It was a long summer in terms of transfer dealings and Manchester United certainly got their share of players in at the end of deadline day.
However, the feeling in the camp and amidst supporters across the globe is still one of gloom and negativity and not just due to the heavy defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at home on Sunday that punctuated the final moments of the window.
As such, it is of some merit to delve into what has been learnt from this summer and what it could mean for the club’s future too.
The reality of panic certainly dictated what happened on deadline day. While it is easy to interpret the acquisitions as a direct reaction to the embarrassing loss inflicted by Spurs, most of the sagas in question had already been brought to inception before that match week.
Instead, those signings need to be viewed in the larger picture of major deals falling apart. The obvious one is the club’s pursuit for Jadon Sancho.
Once it became evident that Borussia Dortmund would not look to negotiate further on Sancho, it was simply too late. Hence the last-minute attempts to acquire Ousmane Dembélé on loan, the late purchase of free agent Edinson Cavani who has been available all summer, as well as the rushed pursuit for Amad Traoré which means he cannot join until January.
This theme sets a worrying precedent of a recruitment strategy that woefully lacks aptitude.
2. Recurring Trend
However, this isn’t anything new at all. The trend of not getting players within the reigning manager’s wishlist nor addressing key issues at the side has been a long-term flaw at Old Trafford. This is particularly woeful when the gaffers in question had the momentum to challenge for major titles.
Jose Mourinho was a clear victim of the same with the Portuguese gaffer’s wishes rarely fulfilled by Ed Woodward. Now, it certainly seems that Ole Gunnar Solskjær is being taken on a similar joyride.
Incidentally, if things do go sour and the blame is pinned on the Norwegian, the cycle will just keep repeating. The next manager of Manchester United may be tactically different but without the support of the board and the funds to recruit, his brilliance will be rendered toothless, as has been the case for close to a decade now.
3. Failed To Get Solskjær’s Biggest Target
The disconnect amidst the hierarchy is perhaps best illustrated in the absolute failure to land Solskjær’s purported top target- Jadon Sancho.
While the pandemic clearly had an effect on how the saga went about, it cannot be ignored that United handled things with ineptitude. Newer claims suggest that the Red Devils were under the illusion that Dortmund’s resolve would break as deadline day loomed closer and that failed to occur entirely.
As such, without the tools to fully deploy his attacking philosophy, Solskjær may be in deep trouble going forward.
4. Defensive Problems Remain
While Solskjær’s clear wish for a right-forward remained unfulfilled, the early games of the season have spelt out another glaring concern that has been brewing for a while now.
United’s defense is in shambles and this window did nothing to amend or reinforce it. In fact, with Chris Smalling’s departure, one can even argue that the side permitted their best centre-back to depart in a time of crisis at the back.
It remains to be seen whether this is amended in the winter but until then United will have to make do with centre-backs who are already prone to making high-profile mistakes.
5. Negotiation Roadblocks
Another aspect of transfers that this window cemented is just how intriguing the negotiation process appears to be for United. This can be seen in the manner in which the deals for Sancho and Smalling were handled.
For Sancho, it appears that United never were at the wavelength at which Dortmund wished for them to be. In a bid to not be ‘bullied’ in the market, the Red Devils may have bitten off more than they could have chewed as the alleged hope on Sancho’s arrival pilfered them of valuable time to pursue back-up options.
As for Smalling, the error lay in just how late the deal was kept from going through, with issues making way until the very end. Roma’s persistence shone through but the fact that the player was almost kept at the club against his wishes is a thing of worry.
6. Outspent and Outdone
In a period of much flux with regard to top-six dynamics, several clubs spent to make their intent clear. The traditional sides broke the bank in ensuring that at least their core needs were met. Sides like Chelsea and Manchester City went all the way to ensure marquee signings would dictate their prowess in the season to come.
Even traditionally shy spenders like Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had a clear philosophy of improvement dictating their business. More shockingly, the fact that the likes of Everton and Leeds United exercised great purchasing power is of great surprise when compared to the position and financial capability of a powerhouse like Manchester United.
7. Focus On Youth
In what may be taken as a positive, the focus was clearly on bolstering youth options. With regard to senior team signings, the ages of Cavani and Alex Telles don’t necessarily illustrate this well but the motive behind going for Traore and Pellistri does set the mark.
More importantly, the funds and quality invested into the youth set-up are of great value. At this rate, if even half of the starlets in those ranks meet their expected potential, United could have a fierce roster of options to choose from in five years or so.
However, it could also be argued that these additions were made as investments to later bankroll on, as the trend of the past three or four years has shown great promise at. If that is the case, the post-pandemic economy may have a rude surprise for the side.
Does this window have grand ramifications for the immediate future of Manchester United?