Manchester United’s world record transfer fee for French midfielder Paul Pogba last month was a signal that the Red Devils are intent on getting themselves back to the top of the English Premier League. Here we take a look at some of the best alternatives United could have considered.

With 105 million Euros spent on the transaction, the expectations for Pogba at Old Trafford will be sky high.

During his four seasons with Juventus in the Italian Serie A, the French international established himself as one of the game’s premier midfielders and helped bring several titles to Turin.

His skill on the ball, pace, and passing ability make him a dangerous weapon against any opposing defence.

Two matches into his United career, and he has adapted well thus far, as the club has begun with nine points from their first three league fixtures.

There is plenty of speculation from supporters and pundits on what he can bring to manager Jose Mourinho’s squad.

There is certainly also reason to be both optimistic and sceptical about his arrival.

Other options were certainly on the table for Manchester United this summer and beyond.

The opportunity cost from this decision takes into account what ownership stands to miss out on with other choices, and they could be substantial for the team’s future.

We highlight the routes that Manchester United did not take with the Paul Pogba transfer fee and how they might have reshaped their future.

MARCO VERRATTI

23-year old Italian midfielder Marco Verratti has been a major component to Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance in Ligue 1 during recent years.

The diminutive defensive midfielder possesses excellent vision and sharp passing abilities. The same age as Paul Pogba, Verratti could have been brought in for a significantly smaller transfer fee.

An estimated 40 million Euros could have seen Verratti join Manchester United, with 65 million left to spare for other use.

Verratti does not possess all of the attacking skills and speed of Pogba, but he certainly could have filled a central midfield role in a substantial manner. Surgery for a sports hernia injury this past May forced him out of Italy’s run in Euro 2016 and ultimately may have kept any deal from taking place this summer.

Having already added Henrik Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund, a case could definitely be made that an attacking role in the middle was addressed, and the transfer of Verratti would have been a smart piece of business for Manchester United.

The money saved could have been put in other directions to improve the club.

BLAISE MATUIDI

Paris Saint-Germain has another midfield option that peaked Jose Mourinho’s interest this summer in 29-year old French midfielder Blaise Matuidi. Similar to Verratti, Matuidi would have brought a strong defensive presence to the United midfield.

A strong tackler possessing incredible stamina, Matuidi’s transfer would have allowed attacking players a greater ability to get forward on opponents.

This is especially crucial late in matches. An estimated 25.5 million Euro fee would have seen more money available both this summer and in the January window.

MANCHESTER UNITED ACADEMY

Where the opportunity cost of Paul Pogba’s transfer becomes the most glaring is in the United academy.

With a strong squad in place before the arrival of Pogba, the club could have seen more funding and investment in their world-renowned facilities and infrastructure.

The Trafford Training Centre in the village of Carrington is the academy’s training grounds and has been hailed as one of the finest in world football.

Built under the direction of Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999, the facility saw over 70 million Euros in renovations and improvements in 2013.

Medical technology, new training pitches, and a sports science department were all sparkling new additions.

The academy and youth system has won numerous U23 and U21 titles over recent years and has produced some of the best Manchester United players in decades.

Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville all developed and made their way through the academy ranks.

If United and Mourinho had instead made a move towards Verratti or Matuidi, the money saved could have been used towards the development of young players and the environment around them.

With savings estimated somewhere between 65 and 90 million Euros, the investments could have been substantial.

Academy players like Devonte Redmond, Tosin Kehinde, and Sean Goss have all showed great promise on United youth teams and could develop even further as years go on.

Redmond has displayed incredible pace and a strong scoring ability with United’s U21 squad. Primarily used as a wide midfielder or winger, his attacking skills will continue to blossom.

Kehinde’s pace and quick feet have made an impression on many around the Manchester United youth teams.

While primarily expected to operate in a defensive holding role, his powerful strikes and vision could see him develop as an attacking midfielder in the coming years.

German-born midfielder Sean Goss is an exciting prospect for the club as well.

A commanding presence in the midfield for the Red Devils, he was a key contributor to the U21 team’s title-winning campaign last season.

Great size, accurate passing and strong possession ability when on the ball, Goss is a player who could make an impact on the senior team level at some point.

With numerous talented players at other positions as well, it is important to note that a significant investment in the academy can see several youth players grow into potential stars at Old Trafford.

Marco Verratti or Blaise Matuidi could still have been added, and a very successful roster would have been in place.

However, United find themselves on a different timeline with Paul Pogba.

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United want to win now, and they were willing to pay in order to make that reality happen.

While Pogba’s transfer fee was a massive new record, his unique skillset made him invaluable to the Red Devils at this point. Sometimes timing is everything, isn’t it?

The opportunity cost for Manchester United would become clearer as time goes on, as will if the Pogba transfer was ultimately the right decision.

But the club and the Glazer family have indeed placed a major investment in one player to push them back towards Premier League and Champions League titles in the near future.

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