Man United’s fall from grace since Sir Alex Ferguson retired has been startling, but not a total shock when you look at the club’s strategy.
They’ve gone through a lot of managers who all had different styles and wanted their own players, so each new boss has had to deal with a bloated squad full of players they probably didn’t want.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has finally started to turn that around, but he inherited one almighty mess from Jose Mourinho. A report from The Manchester Evening News gave some details on Mourinho’s signings, and it’s not pretty reading.
The amounts involved and the contribution (or there lack of) from each player shows how far he set the club back:
Paul Pogba – £89m from Juventus
Although the fee might be worth it just to watch Graeme Souness seethe every time he has to talk about the Frenchman, it’s easy to say he hasn’t lived up to expectations. He’s gone missing in big games, missed vital penalties by trying to make the run up all about him, has suffered multiple injuries and his attitude and agent are a constant problem. He’s a distraction that the club are still dealing with now, but the arrival of Bruno Fernandes has shown they can cope without him, but much more was expected of the marquee signing.
Victor Lindelof – £31m from Benfica
The Swede has proven to be a competent defender, but he’s also been a major part of a defence which has been an issue for a while. His main problem is he does everything competently but doesn’t excel. He’s not dominant in the air, exceptional on the ball, particularly quick, great at reading the game and he doesn’t show much in the way of leadership, so he’s really just an average player who hasn’t developed much since arriving.
Romelu Lukaku – £75m from Everton
The Belgian has been outstanding at Inter Milan and was a star at Everton before joining, so it suggests the problem was Man United. It looked like Mourinho wanted him to be what Didier Drogba was to his Chelsea sides, but he’s a totally different player. Lukaku is at his best getting in behind, scoring goals and using his instincts to create problems. Mourinho wanted him to be the warrior who would use his all round game to link everything with the midfield, but it just didn’t work. It must be galling for United fans to see him doing so well at Inter, and it was another expensive signing that didn’t work out.
Nemanja Matic – £40m from Chelsea
This is one that will split the fans, as he was tasked with doing a fairly dull job in the midfield. At his best he’s capable of shielding the back four, keeping the ball moving and letting other players play, but he is often criticised for slowing things down, being too slow to keep up with play and generally holding the team back. He’s not been a disaster by any means, but you’ll struggle to find many fans who would be gutted if he left.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – free
This is one that did work out in his first season, he proved he could play in the Premier League and we all got to see his class over the course of a season. He was never a long term option so you can’t judge much from his signing, but he was one of the few that did work out.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – £27m from Dortmund
This was a disaster for a couple of reasons, but first it’s important to look at how he did at United. He never really seemed to fit in and could only contribute five goals in his 39 Premier League games for the club, so he can’t be judged as a success. He never managed to nail down a regular starting spot in any position, and eventually that led to him being swapped for an even bigger disaster…
Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal – swapped for Mkhitaryan
Incredibly this deal worked out terribly for both clubs, as neither player settled down and both find themselves on loan in Italy. The biggest problem for United is the fans thought they were getting another Robin van Persie, but the Chilean’s confidence and pace had gone, and he contributed very little on the pitch. On top of that, his wage is rumoured to be around £400k a week and although he’s on loan at Inter Milan, United still pay a significant portion of that. This is a horrendous signing that keeps on giving, as he’s no longer there but his wage is still a drain on the club too, and probably stops them signing another player to help the squad until he leaves.
Diego Dalot – £19m from Porto
This is a signing who could still work out, he’s only 21 and very versatile so that should allow him to get some chances in the team, but it’s hard to see where he would have a long term future. He prefers to play as a right back but Aaron Wan-Bissaka has nailed that spot down, while Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams are more natural options on the left. He has some use playing higher up on the right hand side, but he’s unlikely to excel as a winger long term, so he looks like a promising back up at best.
Fred – £52m from Shakhtar
Fred’s started to come good in recent months, but that seems to be down to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s management. Under Mourinho it was clear he had no idea how to use him, he didn’t look confident and his use of the ball was horrendous, but that’s started to change. He’s clearly got pace and energy, but now he has a clear role in the team and even looks like an important part of the team, but Mourinho can’t take any credit for that.
So that suggests Mourinho spent over £330m on these players and only Fred looks like an important player at this point. Paul Pogba could be top class if he knuckles down and gets back in the team, but it shows that Solskjaer has done an admirable job to clear out some expensive mistakes while working to improve the team.