How COVID-19 Changes Manchester United's Transfer Strategy for This Summer

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportMay 1, 2020

B/R

Just as Manchester United fans were starting to become excited that they really were on the verge of a defining summer in the transfer market, Ed Woodward poured cold water over them.

Linked to star names include Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish, and executive vice-chairman Woodward eluded to their situation on a United fans' forum, via conference call, and left the fanbase scratching their heads.

His message to supporters was pretty simple: Don't get too excited.

Here's what he had to say, per The Guardian: "Nobody should be under any illusions about the scale of challenge facing everyone in football, and it may not be 'business as usual' for any clubs, including ourselves, in the transfer market this summer.

"As ever, our priority is the success of [the] team. But we need visibility of the impact across the whole industry, including timings of the transfer window, and the wider financial picture, before we can talk about a return to normality.

"On this basis, I cannot help feeling that speculation around transfers of individual players for hundreds of millions of pounds this summer seems to ignore the realities that face the sport."

Since those words were muttered last Friday, United fans have desperately been seeking information on where their pursuit of new talent really stands.

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So here, with the help of B/R sources, we take a look at some key storylines around players being linked to the club, to get an idea of how United's summer might play out.

       

Jadon Sancho 

This has long been touted as one of the biggest deals of the summer, but insiders have told B/R that the idea of United spending six-figure sums on a single player is indeed unrealistic in this climate.

Borussia Dortmund placed a 120 million price tag on Sancho earlier this year, but much has changed since then.

The financial impact on every football club since the coronavirus pandemic took hold is an obvious factor, but built into that valuation of Sancho was also the fact he was expected to be one of the stars of Euro 2020 for the England national team.

With that in mind, Dortmund were willing to sell him at 120 million before the competitionwith a warning the figure would rise if he did well at the Euros.

With that competition now postponed, the premium has disappeared. 

And with post-coronavirus valuations on players set to see everyone drop by "at least 15 per cent" as one source explained to B/R earlier this month, it means Sancho's price tag should be heading below the €100 million mark.

United have been determined not to set a new transfer record, which currently stands at £89 million for Paul Pogba. So signing Sancho for a figure less than 100 million—which converts to £86 million—would be seen as a good result.

B/R has been informed there is a feeling that number may yet drop further, depending on how the situation looks by the time the transfer window actually opens.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are suddenly being linked with Sancho, but insiders around Old Trafford suggest the club are not concerned about those rumours at this stage. 

United are further down the road with their pursuit and remain in the driving seat if they want to push ahead with the Sancho deal. They may just have to be slightly cautious not to annoy Dortmund with low-ball bids.

      

Harry Kane

This potential deal does not carry much weight in the current climate. One source indicated that United were more annoyed by the £200 million Kane transfer stories than they have been about any of the Sancho rumours.

There is a feeling that Spurs would sell cheaper to, say, Real Madrid, but are angling to charge more for the player to move to another Premier League club.

So while Kane is a great striker, and one United would love to have, they will not pick him up at any cost.

This deal might be one they visit further down the road when finances in the game settle down.

In the meantime, it is worth considering they might strike a deal to keep Odion Ighalo at the club.

He is keen for that to happen, and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been impressed by his attitude and impact since arriving on loan.

       

Jack Grealish

At the beginning of March, we outlined how United would prioritise Grealish along with Sancho, and that could still happen.

As part of his talk with United fans, Woodward also suggested the club is in a better situation right now than most others. He explained: "We have always believed that our commercial model gives us greater resilience than most clubs, and we are grateful for the enduring support of our commercial partners."

United, and Woodward especially, have worked tremendously hard on building commercial revenue, and this is a time to be pleased with that success. 

United are still in a good position to enter the next transfer market, when others—such as Arsenal—are perhaps having to think twice.

Grealish should be attainable if the club decide to push on to the next level of discussions. The initial interest is there, and now they will have to negotiate with Aston Villa over a £60 million valuation.

With Villa facing relegation, and the player keen to remain in the Premier League, they should be in a strong position to strike a deal if the club decide he is still a priority. 

      

Declan Rice

United have a longstanding interest in the midfielder, and links re-emerged when The Sun's Andrew Dillon reported West Ham United would be open to offers for him.

This potential deal has been slipping down the Old Trafford club's priority list, though, and the latest stance—according to sources—is that the Red Devils would not be willing to go anywhere near his £70 million valuation.

Even without the impact of a pandemic, it would be a big price tag. So during these times, it's pretty much a no-go.

      

Kai Havertz

This 20-year-old creative player is on the radar of pretty much every top European club as he ponders his next club after Bayer Leverkusen.

He has been valued by the club's hierarchy as a €100 million player, though—and this is exactly the type of speculation United and Woodward are trying to distance themselves from right now.

Leverkusen chief executive Fernando Carro insisted recently, per Sky Deutschland (h/t Goal), that "market value losses will not be reflected in the transfer fees for top players."

So there are two things to consider here. The obvious one is that United would not meet that valuation at the moment. The second is that German sources have told B/R over the past few months that they feel he might stay in Bundesliga and join one of the bigger clubs there anyway, before considering a club in another country. 

       

Jude Bellingham

It has been reported that United have competition from Dortmund to sign the 16-year-old midfielder from Birmingham City.

No decision has yet been made over which path he wants to take with his career, but Sir Alex Ferguson's involvement in talks and showing him the club's training ground has helped United's cause.

Dortmund were confident about this deal before the coronavirus break, but we must wait for the next round of talks before discovering which way the player and his family feel is best to progress. 

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