United’s chief executive Nigel Clibbens explained this week why United’s apparent lack of summer activity had been anything but quiet as the club had worked hard to get its top targets over the line as preparations for the new campaign continued at pace through May and June.
“Each summer window is different,” he said. “Sometimes you get a window where you have a high churn of players and to do that properly you have to start doing your business very early.
“It was always the case that there was going to be less activity for us this summer because a lot of the hard work had been done the season before. The second part of it is that whilst we didn’t necessarily go public on the deals we were doing, we had some of them very close to a conclusion quite a while ago.
“My view, and I think Keith shares this, is that until you get to the point where the paperwork is all signed and lodged with the league you can actually be a bit premature sometimes in announcing them.
“There have been examples this season of teams in our league who’ve said they’ve signed players only to then have to say they haven’t. That causes embarrassment all round and we’re not going to be a club who does that. We’ll always wait until deals are definitely done.”
“We’d also made a decision that we were going to try and announce some players in bulk, having completed the final details of the contracts together,” he added. “Keith wanted to try to do it that way and we wanted to support him. Ultimately the manager decides things like that and we will always work to his wishes.
“With Jack Bonham, normally the clubs would go together but his parent club decided they would go early. They’d wanted to release it for quite some time but we hadn’t even had Jack up to see us in Carlisle until the day we announced it. I think he’d signed another contract with them and they were in a position where they needed to announce the two bits of news together. That’s their choice.
“Obviously that was frustrating for us and Brentford because the clubs have a really good relationship. I’m very much of the view that clubs should launch that kind of thing together.
“Generally that’s what happens, but you do get the odd occasion where one club feels it has to act because of the situation it’s in at the time. They had pressure from their local press and contract talks they needed to announce. We were fine with that. They kept us informed every step of the way.
“Again, in general, the lowest positioned club tends to get to go first because it’s their news and it’s often more important to them. It’s just one of those things if one club does have to go early and it isn’t something that happens too often.”
With the season just over a month away he also confirmed that the club is backing the manager to go one better as the United boss enters the final year of his current contract.
“We had some preliminary discussions with Keith after the end of the season and the situation is that his contract currently has a year to run,” he told us. “We’ve spoken to him about how we’re going to approach that, but those talks will remain private.
We’re backing Keith because we think he’s done a fantastic job and we want him to continue to do that for us ...
“We’re backing Keith because we think he’s done a fantastic job and we want him to continue to do that for us. We’re committed to supporting him in the best way we can and we’ll look at his contract situation again in due course.
“We aren’t focused on that at the moment because right now we’re looking at getting the best squad together and giving the manager the best resources he can get as we head into an important new season.”
Speaking about whether or not the manager’s contract situation can affect player recruitment, he said: “I don’t think it works like that in football. There are plenty of managers who've been given ten year contracts and six months later they weren’t at that club any more.
“The proof is in the pudding and Keith is currently one of the longest serving managers in the EFL and he’s done a great job for us, which is why we’re committed to him. His contract is still running so I don’t think it makes any difference to player recruitment at all.”
But with rumours of links with Oxford and Aberdeen surfacing through May and June, would the club stand in his way if one of those rumours became something more concrete?
“In this game if a fantastic opportunity comes along for a manager then they’re going to want to go, exactly the same way as if it happens for a player,” Clibbens said. “Good clubs don’t stand in the way of their manager in those circumstances.
“However, Keith is our manager and we’re very pleased that he is. He’s been very clear for a number of months on the areas of the team he wants to improve and that’s part of what we’re all working towards. It’s our job to give him as much resource as we can and we’ll continue to do that.
“In basic terms we’re giving Keith everything the club can give him. He’s right to keep asking and pushing us for more because he came to this club to make it better. Part of Keith’s make-up is his relentlessness to continue to do better in everything he does.
“I think that raises the bar for everybody and I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of him asking for more. It shows we have the right mentality here and a good way of working.”
And on the budget the manager has to work with this summer, he said: “That’s always moving as the situation at the club changes. As we sit here now the budget is broadly the same as it was at this stage last year.
“As we go through the season and we see where things like the attendances are at, and how the cup competitions are going, we can start to factor that in as well. As we’ve seen before, if we get a big cup tie then more money can go into the pot, as we’ve done in previous years. Likewise if we get good attendances it also adds to the size of the pot.
“The play-off games brought some extra cash in but it’s insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The revenue generated from that gets shared between the other three teams who are in there with you.
“On top of that we have to remember that the rules in this league mean there’s only a certain amount of your income which you can spend on players anyway, due to Salary Cost Management Protocol [SCMP].
“That’s why we keep saying that the club will give every penny it can to the first team manager within the rules we’re faced with. That will always be the case.”