Man Utd’s signings prove they no longer have transfer power
Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill were masters of signings. They perhaps missed out on top targets and bought a few flops, but they always brought in players to fit in the puzzle.
Since the managerial great’s retirement two summers ago, the Red Devils have signed the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata who, although they are no doubt very good players, have simply not fit in to the system at Old Trafford.
Yes Ferguson bought the likes of outcasts Shinji Kagawa and Wilfried Zaha in his final couple of season, but he also found crucial additions in the form of Robin van Persie, David de Gea and Phil Jones around that time.
This summer, there was finally an aura of confidence back in the red half of Manchester, which came with the appointment of new boss Louis van Gaal. However, with the Dutchman occupied at the World Cup with the Netherlands at crucial moments of the transfer window, the club have missed out on top talent.
Since the departures of legendary club centre backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the priority for Man Utd was to surely replace them with experience and leadership, especially with Van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2 formation. The likes of commanding players Mats Hummels, Thomas Vermaelen and Mehdi Benatia were all linked, but none came.
Instead, young versatile left-sided duo Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind (both 24) have been brought in – admittedly at relatively low prices of around £16m and £14m respectively – but they are not solid centre backs. That also makes Jonny Evans the oldest United defender, at 26.
Luke Shaw is a great addition to replace Patrice Evra, but the club again made the error of letting the Frenchman go to aid the young England player’s progress.
But so unbalanced is the Red Devils’ squad, that it is leaning heavily left and forward. Blind, Rojo, Shaw and youngster Tyler Blackett are all left footed defenders, while the other transfers made this summer were mainly in attack.
United already had a fantastic crop of players in forward areas, including Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and arguably Mata, Kagawa and Danny Welbeck. However, the club decided that they needed to change things up and panic buy.
Ed Woodward, new Red Devils vice-chairman, who has attempted to step into Gill’s large boots, promised all summer publicly that United had an infinite amount of money to spend. That meant all other clubs had the advantage when going into negotiations with players, knowing they can sap as much out of their players as possible.
Juventus’ Arturo Vidal was another top target that the Premier League desperately needed, but the Italian champions managed to hold onto him. Ander Herrera was brought in instead, but just adds to the many attack-minded players at the club.
So, with Woodward unable to fulfil his promise, he left it to the final week and even day of the transfer window to make his marquee signings. Angel Di Maria was brought in for a whopping British record £59.7m, while the club needlessly signed Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco on reported wages of £265k-a-week. Again, the duo are undoubtedly outstanding players, but are not the right fit.
How can Van Gaal expect to fit Falcao, Rooney, Van Persie, Mata, Di Maria, Adnan Januzaj and Herrera in the same team? Especially one that is balanced by being strong at the back as well. They would certainly be exciting to watch, that’s for sure, and a team to chose on your FIFA game, but United are all about stability and togetherness, which this current side are not.
More crucially for the club, though, would be the return of Michael Carrick, who has to stabilise the team, and act as a middle man for the defence and forward players. If the defence is still leaking in avoidable goals, the ever-consistent and composed 33-year-old could also be used at the back, as he has done on occasions before.
Of course, only time can tell what Van Gaal can deliver for this new-look United. The Dutchman, after all, is one of the most successful managers in history, winning trophies in multiple countries.
Anything lower than fourth place would be a failure for the club. With two points from their first three league games this term, against pre-season relegation candidates Swansea City, Sunderland and Burnley, they have certainly not off to the best of starts.