Most transfer windows have been fairly disappointing occasions for United fans since the Glazers bought the club and we have become used to this. More often than not, if we do dip in to the transfer market, we buy the sensible player. A player that makes sense and has the potential to be good enough but who doesn’t get you too excited.
Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, who were bought during the January window in 2005/2006, are great examples. Neither came with a huge reputation and, costing us a combined £12m, were brilliant value. They didn’t set the world alight initially, with Evra particularly struggling, but now they hold the positions of captain and vice-captain.
Before last summer, the signing that I was most excited about was Owen Hargreaves. Having failed in replacing Roy Keane for a couple of years, the Bayern Munich man was just the kind of player we were looking for. He made his début on derby day, in a game we somehow managed to lose, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him pick up the ball in our half, go forward, pick a pass, then be positioned perfectly to break up any counter attacks. We all know how that one ended but in 2007/2008 it looked like we had finally found the answer to all our problems. It’s no coincidence we ended that season champions of England and Europe, although Cristiano Ronaldo did have quite a say in that too!
When Ronaldo left the club the following year we were promised that his £80m transfer fee would be reinvested back in to the club. We signed Antonio Valencia, one of the better signings since 2005 (despite his deterioration over the past season), Michael Owen, Mame Biram Diouf and Gabriel Obertan. This felt utterly pathetic at the time but in light of Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer business this summer after selling Gareth Bale, it feels all the more shameful now. Fancy selling the best player in the world and then spending just a quarter of that on players to replace him, the best of which is a winger from Wigan, and then trying to tell the fans with a straight face that the Glazers weren’t hampering the success of the club.
Still, having become resigned to the fact that Manchester City and Chelsea would always sign the best players, United managed to lure Robin van Persie to Old Trafford last summer. He wasn’t a player we needed, just as Mesut Özil is the type of player Arsenal are in need of, but sometimes when special players become available you have to push the boat out. We needed a midfielder last summer but instead bought Van Persie and his goals ensured we cruised to the title.
Had we never signed the Dutchman we probably would never have got our hopes up for this transfer window, so used to being disappointed and not signing the world class players we had been linked with, but the capture of Van Persie lead us to believe it was possible we’d repeat the great work of last summer.
It wasn’t just Van Persie though, but the common sense conclusion that the club would give new manager David Moyes the support he needed. This was the biggest football appointment of all time, with the Everton man taking over from the best manager of all time, and it was vital he was given the players that would give him the best chance possible of competing for the title. No other manager in England would have won the league as easily as Ferguson did last season. There was no way that our current players could repeat such a feat without Sir Alex in charge. Even if Ferguson was still here, with City and Chelsea spending close to £200m between them, we would still have to do something to improve.
It wasn’t just Ferguson’s retirement either, but the new CEO’s insistence that no player was out of our reach. We could compete for any player the manager wanted, apparently, and Ed Woodward even rushed home on urgent transfer business weeks ago.
So, that is the context for the summer, but what followed I’m still struggling to come to terms with. We went from one fuck up to another and the incompetence of Woodward has been shocking.
We had been strongly linked with what should have been the coup of the transfer window when it was revealed Thiago was keen to leave Barcelona. United had been following the youngster’s career for some time and he was certainly on our shortlist of players to go for.
However, it was no surprise when a last minute bid from Bayern Munich tempted Thiago away from Manchester. Not only were they the champions of Germany and Europe, but his mentor, Pep Guardiola, was the manager. Fair enough. It was obviously disappointing but it was understandable we missed out.
Still, Moyes and the club claimed that they were never really interested in signing Thiago, which was a lie.
“Thiago was close to joining Manchester United and before the European Under-21 Championship there were conversations,” said Thiago’s dad, Mazinho, after the deal to Bayern was confirmed. Cringe.
Whilst we didn’t come out of the Thiago business looking great, the way we handled the Fabregas chase was when things really started to get embarrassing.
By all accounts, Fabregas was open to a move to United, despite obviously wanting to make a success of his career at Barcelona. They are his boyhood club and he’s surrounded by his mates there. But if the club wouldn’t give him assurances about playing time in a World Cup year, he was prepared to leave for United.
We put in ridiculous bid after ridiculous bid and Fabregas stayed quiet. But in the end, with the club clearly giving him the playing guarantees he wanted, he spoke at a press conference to confirm he had no desire to leave the club. Again, like with Thiago, this was fair enough. Why wouldn’t he want to stay at Barcelona if they told him he was a valued part of the squad?
