On May 28, 2011, Barcelona went into history books after defeating Manchester United with 3-1 in the UEFA Champions League Final held at Wembley Stadium, London. For the catalans, the season was nearly perfect, after winning La Liga with a convincing campaign, the highlight of it being the 5-0 win against arch rivals Real Madrid in November 2010 at Camp Nou. In addition, the UEFA Champions League journey to the final gathered together Arsenal (England), Sahtior Donetsk (Ukraine) and Real Madrid (Spain). The only minus of the season was the loss of the Copa del Rey final to Real, after a goal scored in the extra-time by Cristiano Ronaldo.
On the other side, we had Manchester United, who ended up a magnificent season in which they finished well ahead local rivals, Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal, the performance being equal with the fourth national title in five seasons. The managerial genius of Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as the indestructible defence of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, the tactical organisation of Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs and an in-form Wayne Rooney led to a Premier League title. Also, a successful European campaign with wins at Chelsea and Schalke 04 and a place in the UEFA Champions League final. Fergie’s boys lost but the dream team of Barcelona seemed to be impossible to conquer at that time.
The match between the two also ended an era in which both of them impressed because of one particular feature: the domination of their football academy. If we have a look at their first 11, we will notice players who were developed by the youth academies of the two giants. The Red Devils had Scholes, Giggs and even Gary Neville, who retired in February 2011, players who represent legends for the Old Trafford side. We also see names like Wes Brown or John O’Shea, footballers developed at the Manchester United Academy. If we think that Wayne Rooney was transferred from Everton when he was only 18, Sir Alex Ferguson has done an amazing job by imposing its football at the continental level with “home-grown” players.
Many things have changed from that final. Barack Obama was reelected President of USA, we had Ice Bucket Challenge, Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake, war on terror and Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. Oh! And lots of unforgettable football moments. Now, our beloved sport is a full-fledged business and both Manchester United and Barcelona have been attracted in this wicked game.
In the first chapter of this analysis, we will have a look at the 20 times English champions. Since 2011, Manchester United changed three managers with Sir Alex Ferguson leaving the club after 26 years in charge.His successors, David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, failed to continue his legacy, the only trophy won by United being the 2016 FA Cup. In the last 5 years, the Reds have spent an enormous amount of money on players buying Robin Van Persie (26.1m), Marouane Fellaini (27.8m), Juan Mata (38.05m), Angel di Maria (63.75m), Luke Shaw (31.88m), Anthony Martial (42.5m) and Memphis Depay for 28.9m. Two of these investments proved to be total flops as Angel di Maria and Marouane Fellaini did not manage to impress the Old Trafford with their game.
After the UCL Final, Manchester United lost the Premier League title against the local rivals Man City after a dramatic last day at the Etihad. The Citizens were led 2-1 by QPR in the 90th minute but managed to overcome the deficit and win 3-2 with two late winners from Dzeko (92′) and Aguero (95′). For Fergie’s side, it was a sign things had to be changed. There were some changes after the end of the UCL Final, David De Gea being transferred in order to replace Edwin Van der Sar. Apart from that, we had familiar faces such as Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Fletcher, Carrick, Rooney, O’Shea, Welbeck, Ryan Giggs. Players who were grown and developed at the Academy of United or that were bought before turning 21 and transformed into complete football players
In the last 5 years, the Reds have spent an enormous amount of money on players buying Robin Van Persie (26.1m), Marouane Fellaini (27.8m), Juan Mata (38.05m), Angel di Maria (63.75m), Luke Shaw (31.88m), Anthony Martial (42.5m) and Memphis Depay for 28.9m. Two of these investments proved to be total flops as Angel di Maria and Marouane Fellaini did not manage to impress the Old Trafford with their game.
The first 11 of United started to change with Vidic leaving Manchester United, Ferdinand, Scholes, Giggs and Neville retiring and Rooney starting to lose his first eleven safe spot. Instead of promoting home-grown players, the management has invested in transfers , transforming the squad into a mix between Spanish, Belgium, Dutch and French players. But what is the name that shows United has become a football business? Paul Pogba. The French came in July 2009 to the U18 Youth Academy of the Red Devils, after being transferred from Le Havre. He was only 16.
Pogba did not manage to show his quality under the guidance of Sir Alex and left Manchester in 2012 to join Juventus on a free transfer. The move led to an upgraded, athletic, agile and feared defensive midfielder who won Serie A, Copa d’Italia and played the 2015 UEFA Champions League final against Barcelona. His name was vehiculated in the last transfer windows but it was Manchester United the team who brought the player back. The price? An all-time record: 89.25m.
According to transfermarkt.co.uk, the market value of the surprising champions Leicester City is 178.93 m. In other words, two Pogbas are as valuable as are Mahrez, Vardy, Schmeichel or Morgan and the rest of the squad who shocked international football in 2016. But with a Zlatan and Pogba in the team, supporters are “repaying” the efforts of the directors. Selling t-shirts has become a must-have in terms of marketing, especially in the last years. Big clubs have started to impose their brands in the richest areas of Asia and America, in countries like USA, Canada, China, Singapore, UAE, Hong Kong and Japan. The popularity of giants like Real, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea or Juventus has reached its pinnacle at the same time with the economic development of Asia.
With a 1,15 billion pounds invested in transfers this summer, Premier League has shocked the world of football and Manchester United put in 145.3 million pounds, a huge amount for a club who won the 1999 edition of UEFA Champions League with an in-form “Class of 92”. The will recover their investment and in 5 years they might pay 150m pounds for a new Pogba, Messi or Ronaldo. Will today’s fans remember the Class of 92? Or the image of Zlatan and Pogba playing in one of the most expensive teams of all time? Only time will say.