Analysing Manchester United's summer transfer dealings
What a window it’s been for Manchester United. Despite missing out on Champions League football, the Red Devils have managed to complete four separate deals, tie Jose Mourinho down as their manager, and keep their best players. The club were the second biggest spenders of the whole division – second only to their rivals Manchester City – bringing in Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – and in doing so, now look like they have the quality to challenge for domestic trophies once again.
Perhaps the biggest catch was the earliest one – announcing Jose Mourinho as their manager was a real statement of intent, and one that no doubt played a key role in attracting the talent they have done. The Portuguese enigma is a serial winner, having had major success with every club he’s managed, from Porto to Real Madrid, and has already experienced an incredible amount of Premier League success with former club Chelsea. He’s instilled in the squad a confidence that was lacking under Louis Van Gaal, as they now look very comfortable at holding leads – something United failed to do last season on a regular basis, as they dropped 11 points from winning positions.
Their first signing, Eric Bailly, looks to be a player United have missed since the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. A tall, brutish centre back, but also an assured, commanding force at the back, the Ivorian looks to be a major asset to United. Rewarded with the Man of the Match award after his first two games, both of which featured impressive displays, and Bailly looks capable of forming an extremely competent centre-back pairing with Chris Smalling. At just 22, Bailly has a long while yet to improve, but his displays have been encouraging to say the least, and for a sizeable fee of £30m, United have got their hands on a fantastic player with immense potential.
Their second capture was the veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for whom there aren’t enough superlatives. Ibrahimovic is one of the best out-and-out strikers of his generation, with career stats of 458 goals in 797 appearances for club and country. The Swede is a living legend, and has won trophies at every club he’s stayed at – all 8 of them, in a career spanning almost 18 years. He’s adapting to life in the Premier League with the confidence of a striker who’s done it all before, with a brace against Southampton on his home debut coming after a longer range effort away at Bournemouth. His physicality, technical ability, finishing and range of passing will terrorise defences this year.
They then brought in the Armenian, Henrik Mkhitaryan, from Borussia Dortmund, for a fee of around £25m. The winger has been limited so far in terms of league appearances, but will expect to feature more regularly after the international break. Big things are expected of Mkhitaryan, who played a big role in Dortmund’s successful league season with 11 goals and 15 assists from wider positions. The 27yr old will spend his best years at United, so the Manchester side must make the most of his considerable talent – a task made easier by Mkhitaryan’s versatility; he can play on either wing, or centrally if required. He should work well with Anthony Martial on the opposite wing; both offer genuine pace and excellent technical ability.
Their final signing, however, was the marquee one. The transfer record was, once again, smashed, as United brought back former academy player Paul Pogba from Juventus for a fee of over £90m. The Frenchman is one of the most skilful players on the planet, and brings fantastic skill as well as brutish strength to a United midfield that looked bereft of such a personality last season. Pogba is one of few truly world class players, and at just 23, will surely develop into a world-beater – especially under Jose Mourinho. He is built to suit the Premier League, with strength, energy, and power in abundance, and will be desperate to make his second spell in Manchester a successful one.
United’s window must therefore be considered an immense success. By bringing in the quality of the player that they have, they look capable of competing for trophies once more. The sprinkling of stardust that United have lacked has been added in some fashion, and with some of the biggest names in world football back at Old Trafford, the echoes of glory that have reverberated around Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure look set to be replaced with new joy and new successes under the Jose Mourinho era.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne.