What are Manchester United doing?
Another mail complaining about Manchester United’s transfer policy. How original, right? I hope I can put a slightly different spin on it by not banging on about Sancho too much, and concentrating on sales a bit more.
I’ll start with a few positives. They’ve miraculously managed to shift Sanchez, they’ve found loans for two players who need to play senior football in Garner and Chong, and van de Beek is a quality addition that adds much needed depth in the creative department. They’re seemingly building the best u23 squad in the country.
Now the negatives. They have a week left in the window and Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Andreas Pereira, Diogo Dalot, Chris Smalling and Jesse Lingard are still at the club. They haven’t signed a creative wide forward to supplement the goalscoring of Greenwood, Martial, and Rashford. They look weak in the centre of defence, and there isn’t much creativity coming from their full backs. The promising Tuanzebe is not going to first choice so also needs a suitable loan. The ‘agreed’ deal for Stevanovic has gone quiet.
Smalling is 30, unlikely to play, and obviously available yet United seem utterly inflexible on the price. Yes, other clubs do this to them, and yes, 20 million Euros is not unreasonable but in the current climate, surely the 15 million Euros apparently offered is better than nothing. Selling Dalot seems daft to me but the club have made noises to the press that he isn’t wanted, and there are seemingly several suitors so moving him on should not be too difficult. Rojo and Jones may well be harder to shift but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency from the club. The post pandemic market isn’t an easy one to operate in but we have seen plenty of other clubs move unwanted players on even if it means taking a hit on them, to better balance their squads and free up some money. The major targets (Upamecano aside) are very clearly available too but with a week left they’ve still not arrived. The Sancho deal was expensive but he won’t be any cheaper next year and United are unlikely to get a free run at him in a year’s time. The rumoured back-ups (Dembele, Perisic, Douglas Costa) are no more cost-effective in the long run and each of them has drawbacks of some kind. At fullback, the Reguilon deal was probably right to be avoided as I’d expect Madrid to activate the buy-back clause the second that Marcelo looks to be declining. Alex Telles is available, cheap and wants very little in terms of wages but once again, a seemingly simple deal to complete is looking less likely by the day. At centreback, a man the club have tried to sign before, Skriniar is available. Pau Torres has a very affordable release clause, Ruben Dias likewise.
Having a number one target and settling for nobody else is not a good transfer strategy. It worked with Liverpool and Virgil van Dijk but it hasn’t really worked for them with Naby Keita It led to United massively overpaying for Maguire. Mo Salah wasn’t Klopp’s first choice yet nobody would argue that Liverpool would have been better served holding out another year for Julian Brandt instead. Who is to say that United will still be in Champions League next season? Looking at how much other clubs have strengthened, it is certainly not a given. Will Sancho still be interested in United if they’ve regressed back to the Europa League? I suspect he’ll have better offers. Woodward has tried this wait-and-see strategy several times and it has not worked. It didn’t work with Maguire, it didn’t work with Fernandes, it didn’t with Fellaini (it had the opposite effect in fact), and it won’t work now.