One does not realise how little he has of it until it’s all gone. As supporters we like to imagine we have some control over how things proceed at our beloved club. Most of this supposed authoritative primacy is imaginary and illusory. The level of controversy surrounding how much control the club has over its academy players has come under an incredible amount of scrutiny for a few players that have done largely nothing for Manchester United.
Ravel Morrison’s departure to West Ham has been well-documented and theorised about as much as the Kennedy Assassination. Either it was that Morrison was just too much trouble or that United did not handle his penchant for petty crime as well as they had attempted to manage his undoubted talent. Ultimately it is probably a mixture of the two but in the dogmatic world of sport journalism there is little room for nuance.
Analogies are important tools of understanding, but I find that unfortunately in the cases of Paul Pogba and Ezekiel Fryers, the Morrison analogy does not fit. The talk surrounding Morrison, while in part being about the wages he was supposedly demanding, was more related to his off field issues than to anything he did as a member of United’s youth and reserve teams. But with Pogba and Fryers, wages and ultimately the club’s control over their futures remain inextricably tied.
Unfortunately in the day and age wherein football clubs have become the playthings of zillionaires no club is immune to the money over everything mentality plaguing the sport. The wages a player receives trumps things we supporters glorify like loyalty and service. And no matter what influential figures like Sir Alex Ferguson say or do, there is little that can be done in the short term to help reverse this trend. United are certainly not saints in this respect paying out wages to players that lesser teams could never afford. And for every player United pilfer from financially weaker teams there will be another (or in this case, the same) player that will want to leave United for better wages and a better shot at the limelight.
Naturally, there are players that United has produced from its academy of late that have prioritised their love of the club over potential opportunities elsewhere. Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck being the most obvious of that ilk. But if one looks at it, their willingness to remain at the club is not all down to their ‘love of United.’ Both players were obviously promised key roles in the team this season and Welbeck’s ascendence to the second preferred option at forward behind Wayne Rooney proves as much. If Welbeck had been told that he would have a very hard time cracking the starting eleven this year, I think he may have looked at his other options. Welbeck is a Manchester boy, so whether or not I am right to assume that remains a question. Cleverley (a.k.a. Midfield Jesus, TM) was given the chance to be our key man in midfield and only a gruesome injury prevented him from making the position his own.
If the club is willing to offer the same opportunities to Pogba and Fryers next season then I can definitely see the pair deciding it would be in their best interests to stay at the club. While I ultimately think both would do well to go out on loan in the Premier League next season, each needs to be presented by the club a vision of their future being integral to the first team over the next few years.
Considering United’s well-documented lack of talent in the centre of the midfield, Pogba ought to be encouraged by the fact that there is a need for the qualities that the lad is supposed to have in spades. The club’s transfer policy in this area of the first team reflects a preference for using academy players which cost less than to spend on a in-his-prime world class player. The wages Pogba is seemingly demanding (around 35-45k a week) are dwarfed by what Wesley Sneijder was supposedly commanding last summer (250,00k a week). At this point, United need to commit to the player they went through a lot of wrangling to acquire in the first place. And if Pogba progresses and becomes the player many believe he can be, paying him 35k a week now will save the club money in the long run.
And regarding Fryers, it is merely speculation that he is seeking a pay rise. The player came out of nowhere to make an impact for the club in its brief run in the Carling Cup and definitely caught the eye. His barnstorming runs were the subject of much adulation from myself and many others. Unfortunately ‘Zeki’ is stuck behind club captain Patrice Evra and at least one da Silva twin for the starting berth at left back. A centre half by trade, Fryers would have an even more difficult time besting the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. The young Englishman’s future remains a mystery, but it is no longer a question that the boy has the talent necessary to make it at the club.
A step towards keeping the pair of promising youngsters would be to just pay the wages the two are seeking. In a world where the money dominates, United simply need to pay the cost to be the boss, or be left behind by the clubs that will.
Written by fellow Blogging Red’s podcaster Charles