Testing Times at Old Trafford – The Ticking Clock
In what has been a summer of change at Old Trafford, fans have been at pains to point out the clear areas in which the squad needs to be improved. Kevin Levingston examines the current state of affairs as the transfer window draws to a close….
Henry Ford once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”. At time of writing it is less than sixty hours until the transfer window closes. Let us be frank. Mistakes have been made. The very public pursuit of Cesc Fabregas; a player who had never considered leaving a club who themselves had no intention of selling him. Allowing the release clause in Fellaini’s contract expire and putting ourselves in a position where we will surely pay over the odds for a very good, if less than brilliant midfielder. Offering a sum for Leighton Baines that even his critics would view as paltry. While nowhere never in danger of approaching the bravado emanating from the Emirates, the message from Moyes and Co. very early on in this transfer window was that of money to burn and price being a non factor. With three days to go until the curtain finally falls on the blessed thing, The Reds’ only signing has come in the form of Guillermo Varela, a young right back prospect from Uruguay. Yes, mistakes have surely been made.
A lot can be accomplished in three days, however, and the noises coming from Old Trafford have been cautious, but not inherently negative. It seems that already lessons have been learned from the very public way in which Fabregas was pursued, with the new Gaffer remaining very tight-lipped about potential targets. Reassurance can be taken from the type of players we seem to be targeting. It may turn out to be too late this time round, but it’s clear that Moyes is fully aware of where the squad needs improving. We need midfielders.
With three days to go the time for audacious bids for the likes of Fabregas and Ozil has passed. The new boss has returned to former club Everton one more time with a successful move for Marouane Fellaini looking all the more inevitable. Such a move, while not one to set pulses racing will add a little steel to Michael Carrick’s silk in midfield, while also providing us an able alternative should the Tyne and Wear born playmaker, heaven forbid, be injured. A late bid for Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera, the schemer who tore United’s midfield apart two seasons ago, has been rejected. A sizeable release clause in the player’s contract as well as a hornet’s nest of tax issues therein may ultimately prove to be a deal breaker, but it is without question that the Herrera would provide some much-needed creativity to our engine room. A far more puzzling move for Roma’s Danieli De Rossi has also been reported, though it’s hard to say whether this one would be pursued should the aforementioned deals be completed. Adding Fellaini and Herrera to United’s Carrick and Cleverley would go a long way to solving our midfield woes. It seems that Moyes, while late to the party, has at least brought some pavlova and a bottle of wine – Though it’s fair to say he’s knocked on every other door in the street before finding the right house.
One could be forgiven for casting envious glances towards Tottenham and the swashbuckling way in which they have reacted to the imminent sale of their best player. While it is almost impossible to replace a Gareth Bale in your team, Spurs are giving it a heck of a try, signing two central midfielders, two wingers, a striker and an attacking midfielder. The manner in which Chairman Daniel Levy and Football Director Franco Baldini have conducted business this summer has been nothing short of stunning. It will take time for all the new signings to bed in and gel, but if potential and press are to be believed, it won’t be long before Tottenham are competing for the title, let alone the top four. Time will reveal whether that is the case, but what cannot be denied is the ruthlessly efficient manner in which Spurs have secured their transfer targets. The masterstroke in this regard was the decision to secure the players needed to improve the team before the Bale transfer windfall was burning a hole in their pockets. Tottenham were in the rare position this year of having money to burn without being perceived as such. Kudos.
No such luck with United. The Reds are not, like Tottenham, in a position where they need wholesale changes. This is still a team that ran away with the league comfortably last season. It is vital that any players signed are improving on the current playing staff, or at least have the potential to do so. Such players come at a premium. Add United as the buying club and more often than not, the price goes up even further. For Moyes and Woodward this is perhaps where the inexperience of negotiating such transfers at the highest level has had an effect. A puzzling reluctance to add an extra five million pounds where thirty million has already been bid is particularly frustrating, but it’s not our only worry. It’s hard to believe that United would have been so public in the pursuit of Fabregas had they not been given an indication of interest on the Spaniard’s part, but nevertheless it was an embarrassing lesson in negotiations at footballs top table, and hopefully a lesson learned well. Thankfully a similar move for Real Madrid’s Mezut Ozil was dismissed by the player before a bid could be made.
So now it seems that after giving up on Fabregas, Ozil and the like, Moyes is prepared to take the experience on the chin and bid for more realistic targets to improve our ranks. How much favour with which one looks toward the transfer window as a whole is usually defined by the activity of your team over the summer. For Spurs fans it’s been a fantastic summer. For Arsenal fans it has been a curse. For The Reds it’s looking like being neither hot nor cold, neither amazing nor terrible. It’s not too late to sign the players needed. Aristotle once said that “Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet.” The next three days will tell how true this is of United’s summer.
Tick Tock David.
Kevin Levingston is a freelance blogger who has contributed to the likes of StrettyNews, TheGloriousUnited and, of course, CanTheyScore? in the past. Follow him on twitter here