With just over 10 days until the transfer window slams shut, it is fair to say Manchester United have thus far endured a tumultuous off-season. This is no slight on the three players Louis van Gaal has brought into the club, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo, however it is the lack of clarity and composure surrounding United's activities in the market which has frustrated supporters.
United's opening-day defeat to Swansea City last Saturday publicised the weaknesses within the squad that, in fairness, had been well hidden throughout the pre-season tour to the United States leaving United in desperate need of reinforcements before the September 1st deadline.
The latest name to be linked with the Old Trafford club is one Angel Di Maria who appears to be the next in a long line of Florentino Perez-induced surprise sales, see Claude Makelele and Mesut Ozil. The Independent's Sam Wallace reports that Manchester United are lining up a £50 million move for the Argentine star, but would United's current regime be able to attract him to Old Trafford?
Last season, David Moyes carried the can for United's decline from champions to seventh place. This is not to say the decision to dismiss David Moyes wasn't a just one given the alarming lack of quality and ideas when United took to the field. However, the problems began during the summer.
Ed Woodward took part in his first transfer window as United's chief executive and was roundly criticised upon its completion with only Marouane Fellaini joining the club for an inflated £27.5 million despite Woodward having flown back from United's pre-season tour in mid-July to carry out "urgent transfer business."
The qualified chartered accountant was given the benefit of the doubt amidst heavy criticism with many accepting that the summer would be a difficult time given the vast changes behind the scenes at Old Trafford. The January transfer window was a much better story, as Juan Mata joined the club for a record fee.
Unfortunately, the summer of 2014, despite Van Gaal's arrival, has been no better.
It has long been the case that Manchester United would be linked with a vast number of players every transfer window, with ManUtd.com running a study in 2010 that the club had been linked with 100 players that summer, the rumoured transfer fees of whom totalling an estimated £1.813 billion.
United have found themselves in a similar situation this summer with the likes of Mats Hummels, Bastian Schweinsteiger and everybody's favourite, Arturo Vidal, to name just three men often speculated as targets.
As much as supporters would like to project this as some sort of defence mechanism to keep the media off the scent following the debacle of last summer, it is becoming ever more apparent that a plan hasn't been in place this summer following Van Gaal's decision to put the kibosh on the club's pursuit of both Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas, as reported by Simon Jones of the Daily Mail.
ESPN's Miguel Delaney penned a piece earlier this week detailing United's transfer window travails within which he suggested that Ed Woodward and United have had a stuttering summer in which they have struggled to complete deals, the most prominent being that of Thomas Vermaelen, which left Van Gaal livid:
The centre-half had provisionally agreed to a deal with Manchester United, so the club then only had to negotiate a fee with Arsenal.
Incoming manager Louis van Gaal was certainly under the impression it would be. Vermaelen anticipated it. The United officials just had to do their part, the main part: seal the deal.
So Vermaelen waited. And waited ... and waited. And waited. There was a puzzling lack of movement.
The bottom line from those close to the Belgian's camp is that, with a bit a more urgency, a bit more proactivity and a bit more nous, the player could have been at Old Trafford a while ago.
Ed Woodward's track record is less than perfect, but, as Di Maria heads towards a seemingly unavoidable break-up with Real Madrid, circumstances appear to be in United's favour, just as they were in Arsenal's 12 months ago.
Mesut Ozil found himself surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu following Gareth Bale's arrival and Florentino Perez was left with a choice to make, either Ozil or Di Maria would have to leave. Perez chose Ozil, with Cristiano Ronaldo playing an important role in Di Maria's future by asking the Madrid president to keep him, as reported by ESPNFC's Dermot Corrigan.
Arsenal were in a difficult period at that time too. Having just lost their opening fixture at home to Aston Villa rather embarrassingly after a summer bereft of activity in the market, the club needed a lift. Just as United do now.
Mesut Ozil was identified as the player to provide that lift and Arsenal went on to enjoy a fantastic start to the season before injuries and lack of squad depth irreparably damaged their title charge.
This summer, Real Madrid have signed the World Cup's superstar, Colombian James Rodriguez, much to the delight of the Madrid support. However, in the times of Financial Fair Play it is not possible to purchase such a player without offsetting the spend with a significant sale.
Di Maria is likely to be the player to make way, with Gianluca Di Marzio (in Italian) reporting this morning from Carlo Ancelotti's press conference, where the Italian stated that Di Maria had asked to leave the club.
PSG were the favourites throughout the summer according to the Daily Mail, but FFP restrictions look to have caused that move to collapse although it if Ezequiel Lavezzi could be sold, the French champions would likely be able to structure a loan deal with Real Madrid for Di Maria which benefited all parties.
Edinson Cavani was another player believed to be leaving the Parc des Princes, but the Uruguayan is seen as far more valuable to the long-term future of PSG.
Di Maria is available, Manchester United have the money to spend on him and there appear to be few rivals for his signature. The question that remains is whether or not United can complete the deal.
United still pride themselves as being one of the "best clubs in the world." However, while the club's recent behaviour in the transfer market has not been fitting of such a title, the club's history is something which does resonate with players.
Financially, United are an attractive proposition to players, far more so than in recent years, with the club now able to offer as good a wage as a number of other top European clubs, which, given the lack of Champions League football, is a necessity.
Finally, working under Van Gaal is an exciting prospect for players. Marcos Rojo said as much in his first interview as a Manchester United player with the club's official website, "I am young and am very keen to continue to learn the game, so playing for such an experienced technical coach as Louis van Gaal is a fantastic opportunity for me."
With Van Gaal said to be increasingly frustrated at Woodward's perceived failings in the market, as publicised by Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail, it is likely the Dutch coach will put increasing pressure on United's chief executive with the club needing reinforcements before the window shuts.
The club is aware of this, and it is incredibly unlikely there won't be some movement in the coming days on potential targets with the club's infrastructure likely to play a part in securing the deals. However, given the blockbuster nature of a possible Di Maria transfer, Ed Woodward faces yet another test, and it is one he simply must pass if he is to remain in his current role.
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