The Weekly Sermon

We are currently in the thick of the summer transfer window, truly the greatest time of the footballing calendar. Whenever this time of the year rolls around, the debate often revolves around the amount of money spent and far worse, talk of net spend. Let’s see if we can provide some net spend analysis for you. What does it tell us about United’s title chances?

By the way, sorry if the phrase ‘net spend’ sent a shiver down your spine, like Sideshow Bob contemplating massaging Selma’s corny toes. Firstly, let’s have a look at Manchester United’s total spend so far and how it compares with the rest of the league:

Manchester United Analysis Spending Premier League

As always, Manchester United are already one of the biggest spenders in the league ranking third in the table.

Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant are the three players purchased by United so far. Fred was a much-needed purchase to improve the central midfield and could prove crucial to catching City and winning the league. Dalot and Grant are much more underwhelming signings, both likely to be backups for much better players already in the squad.

In a recent press conference, Jose Mourinho stated that he wants at least two more players to improve the squad. At the time of writing, United have ‘approached’ Leicester for Harry Maguire, as apparently, six centre-backs are not enough. The other target is likely to be a winger, with United being linked with Willian, Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic in recent times.

Now let’s see what Manchester United’s net spend looks like:

Manchester United Analysis Spending Premier League

The only players to leave so far are Daley Blind, Sam Johnstone and Michael Carrick. Blind was sold at a ‘profit’ (if you completely ignore inflation), whilst Johnstone went for a modest fee and Carrick retired. Marcos Rojo, Anthony Martial and Matteo Darmian may also be following them out the door in the next few weeks.

So will the net spend improve by the end of the window? It seems unlikely at this stage. The possible two new purchases will likely total in excess of £100m. It is likely that Rojo and Darmian will be sold at a loss or at the very least, modest fees. Martial might be sold for a large fee, but he was purchased for £54m in the first place.

What does this tell us? Well, yet again Manchester United have spent a huge amount of money, which they would hope will help them But look at the teams that surround them in both tables. Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City are all spending similar amounts.

United might improve this summer with these purchases. But all those other teams who finished around them (except Spurs for some reason) are spending big money too. Crucially, unlike United, they don’t have an air of doom and gloom surrounding them as well. Liverpool are on a high after getting to the Champions League final then purchasing some top players. Arsenal and Chelsea have new coaches with fresh, exciting new ideas and revamped squads. Manchester City won the league at a canter then went and bought Riyad Mahrez to warm the bench.

Meanwhile, United haven’t won a pre-season game and Jose is moaning about how terrible they are. Plus, we seem to be making purchases off the back of a player’s performance in a World Cup. Hadn’t we all agreed that this was now a terrible idea?

This isn’t the first season where Manchester United have spent more than they’ve brought in. They have a negative net spend in every season since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club. This amount of spending hasn’t brought unparalleled success either, we’ve had to settle for three cups and no league titles.

However, for a team like Manchester United, is net spend even that relevant a statistic? After all, they should be buying the very best players and for that, you have to pay a huge amount of money. This will always skew the net spend figure towards the negative amount.

Also, United would only sell a player for one of three reasons. They were never good enough, they are no longer good enough or a bigger club has come in for them.

If a player is leaving for the first reason, that is a fault on United’s part. But it also means that they are unlikely to recoup their investment. The buying club will have seen that player struggle and therefore will know United want to get rid. All the power is with the purchaser in this situation. Blind and Johnstone likely fall into this category, hence the rather low fees received.

The second reason means that the player has aged out of the first team. Again, United aren’t going to recoup whatever they paid for these players, as no club would pay a massive fee for someone over the age of thirty (Ronaldo aside).

The final reason is the only time United will actually make money on a player. There aren’t too many teams that are a genuine step up from United, so this rarely occurs. The last time this actually happened was when they sold Ronaldo to Real Madrid back in 2009. He was the first to make such a move arguably since David Beckham did it in 2003.

Ultimately, what does net spend tell us? For smaller clubs, it can be the lifeblood of their finances. For Manchester United, it tells us very little. If anything, fans should be worried if the net spend is positive. A negative net spend shows that your club is spending money and attempting to improve. For a team like United, who found themselves short of the mark last season, that was a necessity.

United are currently keeping pace with their competitors when it comes to spending. But it is far more important to look at is who is being purchased with the money. Is that leading to a positive result on the pitch? Can they chase down Manchester City? Net spend can’t do that. Only the squad and the manager can. Currently, they don’t look like they’ll manage it.