Ed Woodward’s admission that it would not be “business as usual” for Manchester United during the next transfer window should come as little or no surprise to anyone.
The club will find itself in a better position than most when the market reopens but the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus on the global economy is undoubtedly going to have an effect on football’s finances.
Indeed, right now, it represents a trip into the unknown.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said earlier this month that he hopes to “exploit” the transfer market to strengthen his squad. Financial experts are of the opinion that United will be one of the few clubs in a position to spend. However, certain deals are already being ruled out due to the biggest financial crisis the game has ever faced.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane was under consideration but senior figures at United had already abandoned the idea of signing the England captain before Woodward addressed the fans’ forum on Friday.
“Nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of the challenge facing everyone in football and it may not be ‘business as usual’ for any clubs, including ourselves, in the transfer market this summer,” the executive vice-chairman said.
“As ever, our priority is the success of the team, but we need visibility of the impact across the whole industry, including timings of the transfer window, and the wider financial picture, before we can talk about a return to normality.
“On this basis, I cannot help feeling that speculation around transfers of individual players for hundreds of millions of pounds this summer seems to ignore the realities that face the sport.”
Those realities are unavoidable, even at United.
It’s now possible that the club will entertain ideas that would previously have been dismissed out of hand.
Last summer, United valued Paul Pogba at £180 million (R4.1 billion). However, with so much uncertainty now surrounding the market due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the World Cup winner would now be lucky to fetch even half of that figure.
Pogba’s present contract expires next year but United have the option to extend it for a further year.
They have yet to do so, though, and the Covid-19 crisis leaves them with a trickier decision to make this summer than they were expecting.
Cash in now before Pogba’s value falls even further? Or trigger the extension and hope that prices return to something resembling their previous levels next year?
Pogba has already made it clear he wants a challenge away from United and his agent Mino Raiola has been doing his best to try and engineer a move for the 27-year-old France international.
So, does Solskjaer even want to retain a player that isn’t committed to his rebuilding project? If not, then selling Pogba this summer, even at a knockdown price, would make sense, as it would still generate a considerable amount of money for new signings.
England winger Jadon Sancho remains a priority, given his age and pace, but striking a deal with Borussia Dortmund won’t be easy.
“There is no new situation. Currently no club will risk anything in making a big-money move – not even in England,” Dortmund chief Michael Zorc said on Monday. “We have a long-term contract with Jadon Sancho and that is why we are totally relaxed.”
The former Manchester City star would likely cost around £100 million (R2.3 billion) – a sum that Woodward has conceded is no longer a legitimate price to pay – so it’s easy to understand why Zorc and the Dortmund hierarchy feel relaxed over a potential transfer.
However, United are still going to be one of a handful of clubs which will be able to spend, while some of their cash-strapped rivals may be forced to accept cut-price deals for their stars.
So, if United offload players they deem surplus to requirements, such as Pogba, it may be possible to land a top target after all. - goal.com