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Manchester United Must Not Let 'Fantasy Football' Tactics Kill the Heart and Soul of the Club

10/09/2014 17:48 BST | Updated 10/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Manchester United fans' initial displeasure at an apparent lack of transfer activity over the summer to fix a clearly broken squad was quickly reversed in the final two weeks of the window. Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind arrived for the relatively modest fees of £16m and £14m respectively, but the British record signing of Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid really got people talking.

The Argentine winger was man of the match in last season's Champions League final and was linked with a move to big spending French giants Paris Saint-Germain. However, it was United who managed to seal a £59.7m deal, even without the lure of European competition.

But if that wasn't excitement enough, what happened next had fans hitting the roof with eager anticipation. Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao completed a sensational loan move on transfer deadline day with a view to a £51m permanent move next summer.

Suddenly, along with the pre-existing summer acquisitions of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, Louis van Gaal's inherited squad looks much stronger than it did just a few weeks earlier.

Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009, United had cut a relatively frugal figure in the transfer market, unwilling to meet asking prices that were spiralling out of control. However, that stance has now been well and truly shattered. Beyond just one summer of huge spending, the new trend is set to continue and reports suggest the club will look to buy one global star every single season.

In that respect most would struggle to compete with the likes of Real Madrid, the club which has set the last four world record transfer fees. However, United's ambition on the pitch is very much matched by their corporate interests off it. Despite missing out on Champions League football for the first time in 19 years, the money continues to roll in. A £750m partnership with Adidas is set to kick in next season and a sponsorship deal worth more than £50 annually began in July, meaning United, unlike most others in world football, can spend what they want on superstar signings, even with Financial Fair Play rules in force.

It truly is 'Fantasy Football' tactics of the highest order, but there is still a nagging concern - at what cost to the heart, soul and the real character of the club?

United Must Also Nurture Their Own StarsUnited Must Also Nurture Their Own Stars

The same day that saw Falcao arrive at Old Trafford also saw Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley leave. Welbeck was first spotted by United as a 6-year-old, while Cleverley joined at the age of 11. They are two players that know and understand the values of the club better than any foreign superstar ever could. They may not be seen as good enough, but their departure represents a dangerous crossroads.

In the aftermath of the transfer window, former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel expressed real concern that letting go of players who have been brought up in the club risks the 'culture' that makes it so great.

What United have done better than any other top Premier League club is develop from within and preserve a real heart and soul of nurtured talent. Starting with the development of the Class of '92 at the start of the Premier League era, through to the likes of Wes Brown, John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher, the club has always had home-grown players in title winning teams.

It is what separates United from mercenary clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, whose recent success has been built entirely on buying ready-made products. More than 15 years after he made his debut, John Terry is still Chelsea's last home-grown first team regular, while Micah Richards is City's only prominent academy graduate in a decade.

Of course United need to be bringing in world class stars like Di Maria and Falcao, but it cannot be at the expense of nurturing talent of their own.

Crucially, in Louis van Gaal the club has a manager with a proven track record of developing young players. The Dutchman can claim responsibility for gifting the world the famous Ajax golden generation of the 1990s, while it was he who gave German World Cup winners Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos their chance in the first team at Bayern Munich.

United now have a new generation of talent in players like James Wilson, Tyler Blackett, Reece James and Jesse Lingard that are just breaking into the squad. Van Gaal has already shown faith in the young starlets, but he must continue to do so and the club must not let the blinkered quest to acquire the world's best players kill the very heart and soul that make Manchester United what it is.

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