On July 27, United’s football director John Murtough flew from their American tour to Bergamo on Italy’s Alpine border, where he was joined by the club’s chief transfer negotiator Matt Hargreaves for talks with Atalanta over the Danish international striker, who had moved to Serie A from Sturm Graz for £15m 12 months earlier.
The meeting on the 28th began with United’s team expecting to pay no more than £45m for Hojlund, but concluded with them reaching agreement on a deal that could see the fee rise to £72m.
Hojlund’s father Anders had also travelled from his home in Copenhagen to Bergamo, but was not permitted to attend the meeting.
Atalanta may have had good reason to exclude him, as sources with knowledge of the negotiations have told Mail Sport that the club had given him a verbal agreement that his son could leave for 55m euros, a revelation which led to bafflement elsewhere at Old Trafford that United’s negotiators did not seek to use this to their advantage.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has his work cut out if he is to take charge of sporting operations at United but his first priority should be sorting out the club’s transfer strategy
The most telling recent indication of United’s approach to transfers was their final offer for Rasmus Hojlund increasing by around £27million in one day
United previously agreed to pay Ajax £82m for Antony despite widespread reservations at the size of the fee
United’s football director John Murtough (right) is one of the key personnel responsible for providing Erik ten Hag’s squad with the reinforcements he wants
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Murtough and Hargreaves left Bergamo happy with the deal on the grounds that Atalanta had wanted £86.5m however, and the transfer was announced on August 5. While Hojlund has started well after recovering from a back injury and looks like a good signing for United, the negotiations appear to confirm the club’s habit of over-paying for players.
A study released last month by the Swiss-based research institute CIES Football Observatory showed that United have spent £1.67billion on new players since 2014, with their net-spend of £1.19bn over £300m higher than the second-most profligate club in Chelsea.
The numbers are little short of staggering, with this over-spending one of the first areas Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s data-led team will attempt to correct if their investment is completed as expected.
The seeds of this summer’s approach to the market appear to have been sown earlier in the year, with a lack of planning and direction over budgets. Much of the blame has been attributed internally to the Glazers, who may have been distracted by the takeover process.
When United’s recruitment team began making inquires over their transfer budget towards the end of last season they were told it had not been set yet, with the question repeatedly going unanswered until a figure of around £60m was given.
Throughout this period United and Murtough had been negotiating with Chelsea over Mason Mount, which proved to be a difficult process due to interest from Liverpool and Arsenal.
While manager Erik ten Hag is also consulted on transfers and gave his blessing to move for Mount the Dutchman has no input on the financial elements of any deals.
The £55m fee with a further £5m in add-ons effectively accounted for United’s entire summer transfer budget, leading some at Old Trafford to speculate that United’s main reason for pushing through with the deal was a fear of being seen to lose out to one of their rivals.
The £55m fee with a further £5m in add-ons paid for Mason Mount effectively accounted for United’s entire summer transfer budget
United went on to spend a further £120m on new players despite the initial budget cap only being lifted by £50m in sales, with Murtough and Ten Hag working together closely on identifying targets.
After signing Mount the club’s next priority was a goalkeeper following the departures of David De Gea. The recruitment team identified multiple targets and all United’s executives settled on Inter Milan’s Andre Onana, who the manager had worked with previously at Ajax.
Ten Hag is also understood to have lobbied strongly for United to sign Harry Kane only to be told that the club were reluctant to deal with Tottenham due to previous difficulties they had encountered in negotiating with their chairman, Daniel Levy.
The club subsequently focused their efforts on Hojlund on the grounds he represented better value for money, given his age and potential resale value. Potential moves for Declan Rice and Moses Caicedo were also discussed before being ruled out on economic grounds.
While United could have been forgiven for being distracted this summer due to the takeover similar frustrations were also evident behind the scenes 12 months earlier, when their transfer activity was even more last-minute.
United spent most of the summer negotiating with Barcelona over Frankie de Jong before finally agreeing a £63m fee, but were unable to agree personal terms with the player, which led to a late move for Casemeiro instead.
Having moved relatively early to sign Lisandro Martinez from Ajax it was agreed internally not to make another raid on Ten Hag’s former club. A move for PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo was discussed but failed to materialise before United agreed to pay Ajax £82m for Antony on transfer deadline day, despite widespread reservations at the size of the fee.
United went on to splash £47.1m on Andre Onana with the goalkeeper struggling to settle
A study released last month by the Swiss-based research institute CIES Football Observatory showed that United have spent £1.67billion on new players since 2014
Having conducted a forensic review of United’s finances Ratcliffe’s Ineos team are well aware of the shortcomings of the club’s recent dealings, and are determined to make changes.
In addition to Murtough and Hargreaves the roles of other key members of the football team will also be discussed, while Ineos may also add greater sporting expertise to the club’s executive.
Arnold leads a small management team completed by Joel and Avram Glazer and chief financial officer Cliff Baty, none of whom would claim to be football experts.
The biggest challenge for Ineos may lie in establishing quicker and more coherent decision-making from the Glazers, which has eluded most executives at United since they their much-reviled takeover 18 years ago.
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
Source From: Serie A News, Fixtures and Results | Mail Online
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