Tag Transfers

Tag Transfers

Moyes hung out to dry in shambolic transfer show

September 3, 2013 Tags: , , Reads 38 comments
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There have been many words written about Manchester United’s strategy in the transfer market in summer; few of them  positive. It is little wonder given the club’s propensity for generating farce since the window opened on 20 May. In between there have been 106 days of such amateurish tomfoolery that by the end many supporters’ overwhelming emotion is one of relief. No, not that David Moyes finally captured the Belgian international Marouanne Fellaini, but that vice chairman Ed Woodward can cause embarrassment no longer.

Embarrassed by Thiago Alcântara’s inevitable decision to join Bayern Munch, and humiliated by Cesc Fabregas’ manipulation of United’s interest, Woodward’s dash home from Australia in mid-July has brought little but shame, especially on transfer deadline day. Six weeks of such maladroit bumbling at which it is best to laugh for the tears will otherwise flow.

Summer did not begin well, with United making little secret of the club’s interest in bringing the former Barcelona midfielder Thiago to Old Trafford. But United’s preoccupation with the 22-year-old did little but strengthen the player’s negotiating hand – an entourage including, laughably, Pep Guardiola’s brother securing a €20 million transfer that the player had always sought.

Thiago’s choice brought little need to panic. After all, United has missed out on players before, from Ronaldinho, to Eden Hazard and Michael Ballack. While United’s pull is strong, so is that of Europe’s institutional giants and the nouveau riche now inhabiting the continent.

Yet, United submitted a barely credible bid for Fabregas just 24 hours after his under-study’s arrival in southern Germany. The timing was horrible, although it was a transfer always unlikely following Barcelona’s multi-year pursuit of the midfielder. That United’s offer amounted to barely €26 million brought little but public derision.

Still, the club ploughed on failing to mentally segregate a lock out from the start of transfer negotiations. Barça had no interest in the latter and neither, as it turns out, did the player. Follow-up bids of €30 million and €35 million presumably lie dormant on the spike marked ‘no reply necessary’.

United followed a similar strategy in its pursuit of Leighton Baines, with Everton rejecting first a £12 million offer in June, a follow-up bid of the same figure a month later and two £15 million offers as the window drew in. Woodward’s assumptive close too presumptive, and never closed.

Yet, mid summer took a curious turn of what now seems like inactivity. That final offer for Fabregas came as July drew to a close – a full month before Monday’s Shakespearean farce took place. More than four weeks in which Woodward and United’s army of lawyers, agents and middlemen could activate buy-out clauses in the contracts of midfielders Ander Herrera and Everton’s Fellaini, whatever the legal complexities.

Planning, there has been none of it.

Still, nothing preceding Monday’s virtual dash around Europe prepared supporters for the tsunami of legitimate ridicule generated by United’s efforts to secure Fellaini, together with Herrera, Leighton Baines, Daniele De Rossi, Fábio Coentrão and, as the player revealed, Sami Khedira on deadline day.

Indeed, United’s story that the club tried, and failed, to negotiate Herrera’s €36 million release clause down to the €30 million on offer drowned in the comedy that followed.

Herrera, seemingly convinced the deal was on, told Athletic Bilbao  of his intention to leave, while three initially unnamed suits attempted to deposit the fee and papers at Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) headquarters. The men left little more than an hour later citing “bureaucratic difficulties”.

‘Impostors’ briefed United’s communication department as the deal broke down late on Monday night – a claim now believed to be false, the men acting squarely on the Reds’ behalf.

In the fallout it is hard to discern which story is more embarrassing: that United refused to increase an initial bid by just €6 million for one of Europe’s more talented youngsters; or that an institution with annual revenues approaching £350 million is unable to obtain appropriate legal advice in timely fashion.

Either way the stench of rank ineptitude permeates through offices once occupied by David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Further, as United dallied on securing Fellaini, with other targets clearly a greater priority, the club was suckered into paying £4 million over the Belgian’s release fee. Coincidentally, it seems, this is a figure not far from the additional sum required to capture Herrera this summer.

United would end deadline day, fax machine on overdrive, seeking to acquire Coentrão on loan, Baines at the £15 million sum already rejected, De Rossi also on loan, and Khedira, as the window’s embers died out, for an astonishing €34 million. None succeeded – it has become the pattern of the summer.

But Moyes did secure one major deal in the final hour, Fellaini acquired for a fee totaling more than £11 million in excess of United’s opening bid. Far more, it should be noted, than the market valued the midfielder during two months in which Fellaini’s release clause remained active.

Yet, with Fellaini’s transfer United has secured a central midfielder of international standing for the first time in six years, although the Belgian divides opinion among both fans and pundits.

Strong in the tackle, but far too loose in possession, and frequently ill-disciplined, Fellaini will add muscle to United’s midfield at the expense of subtlety. It may prove to be a frustrating trade-off for those supporters seeking an attacking side in the United tradition – the Belgian is perhaps everything that Arsenal’s £42 million capture Mesut Özil is not, and the contrary.

But in that Moyes remains short – both of stellar quality in a key area and of the numbers he had sought at the summer’s dawn. More to the point, perhaps, is that Fellaini, Fabregas, Alcântara, De Rossi, Herrera and Khedira hold such diverse profiles that there appears no clear understanding of United’s requirements anyway.

