The 64-year-old Netherlands boss will take charge at Old Trafford after the World Cup but, in the meantime, there is work to be done in the transfer market this summer.
Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward stated last week that the club will reinvest heavily in the playing squad this summer following a disappointing season under David Moyes, who was sacked after just 11 months in charge.
However, whilst there is little doubt the Premier League giants need to spend – a number of pundits and commentators have even suggested a complete overhaul of the first-team squad – Woodward and the new coach must avoid signing players for over the odds, especially English players who tend to be over-priced at times, and ensure they sign talent that is proven at the top level.
United are linked with a number of English/British youngsters who have impressed this season – the likes of Southampton starlets Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez as well as Everton protégé Ross Barkley. And whilst these players are undoubtedly some of the standout performers in the Premier League this term, it remains to be seen what their capabilities are on the world stage and at continental level.
This situation reminds me somewhat of the predicament Liverpool found themselves in prior to the arrival of Brendan Rodgers at Anfield. The Northern Irishman is already a Kop legend but he had a lot of damage control to do when he first arrived at the Reds, undoing and counteracting the mistakes made by previous regimes between Rafael Benitez’ departure and Rodgers’ takeover.
Benitez left Anfield in the summer of 2010 after six years at the club to be replaced by the current England manager Roy Hodgson who lasted just six months before being replaced temporarily by Reds legend Kenny Dalglish.
Hodgson brought in Luis Suarez, this season’s Golden Boot winner and undoubtedly the Reds’ most influential player for the last couple of seasons, but he also brought in Andy Carroll for a massive £35m from Newcastle. Suarez cost £23m from Ajax but as evidenced by Carroll’s £15.5m sale to West Ham last year, the premium on British players can be costly in the long run.
Carroll’s value has more than halved and a similar situation occurred during Dalglish’s most recent reign at Anfield – Stewart Downing cost £20m and Charlie Adam cost £7m. The latter of the two, Scotland midfielder Adam was sold the next year for £4m, representing nearly a half in value in less than 12 months, and former England international Downing sold for £6m last summer representing more severe rate of depreciation.
I am a big fan of Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley and I think they have big futures for England and for their clubs (or potential clubs) but I think Manchester United must beware spending the reported £30m fee for 18-year-old Shaw who has been superb at St Mary’s this term but has only earned one cap for his country so far and is still relatively raw.
Much the same can be said for Barkley who has three senior caps to his name and 34 appearances in the Premier League for the Toffees this term, some of which were sensational but, crucially, the key word has to be ‘potential’. These youngsters still have a long way to go, in my humble opinion, before they can be considered top-level stars capable of competing at Champions League level or title challenging under the pressure of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world in front of the fans at Old Trafford.
They have done exceptionally well this term for their clubs but I can't help feeling there is an element of them being big fish in small ponds at the moment - it's only fair that they receive due praise and attention for their displays this term but we must remember how much, for example, Charlie Adam was hyped-up in his last season with Blackpool, or how Andy Carroll was the future of England after just one good season at Newcastle. Liverpool paid heavily for their mistakes in the transfer market and the legacy Brendan Rodgers inherited only served to slow down the Reds' progress to the point where we have only just started to see him start to bring 'his' team towards success.