Is Graeme Souness right about Man United's transfer waste?

Graeme Souness doubts Manchester United would recoup their money on ANY of their players after a decade of ‘horrible decisions’ and over £1billion spent under the Glazers… so is he right?

  • Souness writes about United in his column as Sir Jim Ratcliffe invests £1.4billion
  • Liverpool legend believes they’d struggle to make any profit on their squad 
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

One urgent priority for Sir Jim Ratcliffe as he comes in at Old Trafford is to improve Manchester United’s record when it comes to recruitment.

Far too often in recent times, United have been guilty of overpaying for their marquee signings.

Even worse, many of them quickly tail off when it comes to performance, becoming very expensive mistakes or misjudgements with zero hope of recouping the initial outlay.

While the majority of players will depreciate in value over the course of their contract, the drop-off when it comes to some of United’s big-money signings is really alarming.

As United’s hierarchy figure out how Ratcliffe fits in, it’s a point picked up on by Mail Sport’s Graeme Souness in his Saturday column.

These are far from vintage times for Manchester United after a disappointing season opening

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is set to come in with a £1.4billion investment for a 25 per cent stake and a say in running football operations at Old Trafford

The Glazers have overseen over £1billion worth of transfer spending in the past decade – but United have declined during this period 

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Souness says United have a ‘modest’ group of players and are ‘so far behind where they want to be and where they should be.’

He adds: ‘Because of that, there is one area Ratcliffe must address with urgency. Recruitment. This is the most important thing you have to get right at any football club.

‘Man United, since Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill left in 2013, have given a masterclass in how not to do it, and they’ve spent over £1billion in the process.

Graeme Souness, writing in Mail Sport, believes United would fail to get their money back on anyone in their squad 

‘There are no new ways of playing football. It was, and always will be about having fabulous players. Man United, with non-football people making football decisions, have got this horribly wrong for more than a decade.

‘Consider this – if you put every Man United player on the transfer market now, would they get their money back on any of them? I don’t think so.’

So is Souness correct in that assertion?

Using the current values provided by Transfermarkt, there is an astonishing £151.7million depreciation on United’s squad from each player’s original transfer fee.

A squad that cost United £886.5m to assemble only has a worth right now of £734.8m.

Ratcliffe, as an astute businessman, will want to understand how the current owners, the Glazers, and their recruitment staff have come to throw so much money down the drain.

Souness isn’t quite correct in saying every single United player has lost their value, but a majority of them have and, in some cases, in a very short space of time.

Defender Harry Maguire was signed for £80m in 2019 but is now valued by Transfermarkt at just £17.4m – a startling reduction of £62.6m.

Jadon Sancho’s value has plummeted dramatically in the two years since United paid £73m for him – with the winger currently banished to the reserves by manager Erik ten Hag

Harry Maguire (left), signed for £80m in 2019, and Antony (right), bought for £85.5m just last year, are two other expensive signings to see their value quickly depreciate 

Maguire is 30 and United paid an inflated fee in the first place, but the reality is his time at Old Trafford has not improved his game or value.

Quite the opposite, Maguire has enjoyed good patches of form but has also proved error-prone and has ended up unwanted under Erik ten Hag. United wanted to sell him over the summer and will listen to offers in January.

But it suggests United’s hope of recovering £30m or more for the England defender is fanciful.

Other falls in value are more precipitous. Jadon Sancho cost them £73m just two years ago but his market value is now placed at £27.9m, a collapse of £45.1m in a short space of time.

Sancho was banished to United’s reserves having refused to apologise to Ten Hag for effectively calling him a liar over his performances in training.

United want to cut their losses and it’s shaping up to be one hell of a loss – and that’s if anyone is actually willing to take a punt on him.

It remains to be seen whether Erik ten Hag can help Ratcliffe and his team turn around United’s poor record on recruitment 

Captain Bruno Fernandes is one of the few United signings to have effectively held their value

The value of another winger, the Brazilian winger Antony, has plummeted from a transfer fee of £85.5m paid only last year to just £43.5m – almost half.

Ajax drove a hard bargain in the knowledge Ten Hag really wanted Antony but it’s already clear that was an absurdly high transfer fee to pay.

It is too early to write Antony off but United will want to see a marked improvement to get some kind of return on what was a hefty investment.

Losses permeate right through the squad – Casemiro enjoyed a superb first season but ultimately United paid £60m for a 30-year-old with little to no resale value.

This season, the Brazilian seems to have aged five years overnight and Transfermarkt reckon United would only get £34.8m for him now.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek are two more prime examples of money being spent without any prospect of getting it back.

It isn’t all bad news. Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw have held or increased their value on the original outlay.

Casemiro was another expensive recruit but has struggled desperately for form this season

Donny van de Beek cost United £35m but it quickly became apparent he wouldn’t be used

Ratcliffe will be keen to make United smarter when it comes to recruitment so they lose less 

The figure would also be worse if not for the successes of some academy graduates. Marcus Rashford is valued at £65.3m should United ever feel the need to sell him and Alejandro Garnacho will hopefully become a star too.

But Souness is correct to say ‘non-football people making football decisions’ have got many recruitment decisions ‘horribly wrong’ over the course of a decade.

Ratcliffe didn’t become a billionaire by making such poor decisions. If he does take control of the football operations after investing £1.4bn – and there are now doubts the Glazers will totally relinquish control – he will want to make United much smarter when buying and selling players.

Just a glance at the losses on the current squad suggests this won’t come a moment too soon.


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