Worryingly for the new man, Moyes remains a manager unable, for the time being at least, to stamp his own mark on the team; a man failed by his board and perhaps ultimately by the owners. That others have strengthened considerably can only increase the pressure to deliver in Sir Alex’ wake.

After all, while Woodward’s inexperience in a brutally competitive market has been repeatedly exposed, money nearly always walks the talk. Certainly more than the 40-year-old’s bravado in proclaiming United’s excessive spending power earlier this summer. Bids repeatedly rejected, and competitors roundly irked, paint a picture of a club seeking bargains in a seller’s market.

And when, by contrast, even Arsène Wenger spends lavishly it is fair to conclude that United’s competitors have moved on. The Reds will now move on too. Except, this time, from a humiliating summer.

Moyes moves on midfield trio – just in time

August 31, 2013 Tags: , Reads 20 comments
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It was, in truth, not the cleanest of goals. Juventus’ number six spun onto his left foot to strike home the Old Lady’s first in a 4-0 Supercopa victory over Lazio a fortnight ago. Paul Pogba’s opener, struck low past Federico Marchetti, was the latest stepping stone in a career that has reached a new level since a £250,000 move from Manchester United a little over 12 months ago.

United lost a potential world star and the Reds continue to search Europe for a high-quality midfielder to augment David Moyes’ squad.

Indeed, Pogba’s rise is such that is comes as no surprise that Real Madrid enquired about the Lagny-sur-Marne-born midfielder this summer. Juventus director general Giuseppe Marotta rebuffed any talk of Pogba moving on, although the gossip pages put a mooted fee in the £40 million region. The rise from United reserve team to the world stage is almost complete.

Still, if United’s spectacular mishandling of Pogba’s career – the lack of first team appearances and a low-balled contract offer – during three years in Manchester is now an expensive failure, then the club is making a belated move to fill the hole. Indeed, the summer long United has chased the signature of a top class midfielder – to embarrassingly little success.

While an attempt to bring in Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcántara was hugely unrealistic, United has moved on to more obtainable targets in recent days, with the transfer window now closing in hours rather than weeks.

Yet it was with some surprise that the club finally made good on a long-standing interest in Atletic Bilbao’s midfielder Ander Herrera on Friday – the Reds’ failed bid reportedly amounting to €30 million. United will likely have to activate the player’s €36 million contract release clause to bring Herrara to Old Trafford.

The 24-year-old Basque is tidy in possession, and keen in the tackle, marking the former Real Zaragoza player as a hybrid of those already sought by David Moyes this window. Herrera is neither classic playmaker in Alcántara’s mould, nor goalscoring creator à la Fabregas, nor indeed does he possess the physical presence of Mouranne Fellaini.

It is little wonder that United fans cannot discern a transfer strategy amid the myriad bids rejected this summer, with no two players seemingly alike. It is a scatterngun policy that may only bear fruit in the final moments of the window.

Herrera is yet to make his full international debut, making the deal overpriced but a key turning point in the player’s career. Champions League football and a high profile transfer may help Herrera ease his way into a Spain squad that boasts midfield riches including Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Santi Cazorla, Isco, and Fàbregas.

Yet, while United continues to blunder around the market Ed Woodward and Moyes may have struck lucky with Herrera, who will not be sold for less than his release clause, but is available nonetheless. United must either increase the bid for the former Spanish under-21 international or pull out defeated by the market once again.

“Our club is different, in that it is based on feeling,” said Bilbao president Josu Urrutia on Friday.

“Our objective is not to make money. We received the offer last night, and we communicated that we do not negotiate for our players. If a player is to leave, first he has to inform us that he wants to go and then his release clause has to be met.”

Those of a more curious bent may ponder the club’s failure pursue a similar strategy of activating Fellaini’s release clause before it expired in mid-July, with the Reds now set to pay more than the £23.5 million stipulated in the Belgian’s contract. While Everton has thus far been intransigent – rejecting joint bids of £28 and £36 million for Fellaini and left-back Leighton Baines – most observers expect a deal for the Belgian to go through before Monday.

Meanwhile, United’s late attempt to capture three central midfielders before the 2 September deadline reportedly includes Roma’s experienced Italian international Daniele Di Rossi, once the subject of significant interest from Manchester City.

Roma might have considered an offer this summer except for being light on numbers following the departures of Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo, and Bojan Krkic, together with Simone Perrotta’s retirement.

However, the 30-year-old was always unlikely to sanction move, having publicly committed both to club and his family in Rome – a fact that supporters with an internet connection and Google translate presumably knew well ahead of Woodward and company. Plus ça change this summer it seems.

More unlikely still is a move for Real Madrid’s Kaká, despite paper talk over the weekend. The Brazilian is finally ready to leave Los Merengues in search of more football in a World Cup year. Former club Milan remain interested in the 31-year-old, although the player’s €10 million per season wages and Madrid’s desire to see a return on the €56 million transfer fee is a significant roadblock. The same is very much true of a mooted, but far-fetched, move to Manchester.

