The transfer window closed yesterday as Manchester United failed to make any further additions after much anticipation that they would close in on a centreback. A number of alternatives to Tottenham centreback Toby Alderweireld were lined up by United as the likes of Jerome Boateng, Diego Godin, Harry Maguire and Yerry Mina were all shown interest in only for a move to not materialize. The Portuguese manager has been vocal in showing his displeasure at the board’s inability to hand him the transfer targets in recent weeks as United have yet again failed to address some of the deep rooted issues in their squad by signing personnel with quality to overcome these deficiencies. In particular, the right wing and the fullback positions have been left unattended and it looks like United are heading into this new season with the likes of Antonio Valenica and Ashley Young as their first choice fullbacks. United have been found wanting in the wide areas last season and the signs point to a repeat if Mourinho does not address them from a tactical perspective.
Manchester United have shown their prowess in being able to attract premier names to their club despite not winning the league title since 2013. Ed Woodward has been excellent in being able to court the likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic,Henrikh Mkhitaryan amongst other names to sign for United despite the lack of Champions League football on offer at the time. More recently, United have also been able to sign Alexis Sanchez and Fred amidst heavy interest from their cross town rivals in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. So there has been a widespread consensus that United still have their pulling power and have not suffered much despite lack of league titles/good Champions League runs to back their aura. This has been dealt a harsh drag back to reality with their failed pursuit Diego Godin yesterday when reports emerged that United activated his release clause but the Uruguayan going on to reject the advancements from the Manchester club.
Rather than being an indicator of United’s status as an European powerhouse, which has taken a constant hit for quite some time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013, this whole transfer saga in the last couple weeks by United have been more of an indicator of how poorly run the club has been in recent years. The fans have been consistently voicing their angst against the American owners Glazers, who have an open thirst for commercial revenue from the club. Focus on the business side of things has been taking preference in the club for quite a while now, with the footballing side of the things taking a massive hit.
United do not lack the pulling power, especially financially as they are one of the richest clubs in the world with huge marketing potential. Ed Woodward has done a tremendous job to keep the stream of revenue flowing despite indifferent form on the pitch. United’s status as a historical powerhouse, fueled by their constant success under Alex Ferguson the last two decades has helped preserve their spot in the upper tiers of the European club ladders.
There has been constant criticism of United’s spending and their lavish wage structure. In cases of fighting for a player with interest from more than one club, United have been able to attract the player in question by offering huge agent fees to help convince the player and agent to sign for them. The fact that United do not have a Director of Football in place ever since ex CEO David Gill retired has been or a footballing background person in place to take care of the footballing operations in the club have come back to bite United now.
The biggest criticism has to be of their improper planning this summer. Despite early acquisitions of Fred and Portuguese right back Diogo Dalot, United have failed to add on their squad additions. Toby Alderweireld in particular was very close to joining United but negotiations between Tottenham and United did not grow positively. United were at fault for not paying the demanded amount, which is partly high because of their recent displays of overpaying slightly for their targets. Any attempt at trying to lower the asking price ended up being a failure while the negotiations took too long a time to start reaching advanced stages for United to leverage any sort of a deal in their favour. Rumours started flying around as United got linked to numerous names in recent weeks, notably Harry Maguire, Jerome Boateng, Yerry Mina and most recently Diego Godin.
These alternatives looked hurried, with no concrete interest in any defender to convince them to sign for the club. Also, despite the early closing of the window in England, all these moves failed to pop up until very late for the club to actually force a signing. It has been met with even more contempt when Jose Mourinho came and told in a press conference that he has handed over a list of names months earlier to the board and they have failed to deliver the signings. There has been disconnect in what the manager wants and what the board has offered severely, which has showed in these recent developments.
Mourinho signed a contract extension only back in January. To not back the manager financially when there is a clear need for improvement in squad so that Manchester City are kept in sights is puzzling. A plausible explanation can be that the board is not happy with Mourinho and are probably saving the money for future transfer windows under a new(?) manager. If that is the case though, the contract extension back in January looks very questionable and renders this argument useless.
The lack of attractive football on offer on the pitch followed by the poor handling of the situation by the board off it has made Manchester United lose ground in the title battle at the start of the season. Mourinho not being backed financially at all would be a wrong of way looking at things as he has been afforded enough cash the previous two seasons to make signings. Rather, the planning that is associated with the handling of the personnel at disposal and new signings to further strengthen the squad has been the problem. Challenging for the title looks a distant possibility right now with minimal additions while the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool have already good squads/ numerous quality additions over the summer.
A new found purpose and direction cannot come sooner for Manchester United. Proper long term planning, signings that fit the bill, both financially and tactically are the norms needed right now at Manchester. A lack of a proper football representative at the top of the executive ladder is affecting their chances of coming back to the very top of English football. Jose Mourinho is a proven winner and has grown a reputation of fighting against all odds. He also has a reputation of imploding when things do not go his way, especially in his third season at a club. Which of these alternatives actually end up happening depends on numerous factors, so a good start to the season is paramount to United’s chances of keeping their club in a respectable position and avoid any turmoil within the club. But the lack of a proper directive at the higher positions in the club have started hurting them and the sooner they address it, the better.
Read more on my tactical takes from Manchester United’s pre-season tour here