When you panic before transfer-deadline day, you end up with Marouane Fellaini.
Last summer, David Moyes and Manchester United were conspicuous by their absence in the transfer market. As the window was close to slamming shut, Moyes shelled out over £20 million for Fellaini. The Belgian midfielder has come to symbolize in part Moyes' terrible season at Old Trafford.
Louis van Gaal likely had that in mind when he said after United's 2-1 defeat on Saturday he wasn't going to hastily spend money in the transfer market to solve all of the club's issues, per Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News:
The Dutchman acknowledged that the club as currently constructed isn't good enough, per The Guardian's Daniel Taylor:
That is not a question because I knew that before this game. Of course we need defenders. It is also the question if we can play like a team and if we can reach the [right] level.
Today, we didn't reach that level. When you don't play like a team, when you miss the chances, it is very difficult because every team shall create chances against us because we are playing with a big space behind us.
ESPN FC's John Brewin believed that you only need to look at the team sheet to see what areas of the pitch are causing the most concern:
Bodies are needed, and badly. With injuries wracking a squad that is recovering from a lengthy money-making tour of the United States, Van Gaal was forced to select a team low on quality, speed and experience. Jesse Lingard and Tyler Blackett, for example, were thrown into a match far beyond their capabilities at this time in their careers.
[Club Vice Chairman Ed] Woodward is lucky that Van Gaal, for all his firebrand reputation and inability to sugarcoat matters, has far stopped short of laying blame at his paymasters' inability to recruit footballers to make his team work better. On this bleak evidence, he requires at least two more defenders, a player of pace who can add electricity to a team that badly lacks zip, and a midfielder who can add far more energy than Darren Fletcher was able to inject.
The defensive holes were particularly glaring. If Van Gaal wants to use a 3-5-2 formation, he'll need more than three senior centre-backs. Deputizing Tyler Blackett isn't the kind of thing that will help the Red Devils get back into the Champions League.
Broadly speaking, change would help United. However, rushing to get a bunch of deals in under the deadline would be counterproductive and fail to radically alter the club's fortunes.
That's not to say that Van Gaal should remain completely static between now and September.
You could argue that players such as Marcos Rojo and Arturo Vidal are a bit exempt from the "panic buy" designation since they've been targeted by United for the last month or so. They will have been thoroughly vetted before any potential deal.
Panic buys would be players who've been linked with the club much less over the summer and all of a sudden shown up on its radar.
The pressure to perform at a club the size of Manchester United is immense. Some managers in Van Gaal's boots might get a bit alarmed after watching the club lose its first home-opener in 42 years. The 63-year-old has seen it all before, though, which helps him maintain an even keel.
His pragmatic approach can be both a blessing and a curse. In this case, Van Gaal understands that simply throwing money at a new player or two won't solve the larger problems plaguing United.
Panic buying almost always leads to two main problems, both of which could be used to describe the Fellaini transfer from last year.
The first is that you purchase a player with little regard as to how he'll fit into your squad. Manchester United needed a midfielder last year, and Fellaini was a midfielder. That's gonna work out, right?
While Fellaini was a key player under Moyes at Everton, both the setting and supporting cast were different this time around. Fellaini looked like a fish out of water almost immediately on the pitch. Moyes couldn't figure out where to put him, which only exacerbated the problem.
The second issue is that you spend more on the player than he's actually worth. Other clubs know you're desperate, so they'll end up demanding what is objectively an unreasonable sum of money (see Andy Carroll's transfer to Liverpool and Fernando Torres' transfer to Chelsea).
Even at the time, it felt like United could've used the £27.5 million they spent on Fellaini to either get a better player or address more areas of the pitch that needed improvements. In retrospect, the transfer fee looks even worse.
Perhaps talk of United challenging for the top four was a bit premature. Swapping out Moyes for Van Gaal won't all of a sudden cure all of the Red Devils' woes.
Van Gaal has a delicate balancing act over the next few weeks as he tries to bring in reinforcements. Haste shouldn't trump prudence.
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