None of the deals are yet sealed of course, leaving Moyes to fall back on Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Anderson for United’s trip to Anfield on Sunday. Not that Brendon Rodgers can boast any greater depth of resources in central midfield.

Moyes may look on developments at White Hart Lane with greater envy though. Friday’s £11 million deal for Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen followed the £8 million acquisition of Étienne Capoue and £17 million Brazilian Paulinho. Add Mousa Dembélé, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Lewis Holtby into the mix and Spurs’ boss Andre Villas-Boas boasts six full international central midfielders at his disposal.

Which leaves fans all the more frustrated that the club was unable to tie Pogba down to a new contract 12 months ago. The Frenchman blamed Sir Alex Ferguson’s refusal to grant the teenager more time in the first team; the Scot attributed cause to Pogba’s agent. Both stories contain an element of truth.

In the meantime Moyes has until 11pm om Monday to fill the void.

Reds suffering on the altar of value

August 24, 2013 Tags: , , Reads 21 comments
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It had to happen, the confab that Manchester United fans now dread, the one that ends with ‘V’ … for value. But contrary to his predecessor United manager David Moyes apparently believes that the mythical quality exists in the transfer market. The Scot just hasn’t been able to find it. Or buy it. And with just nine days to go before the transfer window closes Moyes admitted for the first time that the club may not reinforce this summer.

Indeed, those United supporters of a more cynical bent might conclude that the club had little intention of succeeding in the market this summer. After all the far-fetched chase for Thiago Alcântara, low-balled bid for Cesc Fàbregas and, frankly, embarrassing joint offer for Marouanne Fellaini and Leighton Baines were hardly conducive to success.

Rant would comment on that particular theory, but slander is still punishable as a criminal offence in some territories.

Still, while supporters might chunter on the sidelines the benefit of the considerable doubt remains with the club for a little over a week at least, Moyes insistent as he is that United is still working on bringing new faces to Old Trafford before 2 September.

There is, in fact, a “need” to add to the squad according to the 50-year-old Scot, who identified United’s midfield as an area of weakness early in the piece. But with Fàbregas and Alcântara out of sight, and Everton unwilling to trade Fellaini on the cheap, it has remained a summer of considerable frustration. Incompetence even.

Still, it is likely to be a fascinating period both on and off the field over the next 10 days, with the seemingly impotent vice chairman Ed Woodward attempting to a close a major transfer for the first time, while United faces Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League. It is a period when the club could gain significant momentum, or lose  more ground on rivals at home and abroad.

Running out of time Moyes admitted for the first time on Friday that the club will fall back on the promise of youth should the Reds fail to augment a midfield quotient widely recognised as falling short. It is an approach that appeals to United’s legion fans, although there are few central midfielders of quality in the Reds under-21 side.

“There is a need to do it, but there is no pressure to do it,” said Moyes of United’s plans to recruit.

“We’ve been talking about it since I took the job on 1 July. I have an idea of where I’d like to strengthen and what we need to do. We have only targeted certain players and don’t have a big, big list. There are only certain quality players we want to bring to the club.

“There is a possibility [we won’t sign anybody] but the plan is we bring in one or two if we can. If the right players are available then great, but, if not, the first thing we’ll do is encourage our own young players in the squad to do as well as they did last year.”

Moyes’ belief that United can recruit at the highest level is a theory sound on paper, but seemingly much harder to enact in practice, with Woodward green in a market still governed by old-school relationships. Indeed, while United’s efforts this summer have widely been viewed with embarrassment among the club’s supporters, a naïve approach has brought little but scorn from rival clubs.

Everton, once Moyes’ home, is now basecamp for United’s sceptics, including Moyes’ former employer Bill Kenwright and the Scot’s successor Roberto Martinez. Angered by Moyes’ admission that he had accepted the United job weeks before his contract with Everton ended, Kenwright  is now reportedly enraged that United has sought to unsettle two contracted players with a low bid.

Although Moyes claimed on Friday that Everton released details of the bid, it is an assertion Martinez disputes. Further, says the Spaniard, United’s seemingly amateur approach this summer is a factor of change both in the coaching set up and boardroom. With Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill gone, 40 years aggregated experience has been lost to the  club.

“I’ve never seen Manchester United working in this manner before,” said Everton boss Martinez.

“When you want a player you just do the business quietly, you get it done and that’s it. I don’t know if this is a new way of working. There’s been a previous relationship of 11 years with a manager and he had a great relationship with the chairman, so you can imagine it’s extra sensitive.

“It wasn’t even a bid because it never reached any sort of valuation. There isn’t an offer on the table where anyone would consider anything. All we’ve had is a bid that doesn’t go anywhere near the reality.”

Critics lies from closer to home as well, with former assistant manager Mike Phelan suggesting Woodward’s inexperience in the transfer market has cost United this summer. Woodward has excelled driving home United’s strategy of securing exclusive local-market sponsors in selected verticals.

After all, the list of partners signed this summer far exceeds the resources added to Moyes’ squad. But in the game of smoke and mirrors of the European transfer market Woodward has been left exposed.

“Ed Woodward has previously been on the commercial side and concentrating on bringing money into the club rather than spending it,” said Phelan, who is yet to take on a new role after departing the club this summer.

