Same Story Different Summer
During this summer transfer window Manchester Untied have recruited seven new signings and have sold, loaned or released more than twenty players. Over the last several seasons, one of my biggest complaints about United has been squad evolution. Particularly the number of players that have needed to be sold.
Therefore, given the sheer number of players coming and going from Carrington this summer, one would assume that for once myself and fans like me would be satisfied.
However, here I sit, attempting to write something uplifting, something hopeful, something to disguise my disappointment. Yet, I am left feeling wanting. I am left feeling like United fans are again being hoodwinked. I feel like I have been fed a happy meal at a Michelin star restaurant.
The front office and executive staff at United have done an incredible job in the past at using big name signings as a sort or propaganda or distraction from what the team really needs. They have become experts in marketing misdirection.
All too often are poor recruitment choices disguised by a commercial signing. Every summer, it is the same story, different day, and this summer appears to be much of the same.
My Initial Transfer Window Impressions
My initial thoughts are two fold. First, I like the signings we have made.
Mason Mount is a quality player with a history of success in the Premier League. Onana has completely changed the way United play, for the better. Hojlund looks a beast. Amrabat was immense at the world cup. Johnny Evans is a proven leader, club legacy and academy graduate. And Bayindir has won almost as many club competition trophies as de Gea.
I am also genuinely impressed with the amount of dead weight that United have shifted. Henderson, Telles, Bailly, Jones, Tuanzebe and Fred are all gone
However, my second thought is that despite being marginally impressed by this summers transfers, I am also left wondering, like a lot of fans…Did we recruit the right players? Did we move on the right players? Can we say that the club got their money’s worth in the market?
I honestly think that my answer to each of those questions is a resounding NO. And thus, regardless of my excitement for this summers’ recruits, I cant help but feel that United’s business hasn’t pushed us any closer to glory than last season’s roster.
What Did Manchester United Need This Transfer Window?
What we needed at the start of this window was a senior striker and a second striker. We also needed an elite center back to offer competition to Varane and Martinez. While a debate remains as to what was more important, the need for midfield cover for Casemiro or an elite right back. Anything beyond that would have been icing on the cake.
The club also needed to shift a massive amount of deadweight. Bailly, Tuanzebe, Jones, Telles, Martial, Maguire, Sancho, Greenwood, Fred, McTominay, Henderson, Van de Beek, De Gea, Williams, and Elanga were all first team players on the chopping block in June.
Lastly United were in desperate need of new owners and a director of football.
Sadly wants and needs are usually an afterthought in the Old Trafford front office unless you name is Glazer. Thus I am left still asking, what did United really get for their money in the market this summer?
First we signed Mason Mount for $65 million plus $10 million in add-ons. But, many fans, myself included believe we over paid by $30 million, or more, for him.
I can not say this with enough emphasis and frustration. Mount was on the last year of his contract! Chelsea knew before the end of last season that Mount didn’t want to re-sign! All the while we had six senior midfielders to already choose from that could play at Mount’s favored position of #8 or #10!
The manager likes him because he is excellent at triggering the press and his passing range is fantastic. His goal scoring ability is reminiscent of Paul Scholes. He can transition the ball front to back relatively smoothly. And he isn’t afraid to get stuck in on a tackle.
But for a player who had a terrible 22/23 campaign, was on the last year of his contract, and was playing for a team (Chelsea) that were dangerously close to violating FFP, $65 million was too high a price. I don’t care that he is an England international or that he won a Champions League.
Then we bought Andre Onana for $52 million with another $10 million in add-ons. Again we overpaid by $10-15 million. And for a player that simply wasn’t necessary. Say what we might about David de Gea, he won the golden glove last season, and was Manchester United’s undisputed no1 for more then a decade. It is not as if he was Tomasz Kuszczak. We could have made do with him in net for one more season.
I agree with most fans that Onana is the type of keeper for ten Hag’s system. He will almost certainly elevate this team when it has reached is final product. But, there was no other team interested in him this summer. With de Gea, there was simply no rush to buy him, especially at a market premium.
Also consider that United dumped de Gea on his ass before securing a replacement. Meaning every club in the world knew that ten Hag was looking for a new keeper. Meaning that every club had the prerogative to overcharge United. If ten Hag was insistent that de Gea needed to go, Richard Arnold and John Murtaugh should have secured a replacement before releasing David.
This whole situation was terribly handled. The only saving grace is that Onana appears to have added a new dynamic to United. He is allowing us to play a completely different brand of football. Not often does one player completely change the dynamic of the way a team plays. Onana has done that at United.
Then there is Rasmus Hojlund. Erik ten Hag sanctioned and Richard Arnold approved spending $82 million on a 20 year old, who has only scored 16 top flight goals for club and country. Not to mention he came to us with a broken back.
He might well be the next Haaland, but United could have bought Haaland when he was 19 for $16 million where it not for the incompetence of Ed Woodward and Richard Arnold.
