Manchester United's summer outlay of over £150 million led the Premier League to an all-time record spending for a transfer window, with £857.7m being spent by the top flight's 20 clubs.
Even more astonishing than that the figure is the fact that almost 18 per cent of the spending was down to United's spree, which included £59.7m on Angel Di Maria.
Their net spend of £122m is the second-biggest ever anywhere in the world - beaten only by Real Madrid's 2009 splurge, which included the world record £80m fee for Cristiano Ronaldo, a further £56m for Kaka and £30m for Karim Benzema.
The raw spending numbers do not take into account the extraordinary deadline day signing of Radamel Falcao, however. The year-long loan deal will cost United as much as £24m in fees and wages - and if United exercise their £50m option to buy at the end of the 2014-15 season, their spending for the summer of 2014 will effectively be £200m - topping the £180m Real laid out five years ago.
[FULL STORY: United confirm Falcao loan capture with option to buy]
WHAT THEY SAID
Louis Van Gaal on Falcao: "He is one of the most prolific goalscorers in the game. His appearance-to-goal ratio speaks for itself and when a player of this calibre becomes available, it is an opportunity not to be missed."
Falcao: "Moving to Manchester United was my decision. It's exciting to play at the world's best club and in such a competitive league."
WHAT THE MEDIA SAID
David Conn, the Guardian: "Clubs doing huge deals as late as United have this year are not as stable or organised as their rivals – notably Chelsea and Manchester City – who have recruited players early enough to show them round, at least, before the season starts. Yet this feverish United activity, more than £120m spent including the staggering £59.7m for Angel di Maria’s left-midfield thrust, £6m for a season of Falcao and Daley Blind at £14m, goes way beyond that truth about thinness of planning. This is historic upheaval..."
Oliver Kay, the Times: "In the space of 12 months, starting with that ill-fated deal for Fellaini, [Manchester] United’s transfer expenditure has exceeded £200 million and, for all Louis van Gaal’s talk of 'philosophy', it has seemed as wild and extravagant as the worst excesses of Chelsea under Roman Abramovich or Manchester City under Sheikh Mansour. Certainly, it will be a long time before anyone at Old Trafford dares to accuse Chelsea, City, Paris Saint-Germain or any other nouveau riche club of inflating the transfer market again."
Martin Samuel, the Daily Mail: "Manchester United may now have a greater understanding of the pressure on City back then, forced to sell their project to players, without the carrot of Champions League football. That is United’s predicament now. They are paying through the nose because it turns out in the modern game a club is only as big as its fixture list."
David McDonnell, the Mirror: "The boldness of their £151.3m spending spree, after years of perceived parsimony by the Glazers in the transfer market, has served to restore confidence and belief among their disillusioned fans."
Angel Di Maria
Perhaps it might be an unfair cliche to speculate about Manchester United's frantic last-minute outlay as "panic buying", but it is difficult to see it as anything else.
Di Maria's debut against Burnley said it all. Excellent player though he is, and no matter how much he creates, a team with a defence as shaky as United's is unlikely to succeed. Real Madrid's display against Real Sociedad was a very similar example - they were fantastic in attack, but all the money they have dished out (including over €100m this summer for Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez) didn't improve their marking, allowing Sociedad to come from two goals behind to win 4-2.
One may suggest that if United can score five goals a game, it doesn't matter whether or not they concede three (perhaps Jose Mourinho might make that argument). But will Falcao be the man to contribute all those goals? In a season in which he'll be returning to full match fitness following a serious knee injury? It seems a risk, and one that will not pay off every week - if at all.
It's long been theorised that for long-term success, the spine of a team has to be strong - goalkeeper, centre-half, central midfielder and centre-forward. Louis Van Gaal may believe he has filled the latter two gaps; but there is no key man in the heart of defence, and question marks still remain over David De Gea - not for his shot-stopping ability, but for the way the back line holds together in front of him.
Still, underpinning Manchester United's massive gamble isn't performance on the pitch, but performance off it. Those marquee signings will attract global attention, resulting in merchandise sales and continuing ballooning income for United. On top of that, it will keep United's profile artificially high despite the club entering the season without without European competition for the first time in a generation.
And if these big-money signings don't make any difference? Well, there's always January...
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- Manchester United
- Angel Di Maria
- Real Madrid
- Manchester City
- Radamel Falcao