Old Trafford Faithful: Deal or No Deal? United’s shambolic summer
This summer’s transfer window could have been looked upon as one of the most important in Manchester United’s recent history. This wasn’t because United seriously lacked quality or struggled in the previous campaign, but because the club was in the process of going through their biggest change in roughly 26 years. Sir Alex Ferguson hung up the hairdryer and his trusty Chief Executive David Gill was stepping down from his post.
A new regime was going to be residing over United’s summer business. The majority of fans were looking for the club to bring in two or three players to improve the squad and give David Moyes the best possible situation to begin his United tenure, a title winning squad with improvements where needed. However, the summer has been one of disappointment for many fans and the club has been widely criticised and in some cases ridiculed for the manner of the summer dealings.
When David Moyes took over he was inevitably asked about United’s plans on the transfer front, initially it all seemed positive. The new manager vowed to keep Wayne Rooney at the club whilst also voicing his intentions to strengthen United’s midfield, something that has been required for a number of seasons. As each press conference went by, more questions were asked on the transfer situation. Fans would hear statements such as “there’s no budget here” and “(United) will always be interested in the best players”. The way the transfer window eventually unfolded would seem to indicate that neither of these statements were completely true.
The first real “saga” over an incoming signing this summer was based around United’s apparent pursuit of Barcelona starlet Thiago Alcantara. Thiago has been a rising star of the football world for the last number of years and his reputation was soaring after a successful European U21 campaign with Spain, topped off by an impressive hat trick in the 4-2 win over Italy in the final. United’s interest was reported earlier in the tournament and the story continued to gain momentum as the tournament progressed. As Thiago left the stadium after the final he was seen clutching his signed match ball with a message of “see you in Manchester” written in Spanish supposedly by David De Gea, this sent the media in to a frenzy. Over the next couple of weeks there were various reports of agreed personal deals, agreed fees, meetings between parties and the United fans naturally got excited. The Spanish media went as far as to print papers with Thiago edited in to a Manchester United kit, stating that the deal was done. United fans were sure the deal was happening, social media sites were awash with people “confirming” the Thiago to United deal. Before we knew it, Pep Guardiola the new Bayern Munich manager was fluttering his eyelashes at Thiago, singing his praises and declaring his interest in signing the Barcelona man. Within the next couple of days it was confirmed that Bayern had struck a deal with Barcelona and Thiago was confirmed as Bayern bound. So began the mutterings of annoyance from United fans. It looked as though United had dragged their heels over the deal and not been clinical enough in their negotiations with Barcelona and the player. David Moyes hinted in a press conference after Thiago signed for Bayern that he was never interested in signing the Spanish U21 captain in the first place.
The hint about the lack of interest in Thiago was quickly followed by the extremely public pursuit of another Barcelona player, perhaps this was the deal United were genuinely interested in and the media over hyped the Thiago news. Cesc Fabregas was reportedly United’s top priority signing despite having only returned to his beloved Barcelona two years ago. United didn’t play this transfer story low key, it was instead an extremely open and public pursuit. United had bids rejected by Barcelona with many journalists and fans alike wondering why United thought they could lure Fabregas away after returning so recently. Suggestions were made that United were quietly confident that Fabregas was worried enough about his squad status as Barcelona to consider moving to the English champions. United’s ambitious pursuit was to have a disappointing end. Fabregas spoke of his desire to remain at Barcelona and the club themselves indicated they had no intentions of selling. There were rumours of a final £40million offer from United but this was never confirmed to have happened. Again the United fans had been given hope that United were pushing the boat out to bring in a star midfield signing to boost the squad and the new manager, but again there was disappointment. Levels of discontent amongst United fans seemed to grow with many baffled by United’s rather conspicuous pursuit of the player, something United are not known for.
Amongst these two high profile failed pursuits were numerous stories linking United with a wide range of players. Many of them were simply to fill column inches and United fans were able to dismiss them off hand. However the club were genuinely pursuing two Everton players in the form of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, with David Moyes looking to bring two of his Everton stars with him to his new club. Both players seemed like logical choices for United, Fellaini to help add much needed steel to United’s weak midfield and Baines to address the increasing uncertainty around Patrice Evra’s defensive capabilities. United proceeded to lodge a double bid of £28million for both Fellaini and Baines, a bid received extremely poorly by Everton who dismissed it as “derisory and insulting”, even as a United fan I can see why they were annoyed. With United’s previous failed bid for Leighton Baines it seemed they valued the Everton left back at around £12million, putting a value on Fellaini of around £16million. With the bid rejected United were naturally expected to return with an improved bid, but the Everton manager Roberto Martinez indicated over the next couple of weeks that there had been no further contact from United over his players. Speculation continued to suggest that United were keen to bring in both Baines and Fellaini, but United seemed to go quiet on the issue.
