Heard the one about the chase for one of the best players in the world ending in the unveiling of a 33-year-old freebie in the final hour of deadline day? Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the transfer window, Ed Woodward style.
United may have signed five players on deadline day but, of those, three are kids for the future, one is an injury-prone veteran and the other a relatively unknown left-back from Portugal. Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani might turn out to be absolute steals, but they are hardly what United need, both reek of last minute shopping at Poundland when we should be browsing the aisles of Waitrose. We were in dire need of a good, strong, top quality centre-half and an elite right winger. We signed neither and instead our two main additions were arguably players we didn’t need.
From the moment the final whistle at Leicester blew to confirm United as a top three Champions League club, there was one name on everyone’s lips. Jadon Sancho, one of the most highly rated and sought after players on the planet, became the apple of Manchester United’s eyes. We had three entire months to sign, seal and deliver the deal, we knew what said deal was and were even given a time frame for it to happen within. It didn’t. Part of that was down to Dortmund digging their heels in as the Reds tried to bluff and counter-bluff, but mostly it was – yet again – because of sheer incompetence. United didn’t seem to know what Dortmund wanted, how to approach it, or that instalments and add ons wouldn’t be acceptable. We may have missed our chance now. We had a free shot to sign Sancho – whether you feel he was worth the money or not – but came last in a one horse race. There will be a queue of revellers at the door next summer, and if anything his stock will only continue to rise. A unique, generational talent has slipped through Manchester United’s fingers. Sancho wanted to join, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted him, and Dortmund would have sold. All United had to do was given them the money.
The board’s attempts to sign an alternative were flimsy, ham fisted and never convincing. Ousmane Dembele was touted as one such option, but the move for the Barcelona man proved weaker that his hamstrings. What use is signing someone who spends so long on the sidelines? We did actually sign a winger in Amad Diallo, he won’t be arriving until January and its unlikely he’s go straight into the first team anyway. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs players for now, not six months or so down the line. Same goes for Facundo Pellistri.
Cavani, for me, is the biggest worry. Yes, he has a good goalscoring record, but we could have in June yet scrambled the signing over the line in the final days of the window. He could turn out to be another Zlatan Ibrahimovic – a free, inspirational master-stroke – but he could also turn out to be Alexis Sanchez and Radamel Falcao 2.0. Have the board not learned anything from past mistakes? Did they not see the risks in signing an ageing, injury prone Cavani who is considerably past his best. It’s not even as if anyone else wanted him – if that was the case, he’d have been snapped up. An eleventh hour panic buy and the epitome of this board’s ineptitude. They took out 150m to cover the losses of COVID and sold Chris Smalling yet can’t get their top transfer target despite knowing Dortmund’s position and wanting Sancho all summer.
When you consider that Telles was effectively a free transfer (United used the money from Smalling’s move to Roma to pay for the incoming left-back), and that Diallo will come in 2021, it takes our summer spending to the 35m paid for Donny van de Beek and the nine million spent of Pellistri. That’s a grand total of 44m – the lowest amount spent on players in any post-Ferguson transfer window. This for a team looking to close the gap at the top. Forty. Four.Million. That is an absolute disgrace, a shambles and an embarrassment. When will someone be held accountable for this mess. Outspent not only by Chelsea, Liverpool and City, but even Leeds, Villa, Everton, Wolves and Newcastle have shown more ambition and splashed the cash.
It seemed United had turned a corner in July but now I don’t know what to think. There’s no plan, no direction, no ambition and the board are distant and simply don’t care. This transfer window was an absolute shambles.