Across the River Irwell and a David de Gea goal kick away from Old Trafford sits Salford Quays, home of the BBC, headquarters of many of our green and pleasant land’s much-loved soap operas.
It is entirely fitting that Manchester United should ply their trade so close by. Every summer, United, or more pertinently, the club’s board, host their very own soap opera. It is called the transfer market. If it wasn’t so excruciatingly painful, it would be a topic of great hilarity as the club always seem to outdo themselves every time.
Two summers ago brought the TV equivalent of Channel 4’s Gogglebox – where viewers watch others watching TV and reacting to it. Not a lot happens, in other words. Then came the Harry Maguire docu-drama, a long and drawn out saga akin that saw the full gamut of emotions, sparring, a stubborn opponent, a will-they-won’t they cliffhanger and eventual triumph. Escape to Victory, I guess you could say.
The Bruno Fernandes saga was like the Titanic but without the iceberg. A lot longer that it needed to be. No less a soap opera, perhaps more The Never Ending Story.
And so, that brings us to Manchester United’s latest royal mess up, otherwise known as the Jadon Sancho affair. At the heart of it all, just like with any good TV show, there is a love interest. United want Sancho and he wants us. The couple have been exchanging text message, talking long into the night and wondering who will make the first move (OK, that might not be QUITE how it played out, but you get the drift). Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has certainly been casting flirtatious glances in the direction of the apple of his eye. To continue the analogy, Dortmund are the jealous rival getting in the way and the third wheel desperate to stop the relationship before it’s even begun. It seems this will all end in tears. A love affair spurned.
This time, in fairness, there are many mitigating circumstances. Normal life has had to be put on hold and United have suffered more than most – no matchday revenue, fewer merchandise sales and a delicate act of balancing the books. I understand all that. Dortmund have demanded £108m, nothing less, and United don’t want to pay it (via Daily Star). They argue there should be Covid-tax on the deal. In a way, both parties are right to stick to their guns. As the selling club, Dortmund have a right to set whatever fee they want for the player and why should they sell one of their star assets for anything less than the asking price. United feel he’s too expensive and, in these uncertain times, don’t feel they have endless money to spend. No one, not even one of the brightest young talents in Europe, is worth that much. United aren’t a bottomless pit of cash and it seems morally wrong to pay £108m on a footballer when those less fortunate that us are struggling to work, eat and look after their families as the effects of a global pandemic hit hard. But if Sancho was never an option finance wise, why are United still pursuing him? Its a wasted summer. He’s too expensive so why not give up and turn our attentions to a cheaper and more attainable alternative? United should have walked away as soon as the fee was mentioned rather than faffing and trying to barter. Instead we’re sitting here with a month of the transfer window to go and we’re no further forward. There’s no joined up thinking, no logic and no ambition.
So what now? As dreams of a bright future with a new squeeze fade to exactly that – a dream – so there has been talk of rekindling an old flame. Namely Gareth Bale, linked with United way back when. There once was a time when the two seemed the perfect match. But now? Not for me. This would be another Alexis Sanchez – the nadir of United’s transfer dealings over the past few seasons. Bale may still have the odd flash of magic, but the risks outweigh the rewards. He’s past his prime and ageing, he’s injury prone (having suffered THIRTEEN different ailments in the last three seasons), and he won’t come cheap. You can always add an extra few zeros on when United come calling. If United have truly learned their lessons of the last few years, then they surely won’t go near the wantaway Real Madrid’s star.
The view from Ed Woodward’s Old Trafford offices look out over the Irwell, across to those BBC studios and beyond to the bustling skyline of industrial Salford. On the banks of the river, the pursuit of Sancho is headed the same way as the Glazer’s soap opera ownership of a glorified bank – down the water.