Manchester United: Explaining Their Transfer Window Disappointments This Summer
When Manchester United made the underwhelming but probably sensible appointment of David Moyes as their new manager, it was abundantly clear they would also need to quickly arm him with at least a couple of new signings.
A new era needs new impetus.
A new era needs to make a bold statement.
But so far United haven’t done this, and more than two months since Sir Alex Ferguson walked away from Old Trafford, the club have failed to provide Moyes with reinforcements.
At the moment Moyes simply presides over Ferguson’s old squad, minus Paul Scholes, and has been given nothing to provide the momentum he needs ahead of the new season.
At a press conference in Japan today, as reported in The Huffington Post, Moyes acknowledged the frustrations of United fans.
"I can understand that feeling. But there have been quite a few changes. Other managers have changed their clubs too and everybody thought this might be the summer when transfers are done later in the month. That was always the thought I had when I came into the club. You have to remember I only started on July 1, so in truth I have only been in the job three weeks at this present time."
United fans have had to watch their neighbours and rivals Manchester City quietly and effectively spending £100 million recalibrating their squad with the signings of Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and Fernandinho.
In comparison, and it is still relatively early, United have so far endured a disappointing transfer window.
It would have been preferable for a couple of significant new signings to currently be on the preseason tour of Thailand, Australia and Japan; settling in and getting to know the rest of the squad.
It would appear as though Moyes and the new United chief executive Ed Woodward have been trying to remedy this.
There was the ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of the Barcelona and Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara.
Now this always appeared to be too good to be true.
Here was Paul Scholes’ natural successor ready to slot in to the side and bring some tiki-taka to Old Trafford.
However, young Spanish talent, fresh from scoring hat-tricks in the final to win the European Under-21 championships are notoriously difficult to prise out of the clutches of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
But Thiago had grown tired of waiting for his chance to become a regular at the Nou Camp, and wanted to move on.
United fans waited and waited, fueled by false hope. But it was all in vain when the new Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola, the man who had helped nurture the player at Barcelona, made his interest known and Thiago was unveiled next him in Bavaria within a matter of days.
Manchester United had learned that potentially A-list players want to play for A-list managers.
David Moyes or Pep Guaridola? No contest. Almost the day after learning Thiago would not be moving to United, news came of United making a bid for his former Barcelona teammate Cesc Fabregas.
It was almost as if someone at Old Trafford had put a line through Thiago's name, moved down the list and picked up the phone to dial Barcelona again.
The Fabregas bid is still unresolved, it can’t be filed as a disappointment just yet. There remains hope.
United have been unusually frank about bidding for the player, and today, as reported in The Daily Mail, Moyes confirmed a second offer had been made to Barcelona.
After watching Robin van Persie’s immediate impact at Old Trafford last season, United now know all about the value of signing players at the absolute peak of their game.
Fabregas would be a brilliant signing, capable of solving United’s long-running midfield problems at a stroke.
But when he was at Arsenal, Fabregas agitated for several seasons to return to his native Barcelona, and so would he be prepared to give this up and return to the Premier League after only two years?
Would Barcelona, having sold Thiago already, want to further deplete their midfield stocks?
The next week should provide an answer.
All summer long, Manchester United have allowed the story to grow that they are willing to spend more than double their current record transfer fee, which was set five years ago when they spent £30.75 million on Dimitar Berbatov.
When Ed Woodward was directly asked if he would spend up to £60 million or £70 million on a player, as reported by The Daily Mail, he replied, “absolutely.”
These are the size of fees that would need to be spent on Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale, both of whom United have been linked to in the English press this summer, as reported in The Daily Mail.
To recruit one of them would be an incredible statement by United and provide the Moyes era with the momentum it needs.
But at the moment Bale and Ronaldo are still wearing the white shirts of Tottenham and Real Madrid.
It has been reported in The Sun that United have been attempting to lure Ronaldo back to Old Trafford this summer.
The fan in me is excited by the possibility, but he keeps getting told to get a grip of himself by the louder realist in me.
Why would Real Madrid want to sell by far their most influential player, who has scored 201 goals in 199 games since arriving four years ago?
And why would Ronaldo, who has always wanted to perform at the Bernabeu, flee after just four years?
My feeling is United’s interest is a rather useful tool for Ronaldo to leverage a new and improved contract at Real Madrid.
United have flirted with Ronaldo, but I feel he will eventually decide to stay with Real Madrid.
His former manager Jose Mourinho, as reported in The Independent, agrees:
“What I know is that Real Madrid is such a rich club they don’t need to sell and it is such a rich club I think they can beat any offer a club can have on Ronaldo. I know Ronaldo loves Man United and I know he loves the Premier League but I think he is going to stay. It’s just a feeling, no contact, nothing just a feeling.”
While the arrival of Gareth Bale is more possible, it is also likely to end in disappointment.
The problem is Manchester United and Tottenham have history.
Tottenham have never forgotten the way they reluctantly sold United Michael Carrick in 2006 and Dimitar Berbatov in 2008.
Tottenham want to be contenders, they don’t want to be a feeder club for the Premier League.
Selling Bale to United would see Tottenham banking a lot of money, but also surrendering any hopes they might still have about eventually competing with United.
It would be far easier to wait for Real Madrid to write a big cheque and wave Bale off to Spain later this summer or even next year.
Given the choice between Real Madrid and Manchester United, my hunch is that Bale would be boarding a plane rather than a train to meet up with his new club whenever he leaves North London.
United have a new boldness in the transfer market this summer, but so far it hasn’t translated in to actual signings.
Playing for Sir Alex Ferguson was a real draw for players, and without him United are possibly finding it harder to complete deals.
While Thiago has gone, Fabregas, Ronaldo and Bale remain on the market, and United need to unveil one of them holding a red shirt next to David Moyes as soon as possible.
There has been too much talk, and not enough action from United so far this summer.
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