The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager will represent a shift in culture, away from what had previously appeared to be an attempt by the club to recreate Real Madrid‘s galatico model, to a more balanced transfer policy increasingly focused on younger players.
Crystal Palace’s right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 21, is one of the players top of Solskjaer’s list and is one of the potential summer signings, though with a contract until 2022, he is likely to cost about £40million.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, 18, who made his full England debut on Monday, is also wanted, as revealed by Sportsmail, though the complications of getting him out of Chelsea this summer, when the club face a transfer ban, means that there is an acceptance that United may have to wait until next year.
Crystal Palace’s £40m full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is wanted by Man United as they eye youth
Chelsea and England star Callum Hudson-Odoi is also on United’s wanted list for the summer
Nevertheless, United now look to be the most serious rivals to Bayern Munich in the bidding for Hudson-Odoi this summer.
Chelsea insist they will not sell, even though his contract runs out in 2020 and there are no signs of him signing a new deal. Jadon Sancho, 19, is the alternative target but, having signed a deal with Borussia Dortmund until 2022, he will be harder to lure.
United will still compete for bigger names and more experienced players, with the major spend of the summer likely to be the attempt to prise centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly, 27, from Napoli, who could cost £75m.
Borussia Dortmund teenager Jadon Sancho remains a target but will be harder to bring in
But United seem to be forging a more nuanced transfer strategy, with Matt Judge, head of corporate development, playing an influential role as the chief negotiator.
He will be supplemented by a director of football, a move United hope will provide a more balanced approach to recruitment.
Head of development John Murtough, who joined the club with David Moyes, looks to be the leading internal candidate as United attempt to bring cohesion to a sprawling scouting network which was criticised by former manager Jose Mourinho.
But, with Solskjaer in charge, there appears to be a degree of harmony among the powers-that-be who are focusing on signing the best younger players and developing the squad they have rather than looking for a major signing to transform the club.
‘This is not solved by spending money but by hard work every single day,’ said Solskjaer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment coincides with a more nuanced approach to transfers
‘We want the club’s culture all the way through the dressing room: the performance culture we create with the players, and the attitude and hunger they show to want to be the best.
‘We need to have a world-class environment — that’s the only way we can get to the top.
‘We have world-class players but need a consistency and that comes from consistent habits. The players know this too.’
The peak moment of attempting to regain their former glory through financial might came with the capture of Alexis Sanchez in January 2018.
Though the transfer cost was minimal — he was effectively swapped for Henrikh Mkhitaryan — his extraordinary contract, revealed by Der Spiegel and Football Leaks, makes his recruitment one of the costliest misjudgements in Premier League history.
Sanchez is the Premier League’s best-paid player, with his contract reportedly worth a basic £391,000 per week with a £75,000 bonus every time he starts. Yet, even when fit, he is unlikely to make the first XI and even less likely to do so if Hudson-Odoi joins.
There is an acceptance at United that Alexis Sanchez is unlikely to leave due to his wages
There is an acceptance at the club that there is little likelihood of the Chilean leaving, as no club would get close to those wages.
As such, the best policy is to attempt to rebuild his confidence.
United’s other galatico moment came with the signing of Paul Pogba, for a then world-record £89m. Pogba remains an integral part of the future and United will resist Real Madrid’s attempts to unsettle him this summer.
Judge and executive chairman Ed Woodward also need to finalise new deals with David de Gea and Marcus Rashford as well as determine the futures of Juan Mata and Ander Herrera, who are out of contract this summer.
Matteo Darmian is expected to return to Italy, making space for Wan-Bissaka, who would compete with Diogo Dalot at full back.
Solskjaer’s approach has already been orientated towards youth, with Rashford his main centre forward and encouraging academy players. He is not concerned with the pressure of playing for United, adding: ‘The shirt isn’t heavy. Wearing it is a privilege.’
The form of Marcus Rashford has seen United step up moves to tie him down to a new contract