United could have just left it there, but instead opted to release an official statement in response to Fabregas’ comments, leaving open the possibility of a further bid.
Whilst some players had been linked with United in the press for a period of weeks, the interest in Herrera became public very late on. On transfer deadline day, it appeared as though the deal was more or less done, with it being reported that Herrera was keen to join United. There was some mention of the release clause and that United were unwilling to meet it, but you assumed this would be resolved before 11pm.
However, with the clock ticking, it was leaked that the deal was off and that United hadn’t been in talks with the player at all. Apparently, three imposters posing as laywers representing us had been in Spain all day. How absurd.
Reports from Spain have since claimed that this is not true and that the deal collapsed because the lawyers failed to understand the complexities of Spanish buy-out clauses. United tried to distance themselves from the failed deal, claiming the lawyers were “not acting on their behalf”, but this was just an attempt from the club to save face.
Had United begun this deal at the start of the window, or at least, more than 12 hours before the deadline, the lawyers would have had sufficient time to get to grips with the clause. However, with such little time remaining, they pulled out of the deal for fears of potential extra costs involved in tax and other finer details.
Apparently United had organised his shirt number, agreed a salary and when the announcement would be made, without actually getting round to agreeing the deal.
With just minutes remaining before the transfer window closed, it was reported that United had signed Coentrao on a year loan from Real Madrid. Following an awful final day, with fears at one point we’d sign no one, the club appeared to have redeemed themselves.
However, despite filing the paperwork in time on our end, which included signatures from both clubs and the player, Real Madrid pulled out at the last minute after failing to sign replacement Guilherme Siqueira from Granada.
Again, had United not waited until the dying minutes to try and conclude this transfer, maybe things could have been different, but after chasing Leighton Baines all summer, they missed out.
Sami Khedira confirmed that the club but a late bid in for him but it was turned down. “The club turned down the offer and it was done very quickly,” he said. “It was not even an offer to talk about.”
Roma confirmed that United put in a bid for Daniele De Rossi, believed to be around £12m, which was also rejected. “As for De Rossi, we will always reply ‘no thank you’ to any formal offer that is proposed for him, as would the player,” said manager Mauro Baldissoni. “The club will not accept any offers for him. Both Roma and Daniele are coming off a year that didn’t go well and we want to make up for that together. The club doesn’t intend to accept offers for De Rossi and he has no intention of leaving us. Daniele is an integral part of our history.”
Turkish sporting co-ordinator Bulunt Tulun confirmed that United tried to sign Sneijder again two weeks ago. “Sneijder received an indirect offer from Manchester United two weeks ago but it was not accepted,” he said. “There are several clubs “There are several clubs that want him but just like we can’t let go of [striker] Burak [Yilmaz] we also have to keep hold of Sneijder.”
There were also some reports that we had tried to sign Luka Modric and, even more unbelievably, turned down the opportunity to sign Mesut Ozil a couple of weeks ago. Then, after the Chelsea game, following reports United were trying to snatch Bale away from Real Madrid, Moyes acted all coy in his post-match interview. He didn’t claim we had bid for him, but refused to rule it out. In the press conference after the game he gave a clear “no” when asked whether we were going for the Welshman.
At the beginning of the transfer window, if you were told the only signing United would make was Fellaini, you would have likely been disappointed. Whilst he certainly can play in the position we are in desperate need of filling, you couldn’t claim he is world class (yet?).
Still, with a release clause of £23m, he seemed like a good option to accompany another top signing. When United allowed the release clause to expire, you had to assume they were no longer interested in signing him. They couldn’t possibly have thought Everton would sell him for less than that?
Having spent all summer trying to scrimp and save, being totally tight and coming nowhere close to meeting the club evaluation of any player we were interested in, United, through desperation, ended up paying £27.5m for Fellaini. It’s not the extra money that concerns me, but more than the principle. Having looked so completely out of depth all summer, this was a perfect example of how utterly clueless Woodward is. To think, we bid £28m for Fellaini and Baines not long ago!
In delaying bidding for Fellaini in the hope of getting him on the cheap, it meant we were without him for two of our biggest games of the season, against Chelsea and Liverpool. Had we paid the release clause, we’d have got him cheaper and been able to involve him in the squad much sooner.
So whilst I don’t want to be too doom and gloom, I am after all pleased that we’ve signed Fellaini, I can’t get my around just how amateur we have been this summer. Moyes deserved so much better.