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Opinion Piece

Champions on the pitch, minnows in the transfer window

Italy-v-Spain-UEFA-European-U21-Championships-Final-1961670There was a time, I can’t precisely point out when or how long ago it was, when I used to be genuinely excited by the transfer window and I dreamt of the day when some of England’s and Europe’s top players would join Manchester United, adding to the already excellent cast at Sir Alex Ferguson’s disposal.

Perhaps it was naivety borne out of being 10 or 15 years old, but it all seemed rather straightforward and, dare I say it, easy at the time, for the process went something along the lines of “United are interested in a player”, “United have made an offer for that player”, “The player has joined United”.

Granted, occasionally, things wouldn’t go so smoothly and there were a couple of itches to be ironed out, such as an improved bid or better financial terms for the player, but that detracted very little from the simplicity of the whole process. In recent years, however, the excitement ahead of the transfer window has gradually developed into a stubborn refusal to harbour any sort of hope to the point where now I genuinely do not expect United to sign any world class players.

I have, in other words, given up.

It is, of course, rather sanctimonious and terrifyingly wide of the mark to make such claims less than 12 months since United have signed Robin Van Persie, the best player we have signed since Cristiano Ronaldo and, in terms of proven talent, the best since his fellow Dutchman Ruud Van Nistelrooy joined the club in 2001.

Van Persie’s arrival proved to be such a catalyst for the squad, the fans and the club as a whole that one would have thought the record had finally been set straight and that United had abandoned the day of tip-toeing in the transfer window which have crippled the club since 2005 (when, incidentally, something rather important took place at Old Trafford).

Over the last decade United have done well in terms of signing young talents – Rooney and Ronaldo were pivotal to the club’s success in recent years, while the likes of Chris Smalling, David De Gea, Phil Jones and Rafael guarantee a bright future – but their record with household names is nothing short of dreadful.

Ronaldinho, Wesley Snejider, Mesut Ozil were all tantalisingly close and yet so excruciatingly far from putting pen to paper and join United, while the likes of David Silva, Eden Hazard and Lucas Moura had their heads turned by the financial promises only a hatful of clubs can afford to make.

Thiago and Kevin Strootman could soon join the list and while I refuse to believe that Thiago could be the answer to all of our problems, United’s inability to ram home a deal is as frustrating as a batsman falling repeatedly a couple runs short of a century and it should be cause of a major concern for, in football, one club’s loss is another club’s gain.

Sir Alex Ferguson was often criticised for complaining about a lack of value for money in the transfer window, a line rather hard to defend considering the £42m invested on the likes of Anderson, Bebe and Ashley Young but one that could have been excusable anyway for, let’s face it, world class players are rather hard to come by these days.

Considering that Fergie’s gone and that Thiago is available for £17m rather than the £70m initially included in his release clause by Barcelona, we can safely assume that the problem must lie elsewhere, perhaps in the not so florid situation United find themselves in from a financial point of view.

Criticising the Glazers is a dangerous exercise, with many Reds only too happy to shout about the titles United have won since 2005, while their veins seem in danger of burst open in a wave of pro-Glazers love, particularly now the debt (something that was always gleefully ignored until it turned into a tool through which they can prove their point, rather than be criticised for it) has somewhat decreased.

So, if the Glazers provide the financial backing David Moyes, and Sir Alex before him, require, should the blame be laid at the manager’s doorstep? Many have already done so, accusing David Moyes of lacking the charisma needed to attract top players to Old Trafford, conveniently ignoring that Sir Alex Ferguson faced the same problem.

Either United are completely incompetent when it comes to lure established players to Old Trafford (but Thiago, for all of his potential isn’t what I’d call an established player) or the club simply doesn’t have the same appeal it once had (totally plausible, particularly in this day and age, but the signing of Robin Van Persie provides an excellent counter-argument) and their protracted failure in signing top players is an area other clubs are becoming increasingly willing to exploit.

Perhaps the issue it’s borne out of a sense of superiority, the same attitude that brings many United fans to shrug off the latest transfer gone astray by pointing at last season’s league success which, in their eyes at least, automatically makes the squad good enough as it is.

If that was to be stumbling block in the transfer market I, for one, would appreciate a rather humbler approach if that was to help us to secure the reinforcements we so badly crave.


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