Manchester United in crisis: rich players don’t want to play

Manchester United may have splashed millions of pounds last summer, however, they aren’t playing incredibly well.

Jose Mourinho’s side are eighth in the Premier League, having won only four of their first 10 games and sit eight points adrift of leaders, Manchester City.

During the last Europa game, United lost 2–1 against the modest Turkish club, Fenerbahçe. It was like United’s players didn’t want to play, letting Fenerbahçe dominate their game without any resistance from Manchester United.

What is happening to Manchester United, is happening everywhere in the premier league: rich players don’t want to play, but they want money and respect.

But what does respect actually mean for a professional footballer? It means being able to choose the number on their shirts. And it can create frustration between players if one of them must hand over his fetish number to another player.

French star and Manchester United player, Anthony Martial was disappointed to learn that he had to give up his shirt number to new Swedish megastar arrival, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, when he joined in the summer. And this alone could explain why Martial only scored two goals this season according to his agent and fans.

His agent Philippe Lamboley told French Radio RMC on 4thNovember:

“Personally, I find that decision out of order and disrespectful to my player. I told Manchester United’s board that. You just don’t do it.”

Most reasonable football fans would argue that if Martial doesn’t play well it is Mourinho’s fault, as he took the decision to move out the player from his original position and does not let him enough space.

But no, not having his favourite number may explain why Martial doesn’t score anymore.

On the other hand, one player not causing too many problems for the United boss, despite a tally of only one goal in 11 games, is Ibrahimovic.

Mourinho said on Sky Sport right after the Fenerbahçe debacle:

“He is playing well for the team. He’s creating a lot of chances and missing a lot of goals.”

Yes, United megastar Ibrahimovic misses lot of goals which, you would agree, is a problem for a striker.

But there’s an even bigger issue for the club: professional football players cost a fortune.

Ibrahimovic earns £220,000 a week to play football, but he is only third in the wage list of United behind Paul Pogba who earns £290,000 a week for having scored just four goal this season and Wayne Rooney who gets paid £260,000 a week for not playing great either.

Manchester United’s current wage bill is the second highest in the Premier League at £202m a year, followed by Manchester City’s £193.8m and Arsenal’s £192m wages.

And this has an impact on the profitability of the club itself.

(source financial information quarterly reports Manchester United)

United is losing money. Their profit went down from £146m in 2013 to a loss of £0.95m last season. That’s a huge a drop in profit and will have an impact on the club at some point. Manchester United is a business and therefore must make money. The club has tried to compensate the shortfall in broadcast and match day revenues, by increasing its commercial revenue. Hence why, the club bought Pogba for £90m this year. They wanted to sell more shirts to young supporters across the globe.

Football was and is still a popular and a working class game. Unfortunately, powerful corporations have bought all professional clubs and have tried since then, to turn their investment into profit.

As Manchester United’s performance this season shows, money isn’t everything and you can’t buy talent with cash.

Meanwhile, what was once a beautiful game, has become a cold, corporate business.

Stephane Savary

Originally published at on November 5, 2016.