“It is a totally different outlook. He will learn that. He may be frightened by a few prices every now and again but he will have to pick that up, because you are dealing with high quality football players. He and the club have gone on record to say that money is available. That’s great, but then every price goes up a peg or two as well.”

But Woodward’s assertion at the start of the summer that the club is prepared spend upwards of £60 million on a single player has proven false – not least with United’s unusually low opening offers for Fàbregas, Baines and Fellaini. The approach, unsurprisingly, has proven unsuccessful.

Woodward is smart enough to learn of course, although he has little experience of executive management in an alien industry.

Perhaps it still comes down to that old word, the one Ferguson used to such divisive effect during seven years under the Glazer family’s stewardship. But asked on Friday whether he believes value exists in the market Moyes’ answer remains definitive: “Yes I do.”

The worry is that it may be too late for United’s to discover the Holy Grail this summer; an outcome that will leave Moyes short and vulnerable to the brutally competitive landscape domestically and in Europe.

United’s transfer frustration lies close to home

August 6, 2013 Tags: , Reads 67 comments
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Severe famine, disease, and bloody struggle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines brought a conjugation of disastrous events to medieval Italy. The earliest black death epidemics swept the north, while crop failure spawned a Flagellist movement out of a tenebrious epoque. It was a dark time, in a dark place.

Hope came in the public mortification of the flesh – a community of early Franciscans, led in spirit by St Anthony of Padua, seeking redemption in pain, preaching flagellation as a penance. Ask forgiveness of God, and He might look upon the sinner more favourably.

One wonders whether Manchester United’s public humiliation in the transfer market this summer is born of a similar wish to clean the soul. After all, so much of it is self-inflicted; and all public in it’s genuine indignity.

Certainly, there must now be a sense of desperation in the offices of Ed Woodward and David Moyes, with just four weeks until the transfer window closes and the febrile masses ready to condemn should the pair fall back on the excuses of the past. There may be little value in the market this summer, but United’s rivals at home and abroad care little of it.

It has been a summer of few positives at Old Trafford; one in which Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement catalysed tumult in the boot room and a change in the club’s most senior executive.

But it is in the transfer market where United’s strategy, or lack of it, has been laid bare. Incompetence? Perhaps. Insouciance? Sadly, it seems so. Groundwork? Apparently, none.

Indeed, it is hard to recall a more calamitous window – not, at least, since Peter Kenyon graced Old Trafford’s boardroom by offering Juventus just £8 million for Zinedine Zidane. Kenyon topped it by refusing to raise United’s bid for Ronaldinho a penny above £18 million.

Kenyon followed up by making public Barcelona’s £35 million bid for David Beckham only for the midfielder to choose Real Madrid in the most opprobrious fashion.

This summer has been worse though. Much worse.

First, the supremly gifted Brazilian-Spanish midfielder  Thiago Alcântara very publicly turned down a move to Manchester, choosing instead to join mentor Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.

Few could blame the youngster for choosing the European champions, albeit a club with such wealth in midfield that Thiago may struggle to get a game in Bavaria. Even so, retrospect affords clarity – and United’s interest, however solid, represents one of the most pointlessly futile moves in the market in recent years.

Having failed to heed the lesson United faxed over the club’s first official bid for Barcelona’s Cesc Fàbregas a mere 24 hours after his colleague’s departure to Germany was confirmed. As timing goes, United is no Tommy Cooper, although the farce still runs deep.

Deterred not by the predictably swift rejection of a £26 million opening bid, Woodward has overseen two further offers in £5 million increments, each rebuffed by the Catalan giants with increasing chagrin. And who can blame them?

“They have also understood our stance that we don’t want to sell him,” said Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta on Monday.  “They have given up.”

On past evidence one wonders whether the message will reach Woodward’s desk.

The frustration resides not only in Spain, but north west England too, where United supporters have observed events with increasing embarrassment. The club, once famed for fastidious attention to professional detail during David Gill’s era as chief executive, has looked little short of amateur over the past three months.

Indeed, supporters’ disquiet at Woodward’s bumbling is magnified by the club’s apparent oblivion to clear noises emanating from both player and Catalan camps. After all, Fàbregas’ former manager Arsene Wenger has proffered more than once that the midfielder will remain in Catalonia at least one more season.

It takes not an insider to read between the lines: Fàbregas is happy to use United’s interest to strengthen his own position in with the Culés.

The Reds incompetence is not limited to incoming transfers though. That the club has mishandled the Wayne Rooney saga a summer long proves as much.

Quite remarkably United has maneuvered an increasingly political situation to the point where the player’s position is all but untenable. And yet with clubs a continent wide spending heavily on the few genuinely classy strikers available there is only one bidder, Chelsea, at the table. This for the preeminent English talent of the past decade.

Moyes is left in the unenviable position of retaining a striker who has little intention of playing for United again, or strengthening a major title rival. José Mourinho is surely laughing into a glass of Madeira tonight, even as Woodward rejected Chelsea’s second bid for the striker.

If only it ends there.

Elsewhere serial underperformers seem likely to remain with the club – Nani, Anderson and Bébé each joined United’s Monday afternoon flight to Stockholm for the club’s penultimate pre-season friendly. The £45 million spent on the trio is unlikely to ever bare a return on investment.

