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Fergie Happy to Take Second Bite

Thanks for all your responses to my first column, and thanks once again to RR for allowing me to inflict my views on you. Without further ado, here’s number two.

It was so uneventful that it may have passed you by (it nearly did me), but the transfer window closed on Thursday night. And totally underwhelming it was for a United fan, too. We signed Manucho, and then loaned him out.

That’s it.

The arguments about the merits of the January transfer window are well rehearsed, and its dangers illustrated vividly by the lukewarm reception given to (and worse performances given by) Evra and Vidic when they arrived this time two years ago. But I read the rumours, and the quotes, and I’d like to divine some meaning out of events and put them into context.

Second bite

The first case in point is Hutton, the Rangers right-back. Anyone who watched any of Scotland’s qualifiers (particularly against Italy) can be in no doubt as to his talents, and it seems Fergie’s admiration is well-known. But we made no bid, and were happy to let him go to Spurs. Why, when a right-back is pretty high up our shopping list, and we had a rare chance to buy British?

To answer my rhetorical question, I’m going to throw some names at you, and you can see if you make the link. Carrick, Tevez, Bale, Mascherano, Rio. OK, so it’s not difficult (although Rio may have thrown a few of you). They are players who we could have gone in for when they first became available from their original club, but didn’t. Instead, we waited to see how they developed at a lesser club before deciding whether to act.

Carrick became available from West Ham when they went down (indeed Arsenal were strongly linked). He had shown some flashes for West Ham, but not consistency or maturity. He developed both at Spurs, and we moved in and reaped the benefit.

Tevez was on offer 18 months ago on a dodgy deal after a good World Cup. It would have been a total punt, even if the business side wasn’t so shady. He went to West Ham, took half a season to adapt, was awesome in the last few months of last season, and in we went.

Mascherano was part of the same deal, and I would have loved to have signed him more than anyone. He seemed to be exactly what we needed (we now have Hargreaves). But again, he took a long time to settle, and is only just started to show his true form. OK, so it was Liverpool who benefit this time, having taken a punt in last January’s transfer window, but Fergie avoided wasting time and money by looking before he leapt.

Bale was very strongly linked with us, but was largely unproven at any level (another Southampton wunderkind, like, you know, that one at Arsenal… Walcott, that’s it, isn’t he great?). Fergie chose not to get into a bidding war, knowing that if Bale turned out to be a success, he could move in.

Rio – I threw this one in to show it’s not a new strategy, albeit one that took a break for 2-3 years. Rio was on offer from West Ham, but went to Leeds, where he proved he was capable of playing at the highest level.

The break from this policy was caused by a drop in our attractiveness as a club for the very best to move to. During our years in the wilderness, and with Chelsea at the height of their spending powers, we couldn’t afford to wait and see, safe in the knowledge that we could always lure the player later. We had to be the one taking the punt, and it resulted in the signing of a lot of mediocre players. There was an amusing Guardian article which described Fergie as “an old man stumbling round the dance floor of a club at 2am, trying to pull anything within reach but without much success”. Now our status as one of the most attractive clubs in the world is restored, we can take a more circumspect approach.

No divas, please

We were relentlessly linked to Nicolas Anelka, but ultimately we didn’t even fight Chelsea for him. We all know Fergie’s attitude to people who view themselves as being “above the team” or as having “a right to start” – his half-hearted pursuit of one of the most talented strikers in the country confirms that this consideration is still paramount. For my part, I’d rather Anelka was still at some second tier club, since he and Drogba could form a sensational striking partnership — Chelsea (lucky bastards) are still too close for comfort.

The one that got away

The only genuinely interesting transfer on deadline day was Jermain Defoe. And I’m disappointed he didn’t come to us. We’re short of striking cover, and Defoe has shown that (a) he is a very good player on his day, and (b) that he’s happy being a reserve for long periods. I reckon he would have been a really good addition to the squad, even if not to the first team. I know the main reason he moved was to get more first team football, but surely we could have swayed him with the prospect of lots of medals over the next few seasons. In any case, I think we could have done with a reserve striker, to guard against the Doomsday Scenario – but more of that in my next column.