Manchester United finished last season as the 7th best team and have since lost several key players. Nemanja Vidic, the captain, Patrice Evra, the vice-captain, as well as two of the most experienced players in the squad, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand. When you consider that takes away three of our back four, as well as last season’s only cover for left-back, Alexander Buttner, United would need to buy five players just to break even.
United need to do more than break even though. Our squad was worse than Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool’s last season, yet all four of those clubs have spent more money than us in the transfer window, and none of them seen as many first team players leave.
Of course, in Louis van Gaal, United have a much better manager this season and that should ensure we see better performances from the players. But his quality isn’t enough to bridge the ever increasing gap between us and the teams above us last season.
It makes you wonder, what is Ed Woodward doing? The only players we’ve signed, Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, are players who we had lined up a year ago, so why a week away from the transfer window closing have we not bought anyone else?
Van Gaal was appointed three months ago and whilst of course Holland was his priority you would imagine he gave the club a list of players he was keen on signing. Neither Herrera or Shaw even spoke to Van Gaal even spoke to the manager before signing, indicating that Van Gaal simply approved these pre-arranged signings.
With the season starting two games before the transfer window closes, it’s so important to get your business done early. It’s obviously more difficult to do this during a World Cup year, but not impossible. Look at Chelsea, for example, who have brought in five players costing close to £100m all before the season kicked off.
Having Herrera and Shaw available for the pre-season was great, but this year, probably more than any, it was so important getting all of our players to play together before facing any matches that mattered. Van Gaal has completely changed the way we play and we needed as much time as we could to practice this.
Everything worked brilliantly well on tour, with United winning every game, despite playing plenty of good sides.
However, United were brought back down to earth today with a humbling home defeat against the side we beat away from home on the first day of last season.
Whilst Van Gaal wouldn’t allow injuries to be used as an excuse, it would be unfair not to take them in to account. Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard made their debuts, with the average age of our back three standing at just 22 years old, thanks to injuries to Jonny Evans and Rafael da Silva.
Robin van Persie, Michael Carrick, Danny Welbeck, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Anderson were all unavailable to play too. When you consider how many players have left the club, it’s understandable that we were down to the bare bones today. But it is unforgivable that the Glazers and Woodward have allowed it to come to this.
After the monumental cock up in the transfer window last summer, which really was unfair on David Moyes, given he needed all the help he could get after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s incredible that we are seeing history repeat itself. Mistakes were made, with the club failing to bring in any world class or potentially world class players, and instead resorting to ‘strengthening’ our midfield by overpaying for Marouane Fellaini. Those mistakes seemingly haven’t been learnt from, even though the price we paid was failing to qualify for Europe.
Ahead of today’s game, Paul Scholes believed that Van Gaal will be disappointed that more players haven’t been signed.
“I’m sure he would have liked to have signed more players,” said Scholes. “He’s not managed to do that yet. Are the players out there available? Midfield is an area where I thought they might have bought a couple of players. Kroos goes for £20 million and Fabregas to Chelsea. I thought they would have been in for those type of players but it doesn’t look like they were.”
You could understand United not competing for these players if they had something bigger in store. If we actually sign Arturo Vidal, then maybe this transfer window will make some sense, with Juve reportedly proving difficult to negotiate with.
United may well bring in a player or two before the window shuts, with Van Gaal trying to reassure people with his claim it only takes 24 hours to buy someone.
But we’ve already fallen three points behind thanks to the inability of the Glazers to make our money available and Woodward’s incompetence to get a deal done.
How much further will we fall behind before the fans begin to make a stand again? Moyes faced the brunt of the frustration last year but it is unlikely that Van Gaal will face the same fate. There’s no questioning his credentials and his ability to make title winning squads. But there are huge question marks over the owners and CEO. If they want top four football this season they need to act now, before one dodgy season turns in to decline.