The final piece in the mad jigsaw of Louis Van Gaal – the £9m loan signing of Monaco’s Colombia striker Radamel Falcao – took United’s spending this summer to a record £149m. Their previous record outlay had been £62m in 2007.
The latest spree exceeded Manchester City’s £148m in 2009 and Chelsea’s £111m in 2003 as Premier League clubs’ expenditure this year soared to a record £835m, outstripping even last year’s £760m.
Falcao was United’s sixth summer signing under Louis Van Gaal after defenders Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, midfielder Ander Herrera and forward Angel Di Maria who cost a British record purchase price of £60m.
The 28-year-old had hoped for a return to Spanish football with Real Madrid after his year-long ‘exile’ in the south of France but a knee ligament injury cut his last season in half and forced hm to miss the World Cup. In the meantime Madrid’s transfer priorities change though they have taken Mexico striker Javier Hernandez from United on loan.
Chicharito was not the only Old Trafford departure. Shinji Kagawa returned to Dortmund and England centre-forward Danny Welbeck left for Arsenal to fill the gap created by injury to France centre-forward Olivier Giroud.
Already unsettled Welbeck, 23, became definitively surplus to United’s requirements after they landed Falcao. His departure promopted criticism that United, in their panic after a poor start to the season, had thrown over their traditional youth policy. But even United, for all their sponsor and TV-driven wealth, cannot spend continually in this manner.
United’s spending has been driven by the urgent need to return to the Champions League. Absence from the European elite is costing them up to £100m plus £40m in prize money and £10m in ticket sales and matchday sponsors. It also lowers their status in terms of sponsor value.
The overall rise in spending – not only by United- has been enabled by the first season of vastly increased TV money. Last year was the start of a three-year domestic TV deal with Sky and BT worth £3.018bn, a 70pc increase on the previous deal. In fact, the previous spending record of £630m was broken this year on August 14, before a ball had been kicked.
Football agent Rachel Anderson said: “Is the spending reckless? If you compare it with blockbuster movies or a singer from a TV reality show who can’t sing very well, then it is worth it – for the entertainment the clubs produce all seven days of the week, one way or another.”
Liverpool joined Manchester United in spending more than £100m, thanks in part to their £75m sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the third biggest transfer ever. But ‘market winners’ were probably Chelsea in refining their squad impressively for ‘only’ £91m on deals including Diego Costa and Filipe Luis from Atletico Madrid and Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
Next came Arsenal who followed up last year’s £42m signing of Mesut Ozil by spending £82m in the window including £35m on Alexis Sanchez and £16m on Welbeck.
Manchester City – once a target for Ferguson’s “kamikaze” jibe – spent a mere £50m to take the combined spend by the four Premier League clubs in this season’s Champions League to £342m – some 40pc of the total Premier League outlay. Six of the 20 Premier League clubs made their record signings this summer – Manchester United, Everton, Hull, Leicester, West Brom and Crystal Palace.
This was not the end: Spending could rise again next year after the start of the new Champions League TV era, worth £897m over three years – more than double the current deal.
TOP 10 TRANSFERS
Angel Di Maria [Real Madrid to Manchester United] £59.7m
Alexis Sanchez [Barcelona to Arsenal] £35m
Diego Costa [Atletico Madrid to Chelsea] £32m
Eliaquim Mangala [FC Porto to Manchester City] £32m
Cesc Fabregas [Barcelona to Chelsea] £30m
Ander Herrera [Athletic Bilbao to Manchester United] £29m
Romelu Lukaku [Chelsea to Everton] £28m
Luke Shaw [Southampton to Manchester United] £27m
Adam Lallana [Southampton to Liverpool] £25m
Dejan Lovren [Southampton to Liverpool] £20m
Lazar Markovic [Benfica to Liverpool] £20m