Ralf Rangnick has warned Manchester United that they need to transform their record in the transfer market after admitting that too few of their signings have flourished in the past nine years and that the Premier League’s top two have been better at buying.
United have spent more than £1bn on players since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 but have not sustained a title challenge and go into Sunday’s Manchester derby 19 points behind their neighbours. The interim manager drew an unflattering comparison between United’s recruitment and that of Manchester City and Liverpool.
As director of football for Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig, Rangnick helped each earn reputations for signing and planning well and he believes United have lacked the long-term thinking to buy to suit a blueprint in the way their rivals have.
“It’s a question of continuity and consistency, knowing exactly how I want to play as a club and a manager,” he said, “of having a clear transfer strategy and signing players who fit into that system. That’s what both clubs have been doing in the last five or six years.
“If I look at their transfer policy and their transfer success, they haven’t had many players who after one or two years people would have said maybe that wasn’t the right signing. Both clubs have been pretty successful and this is where Manchester United have to go again.
“Under Sir Alex they were there, but since then there have been quite a few different managers and to close the gap to those two clubs, you have to make sure … that the recruitment is right. You have to be quick enough in the transfer market, knowing the market and signing the right players in the right moment.”
Rangnick believes that a failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League could set United back again by reducing their funds and making it harder to attract their targets.
“Financially, everybody knows what that would mean: that you would have less money available for your budget,” he added. “It would be better for all the players if you play Champions League next season and it would also make negotiations with any new players easier.”
United are likely to lose their record signing, Paul Pogba, who was the world’s most expensive player when they paid £89m for him in 2016, on a free transfer this summer. Pep Guardiola revealed in 2018 the midfielder was offered to City and did not rule out a move for Pogba this year. “My mind is so open but I am not focused on that right now,” he said.
While City could win back-to-back titles using a false nine, Guardiola’s main priority will be to secure a specialist centre-forward. “The club needs a striker, definitely. I think the club is going to try,” the Manchester City manager said. “In England, we are little bit like an exception. If you don’t have one you have to play in a completely different way to United, Southampton and Liverpool, because they play another philosophy.”
City failed with a £100m offer for Harry Kane last summer while Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland is expected to figure prominently on their summer shopping list. The £100m player Guardiola did buy last year, Jack Grealish, could begin on the bench on Sunday after scoring only four goals in his debut season for City and has said he wants more.
But Guardiola argued the number doesn’t matter. “If he is frustrated, he is a stupid man,” he said. “Statistics, statistics: of course I want to score 20 goals but it doesn’t matter. What’s important is to play good, help the team to win, and be part of something that we are in all together.”