The Glazer family are ready to invest substantially to reshape David Moyes’ Manchester United squad in recognition of the new manager’s claim that he has inherited a club short of world-class players.
United are likely to respond opportunistically in January rather than lay detailed plans to spend then. It is possible Moyes will be asked to work until the summer with a squad he has said is six world-class players light of Champions League-winning quality. But after a third defeat in six games at the weekend, the Premier League champions could fall so far behind that they will begin struggling for a top-four finish domestically, if the concerning start to the Moyes era extends through this month.
The club’s owners the Glazers acknowledge that the Premier League may be far more competitive this season, despite the indifferent starts that Chelsea and Manchester City have again experienced, and that it may take time and patience, as well as investment, to see the club through the managerial succession. Only now is it becoming apparent quite how significant the guiding hand of Moyes’ predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson actually was, in making an average squad look powerful.
After Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion contributed to United’s worst start to a campaign since 1989-90, there is an acceptance that the club should have bought out Moyes’ contract at Everton as soon as they appointed him – giving him six extra weeks to prepare for the frantic summer transfer window.
Moyes was named as Ferguson’s successor on 9 May – 52 days before his contract at Goodison expired. But he set a great deal of store in conducting himself responsibly at the club he had served for 11 years.
When the transfer window ended with only £27.5m Marouane Fellaini having joined United, the view from the club was that bringing forward Moyes’ start date would have been impractical. But there is now an acceptance that the additional 52 days would have given him time to meet the scouting staff and consider their work, in readiness for the summer business.
United have already seen – and welcome – Moyes’ characteristic reluctance to make impulsive spending decisions and the problem in January may be the high prices they are quoted. They found Everton’s chairman, Bill Kenwright, unwilling to sell Leighton Baines at any price this summer and though the Merseyside club’s coach, Alan Stubbs, has confirmed that Baines did ask to leave for Old Trafford, United would have to make an unrefusable offer.
Though United indicated that they remained interested in Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera, having failed to secure his signature on transfer-deadline night, there are no guarantees that they will be ready to put aside their unease about breaking the club record transfer fee to sign the 24-year-old, come January. United, who valued Herrera at €30m (£25m) last month, are also thought to be tracking the Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala.
Moyes brings his squad out here to eastern Ukraine for potentially their toughest game in their Champions League qualifying group at Shakhtar Donetsk tomorrow, having offered a far more negative assessment of their chances of success in the tournament than Ferguson ever did. After Moyes delivered several brutally honest assessments of the resources at his disposal, consideration must now be given to the effect of that strategy on the players’ morale.