Football News

Gerard Pique: Man Utd need to stop spending and trust their academy

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:55, 21 March 2024

Former Manchester United defender Gerard Pique has urged the Red Devils to focus on their academy rather than splashing the cash.

The Red Devils are in the midst of a rebuild and have new ownership, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS taking charge of the football operations with a 25% share. They have only been at the club for a few months, but a lot is being discussed about their summer plans.

One of the things being discussed is Erik ten Hag’s future, with the Dutchman struggling to impress this season. He had a decent first campaign, getting Man Utd back into the Champions League while also winning the EFL Cup and reaching the FA Cup final.

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This season, Man Utd are in the FA Cup semi-finals, knocking Liverpool out of the quarter-finals, but their campaign may rest on them winning at Wembley. The Red Devils finished bottom of their Champions League group and sit nine points outside the top four with 10 games to play. They do have a game in hand over fourth-placed Aston Villa, but it’s still feeling like a tall order.

As well as a new manager, Man Utd are also being linked with a host of players, with the hopes of revitalising their squad. According to reports, Man Utd are among the teams interested in signing Joao Gomes from Wolves this summer, while also being in the market for Pedro Neto.

It’s been the same old story for Man Utd, who are still struggling to find their identity after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson over 10 years ago. And Pique believes the club need to look within for the solution to their problems.

“It’s been quite a few years that they’ve not been able to win the title. I think that after Sir Alex left, they lost a little bit their focus and guidance,” Pique told Sky Sports.

“They didn’t know where to go. Little by little, they are trying to put everything back together in order to compete for titles.

“I still believe Ten Hag is a very good coach. I don’t really know if he will be able to turn things around but the win against Liverpool was incredible.

“It’s the sort of victory that will give them power for the rest of the season. Then, I would say they need to trust more in the people coming through from the academy.

“It happens when you are suffering as a club. It was the same at Barcelona, but you have to trust in the academy players. We saw Sir Alex Ferguson show this with the Class of ’92 and they have to trust in the next generation in the same way.

“In the last few years, they’ve spent a lot of money, and it hasn’t worked out. So why not try to give the new, young generation the chance to at least try and perform.”

Since Ten Hag took charge in the summer of 2022, Man Utd have spent over £350m on new signings, breaking the £50m mark for four different players. Antony cost the most money at £82m, while Casemiro (£51m), Mason Mount (£55m) and Rasmus Hojlund (£64m) also cost a lot of money.

There was also £48.3m on Lisandro Martinez and £44.1m on Andre Onana. This season alone, Man Utd had the fourth-highest net spend in the Premier League, with only Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal having more.

Of the £50m+ signings, only Casemiro and Hojlund have really made a positive impact on the Man Utd team, though the transfer fee for the latter is still dubbed too high. At the same time, Man Utd’s standout player this season has come from the academy.

Kobbie Mainoo made his Man Utd debut last year but no one could have predicted the impact he has had this season. The teenager has played 14 times in the Premier League this season, named Man of the Match on his full debut in the competition. He’s only missed two of Man Utd’s last 16 Premier League games, usually playing at the base of the midfield alongside, or instead of, Casemiro.

Mainoo is currently averaging 1.94 tackles per 90 minutes in the Premier League, as well as 1.78 clearances and 2.1 possessions one in the middle third.