The transfer window can be a fun period for football fans, especially those of bigger clubs. You can sit back and watch your side confirm or deny rumours and go out and sign players, as well as selling them. Okay, it’s not that fun, but I’m sure it is for Chelsea and City fans. How must it feel to watch your team, already plump with quality, go out and add proven talent to its ranks. How nice it must be to watch your club go abut their business in a sensible (footballing, if not financial) fashion and leave no stone unturned in the quest for bettering the team. For a United fan though, this transfer window and the two that preceded it, have been far from fun. Aside from all the jibes from other fans (which I really couldn’t be bothered about, the obsession with United actually makes me smile), we’ve had to watch as we’ve been linked with one player after another, most of whom would genuinely add something to our “broken” squad, before inevitably finding out that the club had no interest to begin with.
I know the players we should get, so do you. So does Louis van Gaal and so does Ed Woodward. But whereas Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s footballing executives go out and thrash out deals in a minimal amount of time, or make sure to have the foundations of such a deal laid before mid-July, we’re left to see which name scribbled on the piece of paper in his pocket Woodward will try to cross off next. Here we have a squad that perhaps needs to most upheaval and refreshment out of any in the Premier League. Sure, we won the league less than eighteen months ago but it may as well have been a decade ago, such is its effect on the squad – a squad shaped far more by the events of last season than any others that went before it.
This very reason is why we should be enjoying the window. We should (operative word, here) be rejoicing at the club shedding the deadwood and going out, perhaps even swooping in to sign much-needed world class reinforcements. In a squad where the fundamental problems are clear for all to see, the rebuilding process should be just as clear-minded. But as Arsenal have shown in the past, there’s a difference between the transfer windows of clubs all-out going for success and those with other things on their mind, such as cost-cutting.
Arsenal were derided for years for their underperformance (?) in the transfer market, if such a thing exists. Here was a club with the money to spend, apparently, who just didn’t really see the need to go out and spend it. A club who were happier to keep the money in the bank for when it was truly needed and luckily, a squad and manager good enough to maintain their high standards without mass signings. Arsenal were of course being prudent for years. Having moved to the Emirates stadium, costs and repayments were high for a number of years. That is no longer an issue for them as is made abundantly clear in their most recent high-profile signings.
While United don’t need to be prudent, per se, there does appear to be a question mark over just what level of ambition there is at the club. This is not levelled at Louis van Gaal, far from it. I have no doubt his aim is to return United to their place at the head of the English footballing dinner table and remain there for years to come. I do however doubt the ambitions and true motives of Ed Woodward and his succubus bosses, the Glazers. Aside from syphoning money out of the club and selling shares to boost their own already substantial wealth, a question remains over what they truly want from United. It would make sense for you or me that if we bought a club like United you’d do everything possible to ensure its continued success on the pitch. Keep the fans happy, keep the shareholders happy, keep everyone happy. However, with football being such big business these days the Glazers appear to have forgotten the one key aspect of the sport – the actual football itself. So determined they are to maximise the brand they’ve neglected what keeps the brand ticking. They’ve forgotten essentially the core of the brand, far too obsessed with the trinkets they’ve adorned it with.
Roman Abramovich has been criticised at Chelsea for his trigger-happy approach to managers but at least he’s involved and cares about the footballing side. It may be his own ego and drive to win that powers it, but at least he cares. The Glazers, from their refusal to meet with fan groups to their effective bragging about raising ticket prices, have anything but football on their minds. They’ve almost made United into a sort of Banana Republic. Here we had a club that both on and off the field was prospering. No debt, no ridiculous expenses, a competitive squad regularly competing at the top levels of all competitions. Things were good. Then the Glazers, with the help of Play-Doh faced Ed Woodward liked what they saw and realised they could make a pretty penny off it. Fast forward eight years and the club’s still making money, but at the expense of the team. They took a product (sorry) that worked, in almost every way, and squeezed and squeezed until eventually something gave in, the actual football team. Neglected for years and finally exposed after the retirement of Sir Alex, the Glazers mess is now clear for all to see.
Perhaps there’s reason to be thankful in a way. Had we not fallen so unceremoniously from our place, the recovery efforts may have been even slower, if that’s possible. At least now, with only a day or so left in the transfer window we have a chance of reinforcements. It’s a slim one, in fact I don’t think we’ll sign any of the big targets we’ve been touted to. It’s not because I think van Gaal doesn’t want to sign them, it’s because I doubt the true intent behind Ed Woodward’s role. He’s a Glazer man, he ironed out their barely legal leveraged buy out of the club and got his current job after years of strengthening United’s commercial position. He’s got an impressive CV, but he’s a Glazer man. He talks about transfers and the club’s strength in the window, but he’s a Glazer man. Essentially, what reason do we have to believe that one of the key architects of the mess we are currently in (financially) truly has the club and team’s best interests at heart? Very little from here at least.
But I digress. As any United fan will know discussing the Glazers and Woody is an emotive subject. No one likes them but we have to hope they do a good job and perhaps sign that player (or five) that we need. But even if we don’t get those much-needed reinforcements, and we probably won’t, I just want the window to close. Because lately United’s transfer window debacles have shone light on everything I hate about the club now, or at least what the Glazers have done to it. During the transfer window the neglect and overall attitude of “we really could not give a shit about this as long as the share price is high” becomes crippling clear. So clear that you feel that the only people working towards a revival on the pitch is Louis van Gaal and his backroom staff.
And that’s why I want the transfer window to close. The problems of the club will remain for a few more years, but eventually the Glazers will go. They’ll demand and probably get big money but they’ll go. Until then however, our only reprieve is on the pitch. It may not pretty and it certainly may not be as fruitful as it once was, but it’s the only remaining aspect of the club working and grafting not for the Glazers, but for the fans.