“Buying British” is set to be the theme of this summer’s Premier League spending. The top 6 teams in the Premiership are all continuously being linked with the next great British prospect and are prepared to pay whatever it takes to get their hands on them.
In United’s case, is buying British a good idea?
With the signing of Phil Jones completed and the expected arrival of Ashley Young, Sir Alex Ferguson has already invested heavily in home-grown players this summer to bolster the team for next season. But buying British has its own drawbacks – namely a huge price tag.
I’ve written about how Phil Jones could fit in the United side next season (you can read that here), and while £16.5 million is a huge amount to spend, Jones’ potential and versatility make him a good signing for the future.
The Ashley Young signing is a bit more complicated. No fee has been confirmed but figures between £15 and 20 million isn’t that bad for a player of Young’s calibre (despite the fact that he only has a year left on his contract), there’s the question of where Young will fit in the side, particularly as United are well-stocked on the wings, with Nani, Valencia, Park, Giggs, Welbeck and Obertan, who all can play in Young’s position.
The thing that will count in Young’s favour is his versatility, as he has the ability to play on the left or right wing, and through the middle as a support striker. Young has pace to burn, excellent movement and has the ability to be a game-winner on occasion.
While he can be guilty of going missing at times, Young is still only 25, so there is the hope that playing on a bigger stage with better players can bring out the best in the England international and he can take the next step up.
Young’s arrival at Old Trafford doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to sell Nani either. There are a lot of games over a season, and Young is versatile enough to be able to play with Nani and Valencia, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean one or the other.
With that in mind, is Fergie’s decision to buy British this summer a positive step? I would have to argue it is. If you look at all of the great United sides in the Ferguson-era, they all have that British core as the heartbeat of the side.
From the 1999 treble-winning side, through to 2008 and now 2011, every United team has had a British core (from the Neville brothers, Giggs, Roy Keane Scholes and Beckham, through to Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Fletcher), surrounded by foreign talent, which evolved from the likes of Schmeichel, Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke, Solskjaer, Van Nistelrooy through to Cristiano Ronaldo and Tevez, and now Nemanja Vidic, Evra, Chicarito, Nani and Valencia.
Every great United side has a British core, and the additions of Phil Jones and Young are the next generation of British players that will form the basis of United’s team for the next few years, alongside Rooney, Chris Smalling, Cleverley, Welbeck and Darren Fletcher.
When you look at United’s purchases over the last decade, when Fergie buys British, he rarely gets it wrong. Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and more recently Chris Smalling – all have been a success at Old Trafford. Michael Carrick has had his good and bad games in a United shirt, but he hasn’t been complete disaster. Michael Owen has done his bit and scored some important goals, and Hargreaves was great for United in 07/08 and would have been more of a success if injury had not wrecked his career.
It’s buying foreign players that Sir Alex has been a bit hit-and-miss. For every great signing like Ronaldo, Hernandez and Vidic, there’s a Veron, a David Bellion or a Kleberson. While there have been some great foreign signings over the last decade, there have been numerous bad ones.
So buying British is a positive step for United, but when does it stop being beneficial?
There is always a premium when buying British talent, Jordan Henderson’s fee in moving to Liverpool from Sunderland was inflated, the same can be said for Andy Carroll in his move to Anfield from Newcastle and looking at potential transfers we see a similar picture.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Connor Wickham are prime examples. Both players have been linked with a move to top 4 clubs in recent months. While both players are talented, neither has played a second of Premiership football, yet figures of £10 million and £15 million are continually being reported in the media.
Yes, they have talent and maybe could one day be great players, but to spend a fortune on young players who lacks top-flight experience is the wrong idea. Oxlade-Chamberlain, in particular, hasn’t even played in the Championship yet, and it would be better for him to get more first-team experience for us to see how good he is and realistically can be.
What’s the alternative? There is a whole can of worms to be opened up by this. There is the complaint that signing foreign youngsters is detremental to the national team as young British talent isn’t getting a chance but when they are so expensive what can be done?
Paying £16.5 million for Jones is not so much a risk as sign of faith in the players ability, but despite his age we’ve seen him at the top level with that Premiership experience playing against quality players but the same can’t be said for all British players that clubs are trying to command huge fees for.
I’m all for buying British, but just make sure they are the right British signings with great potential, but with at least some experience of Premiership football.
British players are the right idea for Fergie’s transfer policy; you have to just find that blend between home grown and foreign players. United’s plan to buy young talent with Premiership experience has worked before, it’s worked with Rooney, Ferdinand and Smalling, and hopefully can continue to work with the signings of Phil Jones and Ashley Young.
What do you think? Is buying British the right idea for United?
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