Are Man United the kings of Europe? Red Devils have ‘the most sustainable squad in the top five leagues’ with boffins claiming they will make the Champions League ‘without too much difficulty’ and reclaim the Premier League title
- The CIES Football Observatory has released its latest monthly report for March
- It focused on the sustainability of first team squads in Europe’s top five leagues
- Manchester United scored well across all three categories and emerged top
Manchester United possess the most sustainable squad in all of Europe’s top five leagues, according to a new study.
The CIES Football Observatory released its findings on sustainable squad management this month, ranking sides on three main areas – age structure, group stability and contractual policy – in order to determine the optimum set up on the continent.
And the results showed that United are streets ahead of their main rivals, finishing top of the standings after scoring well in all categories.
Manchester United have built the most sustainable squad in Europe, according to a study
According to the CIES, the findings suggest they are well placed to qualify for the Champions League ‘without too much difficulty’ for the coming seasons, and are also in a position to ‘eventually lift again the Premier League trophy’.
The CIES details in its report the importance of each category. The first focus is on age structure, where it measures how many minutes are afforded to players who could be presumed to be past their prime.
They take a cut-off age for each position – 33 for a goalkeeper, 32 for a defender, 31 for a midfielder and 30 for a striker – before measuring what percentage of minutes players above those ages have played for teams this season.
United’s policy, as set out by chief executive Ed Woodward, appears to be paying dividends
While LaLiga side Huesca top the list, reigning Champions League holders Bayern Munich actually sit in second position.
The second test is group stability, looking at the reliance on new signings, and how many minutes are played by recruits since June 2020. Top of the list across the whole of Europe is Fulham, while Manchester United are sat in the bottom 10, having relied little on new signings, breathing continuity through the squad – a desirable attribute according to the study.
Finally, they studied the minutes played by players who are on loan, or whose contracts are set to expire before June 2022.
This is another area where United score highly, with only Manchester City and Aston Villa handing less playing time to those coming to the end of deals.
Bayern Munich have one of the oldest squads in Europe, relying heavily on experience
Manchester United have not won the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season
United’s current form does appear to back up the CIES findings, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side sat second in the Premier League table, on course for Champions League qualification.
United have not won the title since Sir Alex Feguson’s last season in charge of the club in 2012-13, and have struggled in their bid to return themselves to the top of English and European football.
However, club policy success does not necessarily deliver teams to the top of the table.
Basque clubs Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao are very particular about signings as a matter of tradition, and so with a smaller pool of players to choose from, it makes sense that they invest in longer contracts and thrive off a sense of loyalty.
Both Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao score well on the CIES’s report for squad sustainability
The pair rank second and third in the CIES table, but sit fifth and 11th respectively in LaLiga, showing that the report is more an indication of a club’s ability to achieve their own image of success.
At the other end of the spectrum there are clear parallels between short-term thinking and onfield struggles.
Genoa possess no fewer than 13 players on loan, and are languishing in the bottom half of Serie A – eight points clear of the drop zone.
They sit bottom of the CIES table, with the fact they placed 17th the previous season backing up the idea that their failure to plan long term is having a dramatic effect on the pitch.
Genoa have regressed in Serie A in the past few years, finishing in 17th spot last season
CIES SUSTAINABLE SQUAD RATING – TOP 5
1. Manchester United (England)
2. Real Sociedad (Spain)
3. Athletic Bilbao (Spain)
4. Tottenham (England)
5. Manchester City (England)
SUSTAINABLE SQUAD RATING – BOTTOM 5
94. Benevento (Italy)
95. Arminia Bielefeld (Germany)
96. Elche (Spain)
97. Huesca (Spain)
98. Genoa (Italy)