Manchester United boss David Moyes has called for a complete overhaul of the club’s scouting system, with the view to bring in his own choice of scouts, after a summer of immense disappointment in the transfer market for the Premier League champions. But we never witnessed such a plethora of transfer faux pas and ungraceful errors at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson and former Chief Executive David Gill.
The majority of stories regarding Sir Alex Ferguson’s transfer pursuits during his seventeen-year reign as Manchester United boss often share a great similarity. According to the likes of Peter Schemeichel, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, the United legend visited them personally, once travelling all the way to Denmark in the goalkeeper’s case, and told them simply that he wanted to bring them to Manchester United and that he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
David Moyes hasn’t been in the job long enough to have such a dazzling, personal effect on his transfer targets, something which he pointed out earlier in the summer by citing he’d only been at Old Trafford officially since the 1st of July, but there’s a stark contrast between the style and demeanour of Ferguson’s escapades in the transfer market and the series of calamities his predecessor has endured this summer.
The fact the Scot struggled during his inaugural transfer window at his first major club is no secret -Marouane Fellaini’s last minute arrival, left so late that the British media couldn’t confirm his move from Everton until after the 11pm deadline, is evidence enough, especially when it’s tied in with two failed bids for Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas earlier in the summer.
But it’s since the window slammed shut that the most condemning reports of Moyes and new Manchester United Chief Executive Ed Woodward’s failures in the transfer market have come to light, and the list of transfer mishaps is now becoming a source of embarrassment for a club as prestigious and historically pivotal as Manchester United.
After failing to tempt Everton chief Bill Kenwright into selling his two leading stars over the course of the summer, Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, it seems the Red Devils entered and conducted themselves on deadline day in an unusually chaotic fashion.
According to Sami Khedira, Manchester United made a late £34million bid for the German midfielder just hours before the 11pm deadline, playing on the fact Real Madrid were desperate to balance the books from their record-breaking deal for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. Los Blancos rejected the offer unsurprisingly considering the timing, but it all seems a bit rash on United’s part.
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The 26 year-old moved to the Bernabeu for just £12million in 2010, and although the average price of established European players has sky-rocketed this summer, I’d argue Khedira hasn’t increased his value by £22million in the last three years, considering he’s contributed to just one La Liga title and one Copa del Rey in that time period.
David Moyes also tried to loan wantaway team-mate Fabio Coentrao from Real Madrid after realising that he couldn’t justifiably match Everton’s £20million valuation for Leighton Baines, however, the planned deal was left so late that it wasn’t completed before the 11pm deadline – not that signing the Portuguese would have done anything more than save face for Moyes after missing out on the Toffees defender and other key targets throughout the summer.
At the same time, the planned acquisition of Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera ended in complete farce. It seems United’s initial £30million bid was legitimate and David Moyes’ interest in the Spanish playmaker was genuine, but at some point the deal was hi-jacked by three unknown lawyers claiming to represent the Premier League champions, and after Bilbao’s realisation that they weren’t dealing with Red Devils officials, negotiations were called off completely.
You can hardly blame the Scot for the actions of a trio of borderline con-men, but he was only £6million away from activating Herrera’s release clause, and the promising starlet epitomised the balance between attack and defence in central midfield that Moyes was desperately searching for this summer.
Similarly, according to Spanish super-journalist Guilleme Balague, the Red Devils were offered the services of Mesut Ozil on deadline day, and Real Madrid even delayed his move to Arsenal in the hope that Moyes and Woodward would launch a counter-offer to the Gunners’ £42million bid.
It seemed an offer almost too good to refuse for the new United boss considering his side have started the season with a disturbing lack of creativity going forward, but by lunchtime on September 2nd came news from Old Trafford that the Premier League champions had ruled themselves out of the race to sign an attacking midfielder who dons the most assists in Europe over the last four years. Granted, £42million is a lot of money, but The Independent reported in early August that Ozil had been offered to the Red Devils for less than Arsene Wenger eventually paid for him.
Deadline day is a crazy 24 hours, and a panic zone Sir Alex Ferguson always did his best to steer clear from, with late acquisitions of Wayne Rooney in 2004 and Dimitar Berbatov in 2008 two of a rare few exceptions – but even those transfers had been in the pipeline for some time. It’s not Manchester United’s style to run around Europe putting their fingers in every mildly-warm pie in the hope of signing any player with a decent reputation in the final hours of the transfer window.
But even before September 2nd, Moyes had made a series of ill-fated bids for various continental stars. According to Turkish news outlet Milliyet, the Red Devils made an ‘indirect offer’ for Galatasaray’s Wesley Sneijder to solve their creative midfield crisis in mid-August to no avail, and their £12million bid for Daniele De Ross was turned down by Roma but never improved upon.
Two failed attempts to sign Cesc Fabregas earlier in the summer also showed great naivety; after their first offer, believed to be around £35million, Barcelona described the midfielder as simply ‘non-transferable’. Despite the Spaniard’s apparent discontent at playing second-fiddle to Xavi and Andreas Iniesta, he’s managed 29 goals and 37 assists in 101 appearances since arriving at the Nou Camp from Arsenal two years ago.
Meanwhile, Manchester United lost out on promising Portugal winger Bruma because of their poor conduct in proceedings with former club Sporting Lisbon. The 18 year-old entered into an employment dispute with the Portuguese outfit over whether his contract expired this summer or the next, and thus the Red Devils offered him a deal at Old Trafford with no transfer fee involved.
But Lisbon eventually won their case to prevent Bruma leaving on a bosman move, meaning that his illustrious list of potential suitors, including the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United would have to make a monetary offer for his services. Miffed at how the Premier League champions had tried to circumvent them during negotiations however, Lisbon club rejected Moyes’ £15million offer and sold their youngster to Galatasaray, taking on a £6million loss in the process.
And therefore, having failed to secure the signings of any of the seven targets mentioned, five of which the Red Devils made formal bids for, Moyes went full circle and turned back to one of the first names linked with the Red Devils this summer- Everton’s Marouane Fellaini. The Toffees were too financially weak to resist a decent offer, and the Belgian was one of a rare few players guaranteed not to be put off by Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement at the end of last season.
But even the Fellaini deal has its fair share of negatives to be drawn from it. He wasn’t Moyes’ first choice of central midfielder, that much is obvious, but he could have signed the 25 year-old for significantly less a month earlier, with his previous £23million release clause expiring on the 1st of August.
Eventually, Moyes got his man for £28million, but that’s the same amount the United gaffer offered for Fellaini and team-mate Leighton Baines just two weeks previous, and in order to force through his move to Old Trafford, the midfielder handed in a transfer request at Goodison Park on deadline day, nullifying his £4million loyalty bonus, and made haste down the M62 from Merseyside to Manchester as the 11pm deadline loomed in.
Every Premier League club has endured failed pursuits in the transfer market this summer; Arsenal missed out on Luiz Gustavo, David Villa and Gonzalo Higuain, Chelsea couldn’t lure away Wayne Rooney from Manchester United, and Manchester City’s planned acquisition of Pepe never got off the ground.
But for a club of Manchester United’s stature, it’s the chaotic nature of their summer escapades, the naivety and the clear lack of any sort of plan or policy that’s truly worrying. Moyes may have only officially took over as Old Trafford boss on July 1st, but running around on deadline day like headless chickens in a bid to find a solution to a summer of transfer disappointments is not how the Premier League champions conduct themselves – or rather, it’s not how they conducted themselves under Sir Alex Ferguson, and it has nothing to do with United’s scouting network.
Are the stories from United’s summer getting embarrassing?
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