Transfer stance on Gareth Bale shows Manchester United are learning from mistakes
After years without coherent direction following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, a change of strategy had to come at Manchester United and the club’s stance on Gareth Bale shows that is finally happening.
“We hope he leaves soon,” said Zinedine Zidane, his own manager, but at 30 years of age and astronomical wages he isn’t that easy to shift on. No doubt Los Blancos presumed they’d be able to dump him onto United now they’re finished with him, after all they have chased the Wales international multiple times before.
But when the door seems finally open for United to make their move they have no intention of doing so – and it couldn’t be a bigger indicator that United are finally heading in the right direction.
Despite his age, despite his injury record, despite his dwindling form, Bale remains an incredible player, capable of the spectacular and, if he could get back to peak fitness, he would be a great solution to United’s problems on the flanks – but the risk is too great.
It’s easy to see why United would be tempted to splash the cash on such a quality player who also has the added bonus of being a commercially massive star, but he doesn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s remit for new signings.
The new United manager wants to add young, hungry and talented players to his squad and move away from the big-money, established superstar signings that have left United’s squad in a disjointed, expensive mess.
The signings of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka prove that he is committed to heading in that direction and it’s clear who his number one target to fill the right-wing position is – Jadon Sancho.
The 19-year-old had a blistering campaign at Borussia Dortmund last season, scoring 13 goals and adding 19 assists in 43 games and becoming a regular in the England set up in his breakout campaign.
United tried to pursue Sancho earlier in the summer but any chance of a deal quickly evaporated as Dortmund were determined not to sell and, crucially, United failed to qualify for the Champions League.
So United are expected to miss out on him this summer, but that gives no reason to panic and instead spend millions on a short-term solution who isn’t who Solskjaer wants, which is who Bale would be.
If United want to really commit to the change Solskjaer wants to bring then they have to stand by their stance and not be tempted to go for the big star and, though it may be difficult to read, Liverpool are who they should try and emulate.
The Merseyside outfit identified Virgil van Dijk as their top centre-back choice the summer before he eventually joined in January, but when the deal couldn’t be completed they didn’t panic-buy a second choice.
They showed the patience and foresight to hold out and eventually get their man, and look where that got them.
United need to to follow suit and avoid making their past mistakes of signing a big-name player just because they can, not because it’s a player that actually fits into the team and is a result of a long-formulated strategy.
Problems remain at United and there’s plenty more work to be done, but committing to this first change that Solskjaer wants to implement is the first step for the club regaining its identity on the pitch.
If they can resist the understandable temptation to sign Bale then they’ll prove that they are finally heading in the right direction.