Manchester United officially unveiled summer signings Javier Hernández, Bébé and Chris Smalling at an Old Trafford press conference today, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson claiming that nobody in the market is better than now available in his squad. The trio, signed for around £25 million atage 20-22, represent the club’s future said Ferguson.
Ferguson, who is effectively under orders from senior management to invest in youth and not established players who have no resale value, said that bringing players to the club from a young age creates loyalty.
“We’ve seen with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, and later O’Shea, Fletcher and Wes Brown that young players develop and have a good loyalty towards you, they appreciate the education you give them as coaches,” argues Ferguson.
Those of a more cynical nature might argue that Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million transfer to Real Madrid provides the true template for United’s current transfer policy.
Perhaps more controversially Ferguson, who has repeatedly declared that there is no value in the transfer market on the day German midfielder Mesut Özil signed for Real Madrid in a £12.4 million deal, said that nobody that he had seen could offer a “quantum leap” improvement in United’s side this season.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández
Of those players already brought to the club, 22-year-old Chicharito has already become a fans’ favourite after bright performances in pre-season games against an MLS All Star XI, former club Chivas Guadalajara, the Airtricity League XI and Chelsea in the Community Shield. The striker signed for around £7 million, which United announced in April. He has scored 10 goals in 17 internationals for Mexico.
“It’s like a dream. I am living the dream that I’ve had since I was 10 years old,” said Chicharito, who said his home début for the club was wonderful.
“I’ve always seen these players like Scholes and I want to be like them. I want to grow as a human and a player and the most important thing is I want to win championships.”
Tiago Manuel “Bébé” Dias Correi
Meanwhile, surprise signing Bébé, aged 20, joins from Vitória de for €9 million – £7.4 million – after United’s former assistant manager Carlos Quieroz recommended the winger-cum-forward. The player is yet to play at any level above the Portuguese third division, although Guimarães claims that Real Madrid was also among four clubs bidding for the winger who was available on a free transfer less than two months ago.
Indeed, Ferguson admitted that he is yet to see anything of Bébé, having signed a player before watching him play, even on video, for the first time in 24 years as United’s manager. “Sometimes you have to go on instinct,” and the judgement of United’s scouting department, Ferguson said.
Bébé’s rise to the top of world football took the football world by surprise in the past week but it’s an opportunity that the player intends to capitalise on.
“I feel very good. It’s an opportunity that has been given to me and I must grab it,” said the winger, now sporting short hair after Ferguson apparently ordered the player to remove the locks he wore just last week.
“The strong Portuguese links here were a big thing for me. Ronaldo played here and he became a great player. Also, Nani and Anderson are here and I want to be like them and work hard to become a good player.”
Chris “Appalling” Smalling
United announced a £10 million deal, rising to £12 million, for former-Fulham central defender Smalling, 20, in January. The 6’5″ defender has the raw talent, with pre-season games demonstrating his pace, passing ability and physique. However, the inexperienced defender’s form has dipped markedly since United announced the move last winter, although England Under-21s selected the player last week.
“They gave me my chance and a lot of support,” said Smalling of his time at Fulham who discovered the giant defender playing non-league football less than three years ago.
The relative value of each signing is, of course, dependant on their success or failure at the club but there are no guarantees. After all, younger players such as Giuseppe Rossi, Gerrard Piqué and Diego Forlan failed to make the grade at United before establishing themselves elsewhere.
Indeed, it is tempting to ponder exactly what value Ferguson is really looking for?
Özil, his compatriot Sami Khedira and the brilliant Dutchman Wes Sneijder each cost their clubs about the same fee as Smalling will eventually draw from United’s coffers. UEFA Club Player of the Year shortlisted Diego Milito was available on a free transfer last summer.