United’s Summer has been a Transfer Failure
Hysteria, desperation and panic are the words on the lips of those assessing Manchester United’s behaviour in the transfer market. Despite shelling out over £70 million, United have managed to emulate last season’s failings and thus far have not strengthened to the levels required by the fans and reportedly manager Louis van Gaal. A wealth of experience has departed the club, leaving United with a young and inexperienced defence, a physically weak midfield and an attack that is starved of creativity due to the inadequacy of those playing behind them. Big words from executive Ed Woodward raised expectations among the Old Trafford faithful and failure to act has sent a mutinous wave through them. Last year’s jokes about Ed have been replaced with genuine disdain as fans begin to look further up the echelons of power at United. Love United, Hate Glazer has returned. Sensationalism or not, the fans feel let down and if the appropriate players do not arrive between now and September 2nd, the suits will have a lot to answer for.
Before slating the inactivity, we must appreciate the talent that has been added to the United squad this summer. Ander Herrera has already become a firm fan favourite at Old Trafford, with supporters lapping up his tenacious, and overzealous, style of play. Class oozes from, ‘El Volante’ on the ball. He brings creativity to a midfield starved of it. Despite his tendency to fly into tackles, it really isn’t enough for United to cope with the powerful central set ups within the Premier League. For me, buying Herrera had to be accompanied with the purchase of a strong tackler. Matic and Fabregas are a perfect midfield duo, United could emulate this partnership. Last season the team’s midfield was caught square almost every game, no one was there to pick up the pieces and the defence suffered. Van Gaal will be acutely aware of this and the fact that it has not been rectified. Darren Fletcher’s return is not enough and as seen against Swansea, he doesn’t appear to be the player he was before his illness.
Luke Shaw’s United career has not started with a bang. Fitness level’s publicly questioned by his manager and his subsequent injury has delayed him from having any competitive impact. The alarmingly high price tag and wages for a player so young has heaped pressure on Shaw to hit the ground running, so to speak. We now must wait for Shaw to make his bow but I really do believe that this is United’s best acquisition of the summer. Going forward, he looked special for Southampton last season. Developing his defensive game will be important but at 19 Luke Shaw is the youngest member of United’s squad, he has time to become a complete player.
In Luke’s absence, we will likely be seeing a lot of new £16 million man, Marcos Rojo. If anything screams ‘lack of defensive cover’, it is Ashley Young playing left back. Thankfully this will not be repeated against Sunderland, with the Argentinean likely to deputise in defence. A lot of skepticism has surrounded this deal due to Rojo not being a ‘marquee signing’, a questionable disciplinary record and the overriding feeling that he is not the powerful central defender United so desperately need. He may not be marquee but I believe our new number 5 has the ability to be a great centre back. We can dismiss the disciplinary record as cards are picked up much easier in Europe. For me, his aggression is vital to adapting to the English game. Gary Medel arrived in England with a disciplinary record that was borderline criminal but he excelled for Cardiff and earned a move to Inter. Whether Rojo can slot in seamlessly is the big question, time is not on United’s side and the unstable defence cannot wait too long for a player to conform. We can only hope that experience at the World Cup will allow for a quick adjustment.
Dominating conversation regarding United’s transfer window has been players they are yet, or failed, to sign rather than those discussed above. Arturo Vidal is the latest wild goose chase that is becoming an unwanted feature of United’s transfer dealings. Sneijder, Thiago and Fagregas have played with the fans heart strings before and the Vidal saga really has taken this to new extremes. Frustration with last season’s disaster and fear of it recurring has led to the Chilean being raised to a demi-god capable of saving United from mediocrity. ‘We pay attention to what the fans say on social media’, if this was true Woodward would have signed Vidal ten times over. The reality is that United have fumbled for months and missed the boat on a player perfect for the new look team. He lines up in a 3-5-2 for Juventus and operated in a 4-2-3-1 at Leverkusen. Missing out on a player this talented and adaptable will mark a massive failure for the club.
Why then do United struggle with these high profile transfers? Woodward’s incompetency is the go-to excuse, the greedy Glazers are well and truly back on the fans hate radar and personally I believe the press and social media are at fault for United’s negative image within the window. We were first alerted to Ed’s poor negotiation skills and planning when he let Felliani’s buyout clause expire last summer. Being new to the job, he got some leeway and managed to appease fans with the captures of Mata, Shaw and Herrera. As great as these players are, it didn’t take long to realise that these transfers were relatively easy to pull off, as United had no real competition for Mata. Shaw and Herrera were effectively negotiated before the window opened, with the latter coming a year too late. Since then big words, intense speculation but no drastic action has occurred and it culminated in the opening day defeat to Swansea were van Gaal was forced to blood academy graduates and use some of his players out of position. It is a disgrace that the squad had to kick off the season so depleted and the loss, as the new manager noted, crushed the confidence gained during the undefeated pre-season. A repeat of last summer’s final weeks of the window would surely see Woodward step down.
Love United, Hate Glazer. It is a shame that this reinvigorated protest is merely a reactionary movement rather than a sustained revolution against the torrid Glazer ownership. If we see Angel Di Maria sign in the next ten days, the protest will again fade into obscurity. Short term success is more attractive that long term stability, an ironic stance from fans of a club whose greatest servants are Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby. No matter how much the owners invest in the squad between now and the end of the window, it is not enough. Manchester United generates revenues far beyond that of their rivals, yet they have spent on average £15 million per season under the Americans, who line their pockets with the clubs profits. While we watch Real Madrid complete the signing of World Cup hero James Rodriguez in a matter of days, United quibble for weeks over a loan fee for Felliani. This again can be attributed to Woodward but there is no doubt that he is under strict financial restraints from above. Without any debt Manchester United would be thriving financially and would be a in a much better position to land the star players that allude them.
My attitude to the press handling of Man United is that sex sells but Manchester United sells more. As poor as the clubs transfer policy is, the press latches on to the sheer number of United fans and repeat story after story about who United will sign, are signing and even have signed! Vidal has undergone roughly 30 medicals this summer but has yet to put pen to paper. The club have no control over this type of reporting and it creates anxiety among supporters. Social media is a hive of rumours and ‘exclusives’ about which players will next be wearing the famous red jersey but the vast majority is fabricated to lure fans to click into certain websites. It is not an excuse for the ins and outs that will, or wont, occur in the market but it often leads to followers being upset about United failing to sign a player they were never interested in.
At this point, the transfer window has been a failure for Manchester United. Wounds can be healed if they progress with deals for a winger, centre back and central midfielder but it all seems very rushed, sporadic and panic stricken. Club hero Paul Scholes has written a damning piece on his fears for Manchester United, it is now up to United to quell these worries and bring in the stature of players to match the stature of the club they will represent.