Rooney did not board, however, with a mysterious shoulder injury cited as reason for pulling the 27-year-old out of United’s fixture against AIK in the Swedish captain. It is an excuse even the player’s family will be pushed to believe.

Most disturbingly there seems little in the way of contingency for Rooney’s departure. Certainly, eyes fluttered in Robert Lewandowski’s direction will do little good – the Pole is almost certain to join Bayern Munich a year hence. Perhaps a cheeky bid for Victor Anichebe is in order.

This is a familiar tale of course. Rejected by Fàbregas and Alcântara, United will find no success delivering a bid for the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modrić, for example. Not with the Real in no mood to sell.

It leaves United looking at the only sure bet left: Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian’s is a limited talent that few supporters wanted to  see in Red just a few weeks ago. Needs may now must.

Unsurprisingly, United’s ill-planning shines through once more, with the Belgian’s £23.5 million release clause lapsing on 31 July; the transfer could now cost United significantly more, proving that old misogynist adage that if you have to go ugly, go early.

It’s enough to drive fans to madness; or at least the self-abasing whip.

Woodward heads home amid increasing farce

July 17, 2013 Tags: , , Reads No comments
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There was a tacit policy under David Gill’s leadership, or an attempt at least, to keep Manchester United’s transfer dealings under wraps. The thought process was sound: while tabloid-fueled speculation filled the back pages, and social media hummed a summer long, the club retained a silent dignity. It is a policy seemingly broken during the present transfer window.

Briefing and counter briefing has dominated what is fast becoming ‘the Wayne Rooney saga’, while a comically mistimed transfer chase for Barcelona pair Thiago Alcântara and Cesc Fàbregas has gone awry. It is, in truth, United’s very untidy mess.

Indeed, such is the public relations fall-out from the club’s latest gaffe – disingenuously briefing travelling media that Chelsea had offered Juan Mata and cash for the England striker’s signature – that the Reds’ reputation is now at stake.

At risk of descending to Kenyonesque levels of asinine farce, United has served too often to embarrass onlooking fans this summer. Worse still – and at risk of drawing significant ire – United’s maladroit transfer market tactics have drawn comparison with the very worst that Manchester City’s Garry Cook, now departed, had to offer.

New United chief Edward Woodward, or executive vice chairman as the 40-year-old is euphuistically titled, flew back to Europe on Wednesday. The pretext: United is close to concluding a “major” piece of transfer business. Fans live in hope that a swift conclusion may come to the short-lived Fàbregas seduction; the cynic may wonder whether Leon Osman’s inevitable acquisition has been secured.

Woodward’s return is, supporters have mused, not before time. After all, it comes to something when United’s chief has focused far greater effort on courting the club’s sponsors off the pitch than strengthening the a manager’s hand on it. Money in the bank, legend has Sir Matt Busby musing. I’d rather see it on the pitch.

But the executive returns amid an embarrassingly public row with Chelsea over Rooney’s future, with the London club issuing a revealing statement on Wednesday as news leaked of an official bid for the Scouser’s services. That bid, said the Blues in a statement, contained not the reported inclusion of Juan Mata nor David Luiz as makeweight.

“Chelsea can confirm that yesterday it made a written offer to Manchester United for the transfer of Wayne Rooney,” read the statement.

“Although the terms of that offer are confidential, for the avoidance of doubt and contrary to what is apparently being briefed to the press in Sydney, the proposed purchase does not include the transfer of any players from Chelsea to United.”

Ouch.

Predictably United – in Australia ahead of Saturday’s fixture with the A-League All Stars – has said nothing in retort. Silence of the damned.

Indeed, mention of Chelsea’s bid for Old Trafford’s £27 million forward was entirely absent from United’s official website on Wednesday.

But the latest twist in the Rooney debacle is just one leg of a axis of absurdity this summer. In between came the ham-fisted appeal to Barcelona youngster Thiago. The club did little concrete to secure the transfer bar enabling Catalonia’s finest to extract a few extra Euros from Bayern Munich’s plentiful well. After all Pep Guardiola’s interest can hardly have been secret to the player’s camp – thiago’s agent is Pep’s brother.

And then came the latest twist, with United submitting an official bid for Fàbregas – a national icon – a mere 24 hours after Bayern celebrated Thiago’s capture. Subtle United was not. Nor successful, with the club’s presumably faxed offer met with a predictably proverbial reply.

While the Reds’ thinking may be sound, the timing is absurdly not.

True, Fàbregas is thought to have grown restless at Camp Nou, though not because he has lacked appearances – the former Arsenal midfielder turned out more than 40 times for Los Culés last season – but that he is rarely called upon in the biggest games.

Overlooked for Barça’s pivotal Champions League fixture against Bayern, ignored in key matches against Real Madrid, Fàbregas is a far smaller fish than he was at Arsenal, now swimming in a very large pond.

But while the player may well entertain a premature move back to the Premier League the smart money says he is reluctant to do so against the motherland’s wishes. Barça may require hard currency after spending lavishly on Neymar and Lionel Messi’s new contract this summer, but face will be lost in Cesc’s departure.

Fàbregas’ return to the Emirates is probably 12 months away.

