Why January Transfers might be best avoided by David Moyes.
Every Christmas I take great pleasure at laughing at others. Not exactly in the spirit of Christmas I accept but with good reason. The regional news runs the same Boxing Day feature on the fools who have left the warm bosom of the family home at the crack of dawn to queue outside High Street shops in the hope of getting first option on whatever unsellable tat they have slashed the price of to free up warehouse space. Clothes, phones and tablets are bought destined to be used once and subsequently discarded as ‘I didn’t really want/need it but it was in the sale.’ Some people crave the rush of consuming, the sensation of relief that they have acquired something they previously lacked – never mind whether an actual need exists. Which brings me to football…
In previous years the January transfer window has largely been an irrelevance to United. Signings have been part of a longer term plan rather than the ‘save our season’ purchase we associate with fiscally irresponsible sides fighting relegation. This season however the mood is very different. Collective wisdom suggests Moyes and Woodward must act next month if Manchester United are to achieve the bare minimum of a successful season. It just might be however that the brave and unpopular approach might just be the right approach; namely, restricting spending to all but the most minor of additions.
I have held this view for less than 48 hours – and it could be subject to change. Before Tuesday evening I was of the opinion that bringing in quality – whatever the cost – was necessary. Buy out clauses should be triggered and our midfield renovated. Then I spent two hours hosting our Transfer Special podcast and reality bit; as we worked out way through the eighteen (!) central midfielders that have been linked with Manchester United it became clear that the likelihood of attaining the right players in January is far trickier than merely opening the cheque book.
A succession of issues stand in the way of bringing in the quality of player we require to boost the team; reservations about changing club mid-season, unwillingness to move before a World Cup, prohibitive release clauses, and questionable evidence that they can adapt quickly to a new culture came up time and time again. The intense scrutiny facing new recruits in January will be even greater than that ordinarily placed upon a Manchester United signing. In the summer we brought in a proven international footballer, who has already performed impressively in our league and whom many Reds had coveted for a number of years.
All circumstances that would surely lead to a smooth transition and instant impact, yet Fellaini has struggled. The man who has managed him for many years admitted that the expectations of playing for a club like Manchester United have proved harder to deal with than anticipated. What chance then a winger who has never played outside Brazil, a young Spanish midfielder or a once great Dutchman who has failed to find consistency for three years. Exceptions do exist. If a player of the calibre of Ilkay Gundogan became available then United should be asking how much and handing over the monies. Such players though are thin on the ground and for reasons already stated highly unlikely to either be available or keen to move at this time.
The scenario that must be avoided is panic buying leading to the acquisition of players on account of availability rather than suitability. Paying over the odds, eating into the summer transfer fund, would be a desperate response more in common with a Wonga loan than a measured investment in a successful business. There is a reason we have kept our January spending to a minimum in the past and it should not be forgotten amidst the clamour for change. The temptation must be enormous for Moyes to appease disgruntled fans across the world yet he must tread with caution. Ed Woodward took the fall for the debacle in the summer with Moyes largely escaping criticism. Yet the one addition has failed to have any real impact on the quality of the side and the manager and coaching staff must take some of the blame for this. If this is followed by further underperforming purchases then the manager will have some explained to do to his parsimonious bosses.
So Woodward should give himself a well deserved month off and do another disappearing act to warmer climes? Not a bit of it. There is transfer business to be done in the new year – making contact with clubs and representatives of those players already identified as being of the required quality and setting up moves for the summer. At the same time, inviting interest for those players marked for departure and negotiating terms acceptable to the club.
This season has always been about managing transition and if the new boss can’t achieve a top four finish with a squad who walked the league twelve months earlier then serious questions would have to be asked about his job performance. It might not set pulses racing but eschewing short term temptation and playing the long game might ultimately turn out to be the wisest move our beleaguered boss could make.