Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa illustrate this. The return of Nemanja Vidic will buoy Manchester United’s defence, but further acquisitions must be made if United are going to continue to compete. Their central defence simply does not have the strength in depth required and neither does the centre of midfield.
Preseason spending must continue if United are to go for the title once more and the calibre of player they are being linked with -Robin van Persie, Robert Lewandowski, Lucas Moura and Fernando Llorente are the ilk of player that Manchester United need to be acquiring. Fortunately, it looks as if more names will be joining the ranks at United: chief operating officer, Michael Bolingbroke said that United’s net spend over the last 10-15 years had averaged out at between £20-25 million but stated that “[United are receiving] guidance at the moment that the current transfer period could result in net expenditure nearer £40 million.”
Even so, if that is the case, Chelsea have already spent £20m more than United’s projected total and one of either Arsenal and City are likely to surpass it, too. If this is the case, expect City and Chelsea to finish above United and Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger to go head-to-head once more, but this time for third place.
If United are to surpass our prediction of 4th place, Sir Alex Ferguson will be the difference: Manchester United hired him because he was special – he broke the SPL duopoly. Since he’s been at United, he has: consistently won titles with lower than most net spend; has won 12 Premier League titles despite spending the same or less than frustrated rivals; has managed United in such a way that they habitually live within their means; which has led to United almost always making operating profits; and has done so with the odds against him, in a financial sense, due to wealthy-backing owners of rival clubs.
We fear, however, that the odds might be too great this season.