Man United prepared to break records
Manchester United are ready and willing to break the British transfer record if new manager Louis van Gaal decides they need to do so, says executive vice chairman Ed Woodward.
Woodward endured a frustrating first summer in his position last year as mooted transfers for Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Gareth Bale and even Cristiano Ronaldo failed to materialise.
United have paid upwards of 50 million pounds for Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, but as has been the case for the last few years, the biggest transfers have taken place away from Old Trafford this summer.
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Real Madrid signed James Rodriguez for 63 million pounds on Tuesday and Barcelona paid 75 million for Luis Suarez earlier this month.
When asked whether United would be willing to pay a similar amount for a player, Woodward said: "It is in our capabilities. The club are not afraid of doing that -- spending significant amounts of money in the transfer market."
Such a move would cause United to break the 50 million-pound British record transfer fee paid by Chelsea for Fernando Torres in 2011. Woodward insists neither he nor the club would be fazed about being responsible for such a big deal.
"Whether it's a record or not doesn't really resonate with us," Woodward said. "What resonates is a top, top elite player that the manager wants that is going to be a star for Manchester United. We are in a very strong financial position. We can make big signings.
"I get pointed in the direction of a target that the manager wants and there is an assessment of what that might cost and I'll negotiate hard to do the best I can on the trade."
United are interested in signing Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund, sources told PA Sport, though the club expect the Germans to fight hard for the centre-back, given that they have already lost Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich this summer.
Van Gaal is also interested in signing compatriots Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij and Kevin Strootman, although a move for the latter may have to wait until January as he is struggling with the knee injury that kept him out of the World Cup.
United have been told that Angel Di Maria is for sale, which could prompt Van Gaal to make an enquiry for the Real Madrid winger.
Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen is also on Van Gaal's wish list, although United have not, contrary to reports, agreed a swap deal for the defender that would see either Nani or Chris Smalling heading the other way.
It is understood that Juventus' Arturo Vidal is not being considered as a potential signing.
If Woodward landed two or three of those targets, he would go some way to enhancing his reputation, which took a hammering last summer when his only capture was 27.5 million-pound man Marouane Fellaini, who went on to endure a torrid season.
The former investment banker, who joined United in 2005, admits he still has some work to do to persuade fans he is the right man to be responsible for the club's transfer and contract negotiations.
"You gain credibility through experience and through time," he said. "You can't expect credibility from day one and I wouldn't ask that of the fans. You keep learning on the job and I'll continue to learn for a long period of time.
"I don't mind reading (criticism) because it's extremely important for me to listen to the fans. Criticism can change into positive comments over a period of time."
As well as experiencing troubles in the transfer market, Woodward also took the difficult decision to sack David Moyes, who was just 10 months into a six-year contract. Woodward said it was the toughest call of his career.
"I can't think of any bigger," he said. "It is certainly the most important role in the club by some distance and we didn't take the decision lightly. It was a difficult decision."
One thing that Woodward took away from the challenging season under Moyes was a picture of the scoreboard at the Karaiskakis, which read: Olympiacos 2, Manchester United 0.
Woodward and the United board decided to dispense with Moyes after that lacklustre performance.
"It was a challenging year," he said. "In an ideal situation, I would have worked with (Sir) Alex (Ferguson) for a year. But now there is a lot more positivity."
That positivity has come with the arrival of Louis van Gaal, who has restored an "aura" about the club, Woodward said.
Woodward maintains Van Gaal has not been set a target this year, although one would suspect anything other than a top-four finish would be termed as a failure in the new manager's eyes.
Van Gaal spoke at his unveiling about the hefty commercial demands of being Manchester United manager. Woodward is sure any sponsor commitments will not impact on the new manager and his players though.
"It doesn't disrupt the football club," he said. "We plan very carefully about who does what and when. The average time (for media and charity commitments for the staff) over the last couple of years has been about 0.7 hours per week."