As the last week of the transfer window approached all United fans were hearing was speculation, the club were not confirming anything and no new players had arrived other than the Uruguayan youngster Gustavo Varela at the start of the window. Despite David Moyes regularly saying how he wanted to strengthen the squad he also began to make clear the fact that he would be happy with his current squad if he was unable to bring in new faces. Something that I was worried about and I know many other United fans feared the worst when he said this.
Seemingly out of nowhere, on the 30th August United had an offer for Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera rejected. United were told that the exciting 24 year old midfielder would only be allowed to leave if his release fee of approximately £30.75million was met. Within the last ten hours of the transfer window it was reported that United looked set to sign the Basque star and would meet his release fee, but as the hours went by this still hadn’t happened. Then came the story that there was an issue over the taxes around the deal and United were struggling to get the deal done. Typically, within the last two hours of the window it was confirmed that the Herrera deal was dead with United apparently unwilling to meet his release fee after all. Again United appeared to have gone about this deal in the completely wrong way. Herrera was reportedly set on the move to United after agreeing to help financially with the deal and take a pay cut to seal the move. United missed out on a much needed target, letting the fans down and letting the player down.
Whilst news filtered through of the Herrera deal collapsing, word came through from Spain that United had a £40million offer for Real Madrid’s German midfielder Sami Khedira rejected. Other suggestions were made that they had also tried and failed to do a late deal for long term target Wesley Sneijder. It was just one rejected bid after another it seemed and whether or not it was all true, it looks bad on United’s behalf and only irritates the paying fans further.
As the window slammed shut at 11pm last night confirmation finally came through that United had signed Marouane Fellaini from Everton for roughly £27.5million, only £500,000 less than the combined offer they made for Baines and Fellaini weeks earlier and for nearly £4million more than Fellaini’s release clause which had expired in the past few weeks. A surprising bit of news threatened to slightly cheer United fans, with media outlets saying United had also agreed a deal to sign Real Madrid left back Fabio Coentrao on loan for a season, seemingly to make up for missing out on Leighton Baines. Typically of this summer the Coentrao deal didn’t happen. Apparently United left it too late to agree the deal with Madrid which didn’t leave the Spanish giants enough time to persuade Guilherme Siqueira, their replacement for Coentrao, to turn his back on a move to Benfica. The paperwork was through on time and acknowledged by the Spanish authorities, but Madrid pulled the plug on the deal after they failed to land Siquiera.
The frantic and underwhelming end to the summer transfer window was the icing on a very disappointing cake. United threatened to make a few brilliant signings over the summer, Fabregas, Thaigo and Herrera would all have been perfectly suited to United’s need for a creative midfielder. However, the club failed to deliver on any of these deals. If true, the failed bids for Khedira and Sneijder look like nothing more than acts of desperation from a club worried about missing out on all of their targets. The club also reportedly turned down the chance to sign Mesut Ozil, who eventually went to Arsenal. Many fans argued that he wasn’t needed due to United having Shinji Kagawa, but this simply isn’t the case. Despite being a huge fan of Kagawa, Ozil is one of the top 15 players in the world and would improve any squad, including United’s. The reported rejection of the chance to sign Ozil has left the majority of fans scratching their heads. The signing of Marouane Fellaini is a great signing, he is unlike any other players we currently have, but the farcical way United finished the transfer window will undoubtedly overshadow this great purchase. Even then, the fact that the club ended up paying £27.5million for Fellaini instead of the £24million release clause a month before sums up the amateurish nature of our business.
The blame for this shambles surely lies with the Glazer family and United’s CEO Ed Woodward. I voiced my concerns about Woodward the day his succession of David Gill was announced. He is a Glazer “yes man” and puppet, he helped them in their purchase of the club. He is used to bringing in money for the Glazers in the form of sponsorship deals etc, not spending it. The Glazers will no doubt see Woodward as the perfect CEO to penny pinch and they will be happy in his lack of comfort in spending large amounts of the club’s money. Some fans will blame David Moyes because they already have their minds made up that they don’t want him at United, this is ridiculous. I think he is the right man for the job and the word going round is that he is extremely angry with the lack of support he has been given in the transfer market this summer.
When you look at the back pages of the papers today you will see Arsenal being praised for the signing of Ozil and United being criticised heavily for an embarrassing summer of transfer business. I am happy with the signing of Fellaini, I really am, but it isn’t enough when United clearly wanted more but were incapable of doing the deals for them. United, the biggest club in the world, went about their business this summer as if they were completely clueless, we just have to hope it doesn’t affect us on the pitch.
Make sure you check out the original article over at the Old Trafford Faithul.
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