Indeed, with news filtering through on Wednesday that United has sought council with Real Madrid over the possible transfer of Luka Modrić, the club’s approach is beginning to feel increasing scattergun. Look up central midfielder. Hit speed dial. Hope.

Except that hope has never been a sound strategy.

Yet, it is Rooney for whom the highest drama is set to play out,. The 27-year-old’s position in Manchester now untenable, with each side seeking the best financial return possible and little more.

That may be a tougher gig for United than Rooney.

While the Reds once sought a fee in excess of £40 million for a man who scored more than 30 goals in a campaign not 18 months ago Chelsea is reported to have offered just half. With City, Barça, Real and even Paris Saint Germain seemingly uninterested, United’s options – and to a degree Rooney’s – are limited.

Reports that Rooney has set his heart on Stamford Bridge may not be far from the mark. It leaves the Scouser short of the moral high-ground his public relations team has so often sought, but likely to be heavy of wallet come the summer’s end.

José Mourinho claimed that the Londoners’ interest is “proper,” “ethical” and “clean” on Wednesday. Three adjectives rarely associated with the club.

Yet, it United that remains a touch light on aces for the negotiation with Chelsea to come. Can the club keep Rooney to his contract, as Woodward mused at the weekend? There is simply not a chance.

In that there is also a moment of clarity. One that may provide Woodward pause for thought as he rethinks the club’s oddball approach in the window’s remaining six weeks.

Moyes confident in high-risk transfer game

July 13, 2013 Tags: Reads No comments
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The summer transfer scene; a political game seemingly played out in the media’s full glare. Of course, the reality is that only a proportion of transfer business is known to the press pack, let alone those supporters watching from the sidelines. But whatever the truth in an a myriad of rumours in the mainstream press and on the well-worn grapevine it feels like a pivotal summer for the club. After all, rivals at home and abroad are strengthening during the break.

David Moyes claims confidence that Manchester United will chase down a flurry of unspoken targets, but the club’s losing pursuit of Barcelona youngster Thiago Alcântara highlights the challenges faced in invigorating a squad that succeeded in the Premier League, but came up short in Europe last season.

Indeed, there is no guarantee that United will successfully strengthen this summer, with Moyes  facing intense competition in the market, while juggling more than one priority when it comes to improving his resources.

Whatever destination Thiago eventually chooses, with the smart money now on a £15 million move to European champions Bayern Munich, interest in the Spaniard demonstrates some recognition that United’s engine room requires a long-overdue upgrade. It is now more than six years since the club last acquired a central midfielder – Owen Hargreaves and Anderson joining within 48 hours of each other in late May 2007.

It says something that the Englishman is long since retired, while Anderson continues to frustrate with whatever limited minutes he remains fit to play.

By contrast Thiago’s star burns bright and with it interest in a player who might not ordinarily be available, but for a propitious release clause in the 22-year-old’s contract. That Thiago’s mentor Pep Guardiola has publicly expressed an interest in the player this week means United has surely lost out on the man who scored a hat-trick from central midfield in this summer’s Euro Under-21 final.

United may well face similar competition for any leading player this summer, with wealthier rivals in PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City, and the newly enriched Monaco. And then there are those clubs seemingly more en vogue – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich.

Thiago’s probable move to Bayern follows the Bavarians’ capture of the outstanding youngster Mario Götze. Meanwhile, Real have added twinkle-toed Spanish youngster Isco and under-21 colleague Asier Illarramendi, and Barcelona spent around £50 million on Neymar.

Domestically, City has spent big on Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho and the Spanish winger Jesus Navas, while Chelsea brought in youngsters Marco van Ginkel and André Schürrle.

Still, Moyes remained upbeat over the weekend, expressing confidence that a range of players under consideration will find their way to Carrington before the window closes in August.

“We’re on with targets that we are chasing at this moment in time,” said Moyes, who suffered his first defeat as United manager against a Thai All-Star XI on Saturday.

“At this moment in time, we’re happy with how things are going. We’ll be looking to try to change one or two things around, I just need a bit of time to do that.

“We are always looking at the best players, we are interested in the best players and I definitely am. I am not going to take the focus away from trying to sign good players who are hungry and who are thinking of climbing the ladder.”

Indeed, it is 50 days before the summer transfer window closes and Moyes is still likely to recruit long-term target Eziquiel Garay inside the month. United scouts watched the Argentinian defender, now plying his trade at Benfica, on numerous occasions last season, with the player’s decision to join Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute agency working in favour of a £17 million move.

The former Real Madrid stopper appeared just 25 times for the Bernabeu side before a £5 million transfer to the Portuguese capital in summer 2011, and any future move to Old Trafford will be complicated by an intricate ownership structure. Garay is part-owned by Real, Benfica and the Benfica Stars Fund investment fund.

Mendes has a chequered history with United having brought Nani, Anderson and Bébé to Old Trafford, although he may be forgiven that triumvirate if another client, David de Gea, continues to progress in the coming season.

Another defender, Leighton Baines, will join if United press on with a £12 million bid for the 28-year-old English left-back, although the club is seemingly – sensibly some might add – unwilling to increase that offer.