If you really want to make the Haaland parody…Haaland sold to Manchester City for $63 million at the age of 21, After he had already scored 86 goals in 89 appearances for Borussia Dortmund. He was only a year older than Hojlund is now, yet he scored 70 more goals and cost almost $20 million less.
I’m not saying I don’t have faith in Hojlund to come good. In his highlights the kid looks a proper beast. I can see where the comparisons to Haaland are justified. But for that price he needs to be scoring 30 goals a season tomorrow. Right now he isn’t that guy.
Deadline Day Business
As I previously mentioned, Manchester United have never been shy of doing last minute business in the transfer window. This summer the club were forced to dip back into the market due to several issues.
Beginning at the end of the preseason tour Erik ten Hag had already begun to play damage control due to mounting injuries. Amad, Malacia, Mount, Mainoo, Varane, and Shaw all picked up early injures.
As the season had just began to build Lindelof and McTominay fell ill.
Jadon Sancho is coming close to being black listed at United due to a public war of words with Erik ten Hag over his fitness and mentality in training.
Two of our forwards in Mason Greenwood and Antony have both had allegations of domestic violence levied against them. Greenwood was loaned out to Getafe while Antony has been given an indefinite amount of time off from first team obligations.
Two of our brand new signings, Hojlund and Amrabat came to Carrington with respective back injuries.
All the while, Martial and Van de Beek seem to be perpetually recovering from injury.
When all of that is taken into consideration, it is no surprise that United needed four signings on deadline day.
Sergio Reguilon was the first of the Manchester United’s final day transfers, on a straight loan deal. He initially signed for Tottenham from Real Madrid in 2020. His move to London was widely anticipated, as the young Spaniard had shown a lot of promise in his time at Real.
Unfortunately, he was forced to perform in a Tottenham side who’s powers had long been waning. He was only able to contribute five goal contributions in 52 outings for the Lily Whites. Last season Tottenham sent him out on loan to Atletico Madrid. After returning to his home town Reguilon failed to impress. He only managed 12 appearances and zero goal contributions for Atletico last season.
He is now seen by Ange Postecoglou as third choice behind Destiny Udogie and Ben Davis.
At 26 years old he is now reaching is prime. But, he is still being loaned out for a third season in five years. His biggest claim to fame was that he played more than 30 matches for the 2020 Sevilla side that won the Europa League.
My point is, there isn’t a lot about Reguilon that instils much hope in me. Rumors are United only signed him because his deal allowed the most flexibility when making the Amrabat deal. If ten Hag had been given his first choice, Pavard or Cucurella would have been a United player right now.
Grade: D, it should be an F but for the fact we needed a body at left back.
Sofyan Amrabat was the second deadline day signing thorough the door. He is another loanee, though his contract does have an option to buy.
The Moroccan has been a rumored target of ten Hag’s since the start of the window. As a defensive minded midfielder he provides a much needed holding option, and added grit in the center of the pitch.
His rise to global recognition came at last years world cup. Not only was he Morocco’s best player, but he was named in the World Cup team of the tournament. His gut busting recovery and subsequent tackle on Kylian Mbappe in the Morocco v France semifinal went viral almost immediately.
However, despite his recent performances, the question begs; why is this the first that a Premier League club is interested in him? With the exception of pass accuracy, interceptions and passes attempted, Amrabat ranks in the middle third of midfielders where stats are concerned. There is nothing impressive about him, save his one off besting of Mbappe.
Even now that the window has closed, there are outlets reporting that United will revisit the transfer market in January with the goal to recruit either Palhinha, Amadou Onana or even Joshua Kimmich.
It is hard to show faith in a 27 year old player who has provided little proof of concept. It becomes even harder to show faith in that player when the manager is already rumored to be looking for a replacement before he has even played a single minute for United.
Altay Bayindir is a Turkish international that has been a mainstay at Fenerbache for the last four seasons. At the age of 26 he stands at a towering 6’6″. He helped see Fenerbache to two second place finishes in the Turkish Super League. And he won the Turkish League Cup last year.
In Turkey Bayindir is highly regarded. Erik ten Hag and his coaching staff also seem to rate Bayindir, and as a fan I feel a sense of duty to trust in our manager.
But seriously, who the fuck is Altay Bayindir!
Given that he is already a Manchester United player I will support him until blue in the face. In my mind he is the next Van der Sar. And if Onana is tied down by the African Cup of Nations for six weeks, I’ll be the first to buy a No1 Bayindir kit.
But not one Manchester United fan, not one football fan that I have talked to in recent months knew this guy even existed before Untied registered interest in him. Call it Western European bias in football, call it whatever you want. Elite footballers rarely manifest from nothingness.
I realize part of being a football fan is having faith in the club to unearth unheard of talent. But United’s track record of late makes that almost impossible. So I have a hard time instilling my faith in the Turk. It has nothing to do with him. And I would love nothing more that to be proven wrong. But his personal record combined with United’s dismal transfer history over the last decade does nothing to give me hope.
Welcome back to Manchester United Jonny Evans!
