Transfer deadline day is always dull and boring, right?
Noon wasn't even remotely close when perhaps the biggest deal of the entire day was announced as a very real possibility: Manchester United taking Colombia and Monaco striker Radamel Falcao on loan for the 2014-15 season, with a view to signing him permanently in summer.
While there is no doubting that he is a player of tremendous ability—someone Manchester United will benefit from being available to call upon—it is also a move which dredges up plenty of style, planning and finance questions about United, both for this season ahead and the summer as a whole.
Bringing in Falcao means United have one of the best trios in the world contending for centre-forward spots. Club captain Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, manager Louis van Gaal's captain with the Netherlands this summer, are also competing for a starting berth.
With United facing a season without European football, though, there is not really a huge number of games to go around for each of them to start 35 times or so. Already out of the League Cup after a 4-0 hammering by MK Dons, the maximum number of matches United will play this season is 45.
Even playing with a strike pairing, as they have so far, one top-class talent is always going to be left frustrated on the sidelines. Is that going to be the newly appointed captain? The big recent signing? You'd have to presume neither, which leaves Van Persie anxiously wondering about game time. Then again, the Mirror reported only last week that the Dutchman needs surgery on his knee.
Perhaps that has been brought forward, meaning Falcao may have been brought in to ensure United's attack does not dip below an acceptable level of quality as they search for a formula to move back up the table.
"The 3-5-2 isn't working," cry the masses.
In terms of results, they're certainly right; Van Gaal has yet to win a competitive match with Manchester United, having faced a League One side, a newly promoted side and two who battled against relegation for much of last season.
Van Gaal looked fairly set upon the wing-back system, though, utilising it throughout pre-season and in each of his league games so far, despite troubles at the back, in wide areas and in transitions from middle to final thirds. A drab 0-0 draw with Burnley saw a lack of invention, no great understanding or fluidity in midfield and plenty of poor performers.
Admittedly, they have not been helped by injury absences—Rafael, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and one or two others have all been unavailable—but two draws and two defeats is still an unacceptable start.
United could feasibly switch to a diamond midfield and include new signings Angel Di Maria and Herrera in the middle with potential new recruit Daley Blind—BBC Sport reports a fee has been agreed—controlling behind.
A 4-3-3 would also work with that midfield, but it once more leaves questions over the attackers: Only one striker would be used centrally, leaving at least one and probably two either marginalised or outright ignored on the bench.
And that's without even mentioning Juan Mata.
Perhaps the biggest question Falcao's signing will create is, why aren't United spending on top defenders?
Angel Di Maria is a superb midfield talent. Falcao is similarly a top-drawer forward. Attracting names clearly isn't an issue, nor is spending.
Yet the only centre-back signing so far is Marcos Rojo, who still hasn't made his debut because of issues surrounding his work permit. Thomas Vermaelen, Mehdi Benatia, Kostas Manolas and Dejan Lovren are all big-reputation, big-fee centre-backs who have moved this summer, but United continue to persist with the inexperienced Tyler Blackett, the woefully out-of-form Jonny Evans and the hit-or-miss Phil Jones.
One or more could yet form a good partnership with Rojo in a two, but that leads back to questions over the system.
All told, United can't really be "disappointed" at any such signing that brings the quality of Falcao to the club. But it certainly leaves lingering doubts over the strategic planning of this transfer window, the plan of Van Gaal himself and, most importantly, the ambitions United have for the 2014-15 season.
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