Manchester United might not enjoy transfer sagas, but the club has contributed its fair share of drawn-out summer moves. It took Sir Alex Ferguson over a year to seal a deal for Dimitar Berbatov back in 2008. Wayne Rooney’s switch from Everton to Old Trafford was closed on deadline day 10 years ago.
But no summer, maybe not even last year’s, has been as frustrating and tedious as 2014’s has been for Manchester United. Sagas involving the futures of Toni Kroos, Arturo Vidal and Angel Di Maria have dominated transfer gossip ahead of the new season, and yet not one looks any closer to Old Trafford.
Marcos Rojo then became the subject of transfer speculation linking him with an imminent move to United before a deal was completed on Tuesday, with Nani heading to Sporting Lisbon as part of the transfer, as per the Express. As far as transfer sagas go, this one was the most depressing yet for England’s biggest club.
Rojo enjoyed a successful World Cup. Ahead of the tournament, he was pinpointed by many as Argentina’s weak link, and while the reality turned out to be quite different, there is still much to be answered about Rojo’s true ability and pedigree.
The move for Rojo illustrates just how far Man Utd have fallen in the transfer market. United are better than Rojo, and they’re certainly better than chasing after him through the pages of the English and Portuguese press, as they did this week.
Look at whom the rest of Europe’s elite have occupied themselves with in the market this summer. Barcelona signed Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez and beat United to the capture of Thomas Vermaelen. Then there’s Real Madrid, who also beat Man Utd to Kroos and James Rodriguez.
Their Premier League rivals have also strong-armed United in the transfer market, with Chelsea adding Cesc Fabregas—once a Man Utd target—Diego Costa and Filipe Luis. Even Arsenal—for so long the Premier League’s stingiest club—have signed Alexis Sanchez.
Ed Woodward has insisted that United can still attract the very best talent from around the footballing world. He has even claimed that the club will break the bank for the right player. But on the basis of their business this summer, those words ring hollow.
It’s perhaps telling that Woodward has yet to negotiate a transfer with a foreign club. The one player he has signed from abroad—Ander Herrera—arrived at Old Trafford by way of his transfer clause being activated. Man Utd have lost their way in the transfer market.
Louis van Gaal’s search for a left-footed defender has taken him to Rojo. While he played at left-back for Argentina at the World Cup, he is used at centre-back for Sporting Lisbon. But nobody could argue that Rojo is a top-level signing. Is he even better than what United already have?
That’s not to say Rojo won’t be a success in the Premier League, but the way United have identified him as the solution to their defensive problems is not reflective of a club of their stature. It’s reflective of Man Utd in the post-Ferguson era.
Of course, whatever happens between now and the end of the transfer window, United won’t quite have endured the sort of summer that befell them last year. The signings of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw have filled gaping holes in Man Utd’s squad, but will they bridge the gap from seventh place to the top of the Premier League?
In a recent interview, David Moyes revealed that his top targets last summer had been Gareth Bale, Fabregas and Cristiano Ronaldo, as per Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail. United ended up with Marouane Fellaini, signed for an astronomical £27.5 million in the hour before the transfer window closed. It set the tone for a dismal season.
There will be no such embarrassment for United this time around, given the early signings of Herrera and Shaw, but the impact of their failures in the market could be just as profound.