Evans has perhaps been the most personally controversial new transfer at United this summer. His performances in preseason and against Arsenal were not his best showings as a footballer.
However, in spite of Leicester being relegated last season, his defensive stats over the last three seasons have been better than Harry Maguire and on par with Lindelof. Evans may not be the caliber of player that provides competition to the likes of Varane and Martinez. But, I cant help but feel that anything is better than Maguire at this point.
I would also argue that Evans captained Manchester United under Sir Alex on several occasions. While he also captained West Bromwich Albion, Leicester and the Northern Ireland squad. Maguire was even an understudy to Evans at Leicester.
The Irishman is a proven leader, a United Legacy and an academy graduate. Not to mention he was free.
As far as free is considered we couldn’t ask for a better defender than Evans. However, as far as defenders go, United fans should be wanting for much more than Evans.
Phil Jones was finally released at the end of his contract. David de Gea was also released.
Fred was sold to Fenerbache for a paltry $16.5 million, representing $43.5 million dollar loss on a player still in his prime. Alex Telles sold to Al Nasser for around $6 million, another loss of about $10 million. Eric Bailly left to Besiktas for free, representing a loss of almost $40 million.
Anthony Elanga sold to Nottingham Forest for $15 million representing the only substantial profit United made on a single player.
In the youth department, Charlie Savage, Zidane Iqbal, Ethan Laird, Ethan Galbraith, Matej Kovar as well as a dozen other failed youth prospects were all sold for nominal fees. Where as Will Fish, Mason Greenwood, Alvaro Fernandez and Brandon Williams were loaned out.
Yet still we are left with Martial, Magure and Van de Beek.
The bottom line for me is that this summer United have made next to no money in the transfer market. They made less than $50 million in transfers yet spent more than $200 million. No wonder FFP is becoming a concern.
Grade: D. It should be an F, but for the first time in a decade I don’t have to explain to people why Phil Jones is still Manchester United player.
Harry Maguire, The Never Ending Story
Yet again, given plenty of opportunity, Harry Maguire stays a Manchester United player. West Ham made three separate approaches for Maguire. Crystal Palace, Tottenham, Chelsea, Roma, Inter Milan, even Real Madrid have all surfaced in one tabloid or another as interested suiters. Still he remains.
Idle chatter suggests there is a clause in Maguire’s contract which requires United to pay him a severance should they decide to sell him. Richard Arnold and Co. want his potential buyer to compensate United for that sum. But, no one interested in the England defender wants to pay United, to pay off Maguire.
Further reports claim that Maguire was offered a payoff which he refused because it was well below what his salary would be if he remained a Untied player.
The tag line from the Maguire camp is that ten Hag has given Maguire enough encouragement for him to believe he is going to get plenty of opportunities this season. Enough to even satisfy Gareth Southgate, the England manger.
Is Maguire too aloof to realize his low standing on the Manchester United totem pole and move on? or is this really all about money? It is almost certainly a little of both. And it is a shambles top to bottom.
Why is it so hard for players like Maguire to realize that they can be a good player, just not a United player?
My Final Transfer Window Thoughts
My summary thoughts of this window are a mass of contradictions.
I am elated to see United’s new signings, yet there is little to suggest that any of them are the players we needed. We brought in seven new faces, and shifted more than 20 players, yet we had a net spend of $175 million. How is that good business?
It is great to see so much deadwood sold or released, yet I am left dumfounded that Maguire, Martial, Greenwood and Van de Beek are still United players. Furthermore, I am beyond excited for the tactical doors Onana opens, yet I feel his influence so far has been a predominant factor in United conceding seven goals in their first four matches
I am overjoyed to see a club legacy back at United in Jonny Evans, but am left feeling that he is a feel good signing, not an impactful one. The signing of Hojlund has left me feeling that we have the next gen of elite strikers is in our midst, but he is too unproven to instill any sense of immediate confidence.
And worst of all, I am again feeling hopeful under the management of Erik ten Hag, but I am left afraid of what will come to be of United if the Glazers don’t sell the club.
The Glazer Reign Continues
I feel the business United have done this summer is barely good enough to continue the middling and unexceptional attempts to solidify top four that Red Devils fans have been forced to suffer for more than a decade.
Manchester United are being held back by our ownership, yet again. Their incompetence has left the club without a director of football, simultaneously placing an unreasonable amount of pressure on the manager and coaching staff.
How are United meant to be one of Europe’s elite clubs when the manager not only has to coach, but is chief scout, chief negotiator, in charge of the youth academy, and has to mediate so much drama behind the scenes?
How are United meant to be one of Europe’s elite clubs when they saddle themselves with alleged domestic abusers?
For 15 years the Glazers have been the underlying problem at Manchester United. Coaches, players, and even CEO’s have come and gone at Old Trafford. Yet two facts remain, the Glazers are in charge and United have not won a Champions league in 15 years or Premier League trophy in a decade. They say leadership starts at the top. If that is the case then United will continue to drift rudderless until the club is devoid of Glazer leadership.
Glory, Glory Man United.