All done and dusted. The phrase most football fans love to hear about the transfer window when your club is trying to keep hold of its best players. Not so much when you’re trying to reinforce your squad. Manchester United fans will fall into both categories today.
Now’s the time to take stock of what happened, but the truth is we won’t know how well the teams have done in the window until the clubs have a chance to use their new players for the first time after the international break.
And even then it’s spectacularly harsh to judge a new signing on the basis of his debut or first few games.
This might seem a little counter-intuitive, but when the dust settles, United will probably be looked upon as a club who managed a good window. Because of all the money they spent and all the players they were linked to, Louis Van Gaal and his backroom staff were almost the laughing stocks of social media – I say almost because Chelsea’s late search through the bottom of the barrel for a defender and Arsenal’s failure to sign a striker made them look much much worse. But United now have everything they need.
Firstly there’s a top class goalkeeper. With only hours to go until the window ‘slammed shut’ it looked as if Manchester United were going to lose their goalkeeper and bring in another one. Sounds alright until you realise the keeper they were going to sell was David de Gea, arguably the best in the league, and the keeper they were going to buy, Keylor Navas, is arguably not.
He’s a decent keeper, but United have Sergio Romero and Victor Valdes on the books. Navas, Romero and Valdes doesn’t sound like a confidence instilling goalkeeping trio for a club with title aspirations. Not these days anyway. Keeping De Gea is very important for United.
It’s important not just because he’s a fantastic keeper, or that he fits exactly what United are doing – he has good distribution as well as being a good shot stopper – but because he’ll continue to keep goal for United. Unlike Saido Berahino, De Gea never once threw toys out of the pram. He did everything you’d expect from the model professional who wanted a move.
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He kept his mouth shut and got on with it. When Van Gaal took him out of the team we heard that De Gea was ‘not eager’ to play for United, but that came from the club, not the player. De Gea has burnt no bridges and even United fans will surely feel for him after his dream move fell through. Now’s the time for United fans to show him the love. Do that and he’ll give them another season of top quality custodianship before he rides off into the sunset.
He’s worth it.
The other big deal was the silly money United paid for Anthony Martial, but there’s a different angle than simply looking at the money or being excited by the ‘new Henry’. And that’s United’s squad.
They have their goalkeeper back, they have a back four which is looking very solid and the Blind / Smalling partnership seems to be going very well, sandwiched in between the impressive Darmian and Shaw. It’s early days, but it looks good.
Then there’s Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Carrick who can fight it out for midfield spots, Memphis, Mata, Fellaini, Valencia and Young for the attacking roles and Rooney and Martial to give options up front.
To me that looks like a very balanced squad. It combines strength and physicality with technique and composure in the midfield. There’s creativity in the attacking midfield roles as well as pace and strength, and then Rooney and Martial are very different strikers allowing Van Gaal to change it if he feels it’s necessary.
Forget the money for a moment and the squad looks like one that can compete this season. This summer was all about how Arsenal were title contenders, but their midfield lacks the oomph that United’s has and it lacks the options up front that United’s has. Surely if Arsenal are contenders then United are too.
The one thing I can’t defend is paying a potential €80m for, well, potential. Martial is not there just yet, but if he does have a big season for United, and if he does develop into the player Van Gaal obviously thinks he will become, and with the money already in the Premier League then why not do the deal. It just seems a little bit crazy.
But if it wins them the league they’ll be laughing. And that’s what it was about – Van Gaal thought he needed pace and explosivity to make his side contenders, not matter how much he paid for it, that’s how much he got.
United are glad the window is over so they can focus on winning games, but there’s maybe just a part of Louis Van Gaal that wishes it continued just another week – enough time to haggle down the price for Martial or have a go at another target. Malcolm Glazer’s bank balance is looking a little light this morning.