Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has publicly criticised Manchester United's lack of initiative in the summer transfer market, all but writing off Louis van Gaal's chances of winning the Premier League this season.
It's undoubtedly difficult to hear such strong words coming from a figure who holds such strong links to the club, but it doesn't make the ex-midfielder any less right in his assessment, per the Telegraph's Darren Witcoop:
I’m sure he would have liked to have signed more players. He’s not managed to do that yet. Are the players out there available? Midfield is an area where I thought they might have bought a couple of players.
[Toni] Kroos goes for £20 million and [Cesc] Fabregas to Chelsea. I thought they would have been in for those type of players but it doesn’t look like they were. If they were they chose to go elsewhere.
It will be more difficult for Scholes than many to see United's midfield ranks in such a state of disarray, former Athletic Bilbao man Ander Herrera being the only new face in the area this summer.
The veteran playmaker goes on to note the damaging impact the recent exodus of experience is likely to have at Old Trafford, detailing that a long road to recovery may lie ahead:
It’ll be very difficult. It’s a big gap to bridge, really Champions League, that’s it. You have to remember the players they’ve lost – Rio, Vidic, Evra, Giggs – massive players who have won 30 titles between them. Losing the defence is a massive part.
[Phil] Jones, [Johnny] Evans, [Chris] Smalling have all been there to win leagues but now they really have to step up. The biggest thing with three central defenders now is the fitness. Jones, Smalling and Evans all seem to pick up quite a few injuries which is worrying. I think it’s between Manchester City and Chelsea, they’ve both made decent signings. The next two places are between United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
It's especially significant that while the Red Devils have been fairly inactive in the market this summer, despite the signings of Herrera and Luke Shaw, their potential top four rivals have been altogether busier.
It was foreseeable that helmsman Van Gaal might wait to assess those under his command before delving into the transfer market, opting to instead save his major movement for future business.
The Dutchman has, of course, added new tactical dimensions to his side, assuredly one of the major shortcomings under David Moyes' reign, but it's clear the club needs fresh blood and more than what they've recruited.
Alex Shaw of ESPN rightly points out the striking similarities between this summer and that of 2013. Twelve months ago, it was so often a case of all huff and no puff from the club, frequently linked with star signings but failing to clinch their men:
Pretty astonishing the lack of United activity so close to window closing. Thought they might have learned lessons from last year.— Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) August 14, 2014
So, one is forced to ask where the follow-up to those claims rest? It could be that, as aforementioned, Van Gaal is merely waiting to pounce after getting better acquainted with his line-up, or perhaps even that those desired simply didn't want to come.
The speculation could of course go on, and United's lack of European football this season will certainly have damaged their transfer prospects, but the lack of mobility is nevertheless hard to excuse.
The Premier League kicks off on Saturday, where Van Gaal and his new-look United receive their first test together, opening the 2014-15 campaign with the visit of Swansea City.
There, we'll receive some inkling as to what potential this current crop brings—pre-season only holding so much significance as an indicator—but the club must pick up their transfer initiative regardless of the result.