Will Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward Spend Big in the January Window?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentSeptember 10, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 10:  In this handout photo provided by the NYSE Euronext, Manchester United Executives David Gill (R), Joel Glazer (C, R) and Avram Glazer (C) with Ed Woodward prepare to ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 10, 2012 in New York City. Manchester United shares started trading at USD 14.05 at the opening of the New York Stock Exchange. (Photo Ben Hider/Getty Images via NYSE Euronext)
Handout/Getty Images

Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward found out the hard way that the skills he used to secure sponsorship deals weren't compatible to making signings in an inflated, fickle and at times downright nasty transfer market.

Knowing Woodward's transfer-deadline-day desperation, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright made United's situation worse by forcing them to pay £27.5 million for Marouane Fellaini£4 million over the Belgian's release clause.

Since Fellaini's £23.5 million release clause expired on July 31, he was never a primary transfer target for Woodward and was only signed to salvage a nightmarish summer transfer window. 

Though given Fellaini's English Premier League experience, his being an aerial threat, his ability to play as a deep-lying forward or a midfield destroyer and his rapport with David Moyes, Fellaini will be a great footballer for United. 

The botched Ander Herrera transfer saga is a bullet Woodward dodged. Whilst the Athletic Bilbao midfielder has shown flashes of Paul Scholes-esque passing, the 24-year-old isn't worth £30.5 million. 

Then you add in his disciplinary problems which include an insatiable need to hack down opposing players, once receiving seven yellow cards in eight games.

Despite Scholes' lunge-and-hope method of tackling, he was sent off just four times in 499 Premier League games. Herrera, on the other hand, has gotten five red cards since the 2009-10 season, showing you how his tackling is hit-or-miss.

How can he be valued at £30.5 million when players of similar value are expected to be creme de la creme?

Someone like 18-year-old Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul, currently on loan at Rayo Vallecano, who's robust in the tackle, a majestic passer and has the upside to become a world-beater, would be a more economically efficient signing than Herrera. 

Herrera is neither a developing footballer nor a world-class player. 

He's right in the middle; players like him should be signed for £5-10 million.  

That valuation is strengthened when you take into account the 24-year-old Monaco left-back Patrice Evra, who played in a UEFA Champions League final and was signed for £5.5 million. Nemanja Vidic, also 24 at the time, was a £7 million transfer from Spartak Moscow.

In recent memory, United management have tended to sign developing prospects in the January transfer window, such as Wilfried Zaha (2013), Zoran Tosic (2009), Rodrigo Possebon (2008), Dong Fangzhuo (2004) and Diego Forlan (2002).

But after such a vicious backlash by fans and pundits, Woodward may try to appease the critics with some big-money signings.

He shouldn't be sucked into spending for the sake of spending during the January transfer window, which is infamous for causing irrational decisions. 

In the 2010-11 season, Chelsea gave Liverpool £50 million for a deteriorating Fernando Torres, who went on to score a solitary goal in 18 games that season.

The Reds wasted £35 million on Newcastle United's Andy Carroll, who was injured, had previously pleaded guilty to assault and whose consistency over the long-term was still a question mark. 

A few years earlier, Real Madrid signed Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from Ajax for €27 million, only to sell him in the summer to AC Milan presumably for a deficit (the transfer fee was "undisclosed").

Another example was Hull City rushing in to throw money at Jimmy Bullard after Fulham hesitated to extend his contract, holding concerns over his durability. 

Bullard never repaid Hull's then record transfer fee after a combination of injuries and ill discipline

If Woodward is to spend big in January, he needs to do so on a sure thing, which was the case when United signed Andy Cole from Newcastle for a then £6 million British record transfer fee plus Keith Gillespie in 1995.

Cole had scored 56 goals in his last 73 games for the Toon and went on to win five league titles for United whilst forming a telepathic relationship with Dwight Yorke.