Louis van Gaal won’t have any excuses if Manchester United fail to mount a title challenge this season – he has easily the most expensive squad in the Premier League at his disposal.
After a tumultuous summer transfer window closed last week, Mail on Sunday research can reveal the United boss has been left with a squad that cost £379.4million to assemble, more than either Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini or Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho can boast.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement a little over a year ago, United’s new ‘noisy neighbours’ policy has seen them spend a staggering £215 million on players to try and stay on top of the tree.
In the last window alone, they broke the British transfer record fee on Angel Di Maria and signed Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind before splashing out a further £5million to take Falcao on loan from Monaco.
While Burnley broke their transfer record by paying £3million for George Boyd, United have 16 players that they paid at least £10million for.
And while there has been criticism that the squad is top-heavy with attacking players, van Gaal will have a goalkeeper David de Gea and defenders Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Rafael, Rojo, Shaw and Blind available – signed for a total of £104.7million.
To put it into context, the figure United have spent on defenders (including goalkeeper) is more than 15 Premier League clubs have spent on their entire squads.
The change in the Premier League landscape is due to Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour reining in spending to comply with financial fairplay regulations while United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward attempts to prove his club are major players in European football despite finishing only seventh last season and missing out on the Champions League.
United want to build a team that mixes superstars and homegrown talent – an English version of Real Madrid during their Galactico years.
The Essex-born accountant, who went to the same public school as Frank Lampard, may have a quieter personality than Manchester City’s former CEO Garry Cook but they have a similar vision for their football clubs; speculate to accumulate and make the world know you’re there.
Woodward made it clear last year he would have broken the world-transfer record had Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to move to Old Trafford and he will spend more in January on Kevin Strootman and a top-class defender, with the option to buy Falcao for £45million next summer.
Financial analysts Deloitte confirmed: ‘Manchester United have recorded the highest ever gross spend by a Premier League club in a summer transfer window. The Red Devils have spent £150m on new talent this window, representing 18% of the aggregate gross transfer spend by Premier League clubs.’
In one sense, it is a throwback to the years when Ferguson started out and consistently broke the transfer record to sign the likes of Gary Pallister, Roy Keane and Andy Cole. Over time though, particularly once The Glazers were installed, the spending dropped as City dominated.