Elsewhere Moyes may well seek to bring in another winger in addition to that much coveted central midfielder – squad depth being as important as quality, says Moyes. Nani is likely to leave the club this summer, while Ashley Young rarely fit and Bébé an embarrassing failure most in the Old Trafford hierarchy would rather forget.

“We’d like to add one or two players to make the squad stronger as well,” he says. “Sometimes the jigsaw puzzle of piecing it all together doesn’t always come exactly the way you want it but I’ve got a picture in my mind of what I’d like and I’m hoping to work towards that

In all this the Wayne Rooney farce is no nearer to being resolved, with a tetchy Moyes berating the travelling media on Friday for asking another slew of questions about the 28-year-old striker. That neither manager nor player have been able to confirm the Scouser’s commitment to United’s cause remains the headline story this summer.

Moyes will at least take heart from the positive contributions of  both Wilfried Zaha and youngster Adnan Januzaj in United’s defeat on Saturday. Not that the youngsters are likely to bridge the gap to the very best in Europe if that is indeed United’s ambition this summer.

“Wilfried did well,” said Moyes. “He gave us a little bit of something different.

“We have brought him here to give him a chance. It is the first time I have worked with him and had a chance to see him up close. He will certainly be part of the squad and we will see where we can fit him in as often as we can.

“(Januzaj) was a plus for us. He played well. It is always good when you give a young player a chance and he shows up. He did that tonight. The more he plays like that the more opportunities he is likely to get.”

Yet, the Thai loss will do little to quell a growing thirst to reinforce this summer, although expectations will of course be tempered given the squad has benefited from around a week’s training to date.

The Reds move on to Sydney for the second in a seven fixture pre-season, but supporters will be watching the rumour mill as much as the on-pitch action. After all Thiago’s decision to move elsewhere will be forgotten  posthaste once the next bright young thing hits the back pages.

Whether Moyes lands his man is another question.

Baines bid goes in but Reds’ priorities lie elsewhere

June 28, 2013 Tags: , Reads 6 comments
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Leighton Baines is unlikely to have topped many Manchester United supporters’ wish-lists in the summer transfer market. Not that the left-back’s qualities are few, with the Evertonian having deservedly secured the vote of his fellow professionals to make last season’s PFA team of the year. But with plenty of questions surrounding the club during the summer break, many fans argue that investing heavily in the 28-year-old is down the list of new manager David Moyes’ priorities.

Moyes is in the curious position of both sanctioning, and theoretically rejecting, United’s £10 million Baines bid given that he officially remains Everton’s manager until 30 June. Although in truth the 50-year-old coach has little do with ongoing negotiations on either side.

Still, with Moyes having jettisoned four senior United coaches since his appointment on 8 May there seems little doubt that the new manager also wants to stamp his mark on the first team. Baines is the Scot’s choice – and he is likely to get his man.

Everton’s official stance is that Baines is not for sale this summer, although an increase of around £5 million on the current bid is likely to force the Merseyside club’s hand, especially with the player entering the final two years of his contract.

Whether the player is prepared to push a transfer through remains to be seen. The Kirkby-born player has said that he is looking forward to working with new Everton manager Roberto Martinez, but the opportunity to play Champions League football ahead of next summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil is surely pivotal. United will also double Baines’ £40,000-per-week contract.

Yet, Patrice Evra’s hugely improved form last season raises the question of whether United truly requires a new left-back with such urgency. After all, Moyes is not short of numbers – Brazilian Fabio da Silva returns to the club this summer, while Alex Büttner is also on the books.

Evra was much criticised following a severe dip in form post the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. But the foraging runs, encouraged by Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to afford his full-backs plenty of freedom during the first half of last season, enabled Evra to contribute four goals and five assists in the Premier League. It was by far Evra’s best haul for the club. Add just three defensive errors all season and the Frenchman enjoyed his finest campaign in three years.

But the diminutive Frenchman may be on the way out seven years after he joined United from Monaco for £5.5 million. In 334 games for the club Evra scored seven and captained the side on more  occasions than any other player last season.

Evra could rejoin the big-spending Ligue 1 outfit if the Reds complete a deal for Baines. Backed by Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, Monaco has spent some £120 million this summer on the outstanding trio of Rademel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho.

But with resources traditionally far more limited at Old Trafford it remains an open question whether Baines is the best use of what will be a substantial investment once both fee and wages are aggregated.

After all the club is still trying to seal the £20 million transfer of Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcântara, while United’s new chief Edward Woodward appears prepared to push through a huge deal for Cristiano Ronaldo in the unlikely event that Real Madrid countenance the Portuguese’s departure.

The former is far more likely than the latter, with United having reportedly agreed personal terms with the Spanish under-21 star, who scored a hat-trick in the Euro Under-21 finals this month. Even if the club is genuinely interested in Ronaldo, Real Madrid appears a reluctant negotiator.

But it is in central midfield where United’s investment this summer must surely flow, with Michael Carrick the only Reds midfielder to come out of last season with any genuine credit. Tom Cleverley suffered a major dip in form during the second half of the campaign and Darren Fletcher remains sidelined with a long-term chronic illness. Meanwhile Anderson is perennially injured and Paul Scholes has retired for a second time.

