Manchester United are still playing catch-up with the world’s top teams today as a consequence of allowing five players to depart Old Trafford, according to Rio Ferdinand.
Erik ten Hag’s side have just closed the door on a successful first season in charge for the Dutchman. After a tumultuous 2021/22 campaign which saw the club finish sixth, Ten Hag’s mission was to get United upwardly mobile again.
However, and despite being allowed to spend some £216m in summer 2022, what was to follow was a season that exceeded pretty much all expectations.
Indeed, United finished third to seal a much-coveted return to the Champions League. They also won some silverware too, lifting the Carabao Cup after seeing off Newcastle at Wembley.
However, they were unable to make it a trophy double, having lost 2-1 to Manchester City in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Indeed, Pep Guardiola’s men now just have to beat Inter Milan in the Champions League final to complete a historic Treble. And while United pushed them hard at Wembley, City always did have that extra quality when it mattered most.
City continue to set the benchmark for those around them to follow. Five Premier League titles in six seasons underlines their ferocious dominance.
And their success must feel like a bitter pill to swallow for the red half of Manchester. Continually playing catch-up to City will be difficult to take for their supporters.
However, iconic former United star Ferdinand reckons the sale of five players in particular set the club back years.
And Ferdinand, a part of United’s last title-winning team in 2012/13, says David Moyes and Louis van Gaal badly messed up in subsequent dealings.
Rio Ferdinand criticises Man Utd transfer business
And the former England defender has highlighted the sales of homegrown stars Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck, as well as Javier Hernandez and Rafael and Fabio Da Silva as big mistakes.
“They were the lifeblood of Manchester United, they all came through the system, all Man United boys, and that was lost as well,” Ferdinand told Vibe With Five.
“That was a part of what the club had been built on before, people who would come through the academy were integral to everything Man United stood for.
“And they were getting rid of those players willy-nilly, I couldn’t believe the club even allowed it.”
Van Gaal was the man responsible for letting Welbeck leave, selling the England striker to Arsenal. At the time, the Dutchman suggested Welbeck was sold for a lack of goals. Yet the man who came in his place, Radamel Falcao, largely struggled before departing after his year-long loan.
Evans’ Man Utd exit upset Ferdinand
Welbeck, meanwhile, has has since moved on to Brighton, where he has been for the last three seasons.
Ferdinand reckons Welbeck is still good enough to play for United today. Yet the real travesty for Ferdinand was allowing Evans to depart.
“He should never have been allowed to leave the club. He was the best centre-half at the club when we all left. [Chris] Smalling’s had a great career, don’t get me wrong. But Jonny Evans is a better player, 100 per cent,” he added.
Ferdinand was also unhappy at the sale of the Da Silva brothers, who moved to Cardiff and Lyon.
“What they did at Man United they could’ve done that for the rest of their career,” Ferdinand concluded.
United, however, will look to close the gap on City further this season with some astute summer signings.
They are pushing forwards with a deal to sign Kim Min-jae. As such, the South Korean looks likely to become their first capture of the summer.
However, more could follow with Ten Hag also eyeing a new striker, a midfielder and possibly a goalkeeper too.
The long process back to righting the wrongs Ferdinand talks about is already well underway.