The summer has not been kind to Manchester United.
With Sir Alex Ferguson retiring after 26 glorious years at the helm of the club, many expected a blockbuster signing to offset the loss, but so far nothing—bar Guillermo Varela—has materialised.
It's been a reckless, messy preseason for new manager David Moyes with regard to transfers.
ESPN delivered the blow of Thiago Alcantara choosing Bayern Munich over the Premier League club, while Cesc Fabregas had to end a public courting by insisting he is "happy in Barcelona" for the umpteenth time (via BBC).
The club would later argue they made no bid for Thiago, but had to publicly acknowledge Fabregas' wishes to stay within the walls of the Camp Nou.
With two prime targets gone and another, in Kevin Strootman, now plying his trade in Rome, Moyes has turned to his former club to sort out the midfield issue.
Everton have rejected out of hand a £28m joint bid from Man Utd for midfielder Marouane Fellaini and defender Leighton Baines— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 19, 2013
The move, from United's end, is just the latest in another comical order of pursuits causing fans serious reason for concern.
It's fair to say Thiago and Fabregas are better midfielders, in their own right, than Fellaini, and it's understandable that he would be third, maybe fourth choice on the transfer list.
But the point is this transfer list should have been worked through much quicker, and due to the fruitless, 15-day chase of Fabregas, the Red Devils have missed the chance to activate Fellaini's release clause.
The offer for Fellaini was £16m - despite a previous £23.5m contract release clause running out in July - with the rest for Baines.— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 19, 2013
Fabregas was never going to join Manchester United, it's as simple as that. To hear the Daily Telegraph reporting that he still remains a target is simply ludicrous, as they've been told by club and player multiple times it's just not happening.
The infatuation with the big-name, record signing is understandable, but it's led to missing out on other targets.
Fellaini's £23.5 million release clause has expired, and United's bid of £16 million was rejected without a second thought. The remaining £11.5 million—yes, £11.5 million—was for Baines.
What is the point in that?
If Moyes was still Everton manager and received that bid for his two key players, he'd either laugh it off and ask for double or be deeply, deeply offended.
Bidding £7.5 million for Baines is like offering £100,000 for a £300,000 car—the dealer's going to look at you and wonder why you bothered to make the trip to shop.
Moyes will have had a hand in setting the release clause in Fellaini's contract, suggesting the £23.5 million figure is what the Scot values him at. If he truly wanted him at United, he'd have paid the set price.
Why wait until it's expired, then bid £7.5 million less?
The entire fiasco represents another monumental miscalculation on United's part this summer, and while their opening day victory at Swansea City proved they're very much a force, the chase for a midfielder is becoming an infuriating watch.
The debate will rage on regarding whether there's a need for Baines or whether Fellaini is a Man Utd-calibre player, but the bigger issue is the club's strategy—or perhaps lack of—in the market this summer.