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That’s why the Red Devils are the worst negotiators in world football



That's why the Red Devils are the worst negotiators in world football

Coach Erik ten Hag has made a huge improvement on the pitch at Manchester United. However, the club still seems awkward when it comes to squad planning.

Last summer, Manchester City made more money from transfers than Manchester United in the previous decade. Let that sink in for a moment.

Manchester City have made £143m (€183m) from the sales of Raheem Sterling, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus, making a profit for a combined £95m (€121m) despite signing Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips .

On the other side of Manchester, United took in a total of €13m, most of which came from the sale of Andreas Pereira to Fulham. That same summer, United spent more than €244m, €100m on Antony alone.

Pereira finished the season with ten Premier League goals involved and was one of Fulham’s most influential players in an impressive first season back in the Premier League. Antony, on the other hand, has been involved in just six goals for United in the Premier League, scoring just once between November and May and only providing an assist in April.

It might seem a bit arbitrary to compare the prices of two players of different ages, different positions and at different stages of their careers, but given their performances last season it’s fair to say that United are selling Pereira for and underpriced Antony paid far too much.

Manchester United is a bad negotiator

While every club makes mistakes in the transfer market and deals can only be judged in hindsight, United have proven to be very poor negotiators in the transfer market, both when buying and selling players.

And there’s little sign of improvement either. Now United officials have agreed to pay up to £70.5m for Mason Mount even though he was in the last year of his contract with Chelsea and although Chelsea’s desperate need to sell players and generate cash is far from being in one was in a good negotiating position. But you can do it with United.

ManUnited officials have also withdrawn the offer for a new contract for goalkeeper David de Gea. Mind you, after the Spaniard agreed to the club’s original offer. As a result, loyal de Gea will leave the club on a free transfer after twelve years.

So while United are now negotiating, for example, with Inter Milan about signing keeper André Onana, with Atalanta Bergamo for Rasmus Höjlund and with other clubs to strengthen Erik ten Hag’s squad for the coming season, the clubs know the other side of the negotiating table that they can poke fun at the Red Devils.

Manchester United: All money thrown away for Antony

One of the reasons United tend to overpay for players is that those in charge often try to close deal after deal. Once they fixate on a transfer target, they don’t look left or right and are willing to do anything to get the deal sealed.

The result is that they often overpay for the player they want, making no secret of the fact that they want the player badly, no matter what the cost.

An example of this is the effort for Antony from Ajax Amsterdam last summer. Not wanting to sell the Brazilian winger, the Dutch realized United were keen to have him. Ajax chief executive at the time, Edwin van der Sar, admitted that Ajax had all the bargaining power.

He said The Athletic: “We would have liked to have kept him here for another year, we didn’t necessarily have to sell him, we had money in the bank. But the transfer fee was so high. We challenged United to go as far as possible.

United said earlier in the summer they would not pay more than €70.5m for Antony. It ended up being 100 million. The result: United had no more money for further purchases in the winter. While Liverpool FC signed Cody Gakpo, who was courted by United, Ten Hag could only sign Wout Weghorst and Bayern flop Marcel Sabitzer on loan after the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo in November.

Manchester United have outbid City at Harry Maguire

It was the same with Harry Maguire. The England centre-back was José Mourinho’s pick after a superb 2018 World Cup and was available for €70m but United were unwilling to back the Portuguese manager.

The following summer, with Maguire’s value rising even further, Manchester City also expressed interest in the defender, prompting Leicester to demand a whopping £100m (€118m) for him. City hit the pain mark at £70m, which United easily beat: In the end, the Reds paid £80m for Harry Maguire.

Four years on, Maguire may be a dubious internet phenomenon, but he’s fifth in United’s centre-back pecking order. He only started eight Premier League games last season and even had to give up his place to left-back Luke Shaw in a few games.

While he suited the style of football Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted to play and is still a key player for England manager Gareth Southgate, Maguire struggles with possession and the higher back ten Hag.

United would be ready to sell Maguire this summer but have reportedly set a transfer fee of around €60m. That should put off potential buyers and could cause its actual price to drop even further. Trying to get the best price for Maguire could mean United will get a worse price in the long run.

Manchester United need to learn from Man City

One thing that separates City from United when negotiating is their willingness to forego a deal. Last summer, the Sky Blues were interested in Brighton’s Marc Cucurella but scaled back their interest when the €53m call was made. City opted instead for Sergio Gomez from Borussia Dortmund and paid a fee of 13 million euros for the back-up.

Cucurella, meanwhile, joined Chelsea for €65m and endured a terrible debut season. Gomez has not fared well for City either, playing just 340 Premier League minutes and starting two games, but the English champions made an important point in negotiations with Brighton and showed they would not be left out.

Sometimes City also signs players for other positions when those responsible have drawn the line. City always has a plan B up its sleeve. After exiting the Maguire deal in 2019, City decided they didn’t need a new centre-back, promoting Eric Garcia from the academy and spending their money on Rodri and João Cancelo instead.

City also withdrew from negotiations for Kalidou Koulibaly and Jorginho after learning Chelsea’s asking price and did the same with Bayern flirt Declan Rice this summer, ultimately winning the bid for Arsenal.

Manchester United: Chelsea paid what Chelsea wanted

United could have squeezed a lower price for Mason Mount from Chelsea as the midfielder was in the last year of his contract with his hometown club and would be available on a free transfer in July 2024. And United tried, the first offer was 47 million euros.

Chelsea declined. But instead of insisting on the price and betting that Chelsea would panic because the Londoners are out before 6/30. had to provide transfer income to improve the balance sheet, United agreed unnecessarily to pay a €65 million guarantee for him plus around €5 million in easy-to-achieve bonuses.

That’s a huge sum for a player who fell out of favor at Stamford Bridge due to his contract situation and only scored three goals last season.

Local rival City signed Mateo Kovacic, whose contract with Chelsea would also have expired in 2024, for around 30 million euros.

Manchester United and David de Gea’s two mistakes

However, United’s lack of skill in negotiating with Mount was soon overshadowed by De Gea’s poor treatment. The club had reportedly agreed a new contract for the Spaniard and the goalkeeper had expected to return to Manchester for pre-season in July. As every year since 2011. He was then shocked that the offer was withdrawn.

The separation from De Gea and the commitment of a forward-looking, modern and ball-safe goalkeeper like André Onana is the right step for the club in sporting terms. But dealing with De Gea leaves the club looking awkward and indecisive and could deter potential signings from negotiating with the club.

The sudden cancellation of the longtime keeper was not even the most unfortunate decision in this posse. In 2019, De Gea was given a contract that guaranteed him €450,000 a week, making him the highest-paid player in the Premier League at the time. The deal not only pushed up payroll costs but also reduced United’s chances of eventually selling De Gea. Now he’s going on a free transfer.

Manchester United can’t sell

De Gea is far from the only high-profile player to have left United for nothing in recent years. Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard left the club after their contracts expired.

The club’s inability to generate transfer fees for players sees the club bottom of the Premier League’s Big Six in player sales between 2013 and 2023 with just €156m.

United’s poor transfer planning in the past means the club are in dire need of selling players this summer to finance the purchase of a striker. After all, a good half of the approximately 141 million euros that United are allowed to spend based on the profitability and sustainability rules of the Premier League has already been spent.

Those responsible urgently need to negotiate harder or cast the net further when scouting. Otherwise they risk that ten Hag will have to fish for the next Weghorst on the rental market.