If Moyes cannot seal Alcântara’s transfer before August ends – or that of another central midfielder – the negligent under-resourcing of that part of United’s squad will have continued into a sixth summer window. It is almost unthinkable.

Moyes has other questions to solve too. United’s paucity of in-form wingers is a concern despite Wilfried Zaha’s impending arrival from Crystal Palace. Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Nani each suffered injury and severe loss of confidence last year.

The Scot will also want to strengthen United’s striking options should Wayne Rooney fail to commit to the club after a second transfer request in three seasons.

It leaves Moyes with much to ponder ahead of his first official day in the job next Monday. The players, including vice-captain Evra, are due in for the first day of pre-season training on Wednesday before the squad heads off to Asia and Australia for this summer’s tour.

Still, if it is to be Baines then United will secure the league’s best performing left-back last season – a player who has continued to improve each season during six campaigns on Merseyside.

There is also plenty of supporting evidence in the data for those keen on Baines’ acquisition: the Englishman produced more tackles, more interceptions and less defensive errors than Evra last season. The Everton man also put in five times more crosses than Evra, and created more than 100 chances from open play – to lead the Premier League in that statistic ahead of David Silva, Santiago Carzola and Juan Mata.

In that, together with United’s fondness for Alcântara,  there is hope that Moyes will support a breed of attacking and vibrant football that few witnessed during the Scot’s decade on Merseyside.

Stupid season

June 20, 2013 Tags: Reads 19 comments
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The silly season they say. It is as if the collective media doth protest too much. Silly is the faces pulled at an infant, or Shinji Kagwa’s karaoke routine at the end-of-season party. Silly is perhaps even the media’s reaction to José Mourinho’s slaying of the truth this week – how Rant chuckled. All very silly.

But when it comes to transfer speculation, at this time of year, in these times, silly is surely a malapropism. Downright stupid more like; an insult to football’s collective intelligence.

Take, for example, Manchester United’s apparent chase for Cristiano Ronaldo, the £80 million former Red now residing quite comfortably at Real Madrid. Silly. Just silly.

True, Ronaldo’s ‘people’ have sounded out his former employers – and United has considered a potential deal, bolstered by the apparent millions pouring in from every corner of the sponsorship globe. True, the Portuguese winger is yet to sign a new contract at the Bernabéu. Mind you, he also has two years left on the deal, with a €1 billion release clause studiously inserted into the deal four years ago.

Indeed, the road from here to Ronaldo’s Old Trafford return, especially in Sir Alex Ferguson’s absence, is fraught with more speedbumps than downward slopes. Not least United’s willingness, or otherwise, to fund an extravagant deal for a player who turns 29 next season.

But forget the fee for a moment – a sum that would approach if not pass that garnered by United in 2009 and concentrate on Ronaldo’s wages, which currently exceed £12 million per season. That’s netto, between you and Ruud Gullit, for a player just 19 months younger than Robin van Persie.

Over the course of a five-year contract United’s outlay might exceed £150 million, leaving the bean-counters to wonder just how many shirts the Megastore must sell, at pennies per additional nylon kit hawked under the current terms of Nike’s contract. You do the math, as our north American cousins love to say.

Then, of course, there is Real’s reluctance to part with a player who has scored at greater than a goal-a-game over nearly 200 fixtures for Los Merengues. Silly. Ridiculously silly, but Real’s antipathy to change is unsurprising given Barcelona’s recent dominance. After all, La Liga was lost to the Catalans by 15 points last season and Barça has already secured the outrageously talented Brazillian forward Neymar for next season’s campaign.

Yet, Ronaldo is not alone in the cavalcade of stars apparently on their way to Old Trafford. Make of that what you will. Take, for a start, Gareth Bale at £60 million. Add Marouanne Fellaini (£23 million), Thiago Alcantara(£18 million), Leighton Baines (£16 million), Ezikiel Garay (£16 million), Kevin Strootman (£12 million), and Dong Fangzhou (£5 million) to the list and United might need to file another IPO. At least one of those tales is completely fabricated.

The litany of newsprint is a Championship Manager fans’ wet dream – and not even nearly credible given David Moyes’ likely warchest this summer. After all, headline budgets and the Glazer family have always been an ephemeral relationship. No Rant can’t remember United spending £100 million after Wayne Rooney’s 2010 ‘October Revolution’ either.

Elsewhere, Barça kicked-off the transfer round robin by shelling out more than £55 million for Neymar. Newly enriched Monaco spent a similar sum on Colombian forward Radamel Falcao, while Manchester City lavished nearly £30 million on Brazilian reserve midfielder Fernandinho – a player who wasn’t close to making the Seleção for the Confederations Cup – and perennially homesick winger Jesus Navas.

One of Paris Saint Germain, Chelsea or City will happily part with more than £50 million for Edison Cavani.  And don’t even look at Isco without depositing something far north of the GDP of a small South American banana republic.

Even heavily indebted West Ham United spent somewhere near £15 million to bring hard-drinking Andy Carroll to London on a permanent basis.

Silly money from silly boys with their football toys.

But there are bargains to be had this summer, with United likely to take a face-value loss on several players, including Nani, Anderson and Bébé. That’s £45 million worth of talent now likely to command less than half the sum no matter how foolish the owners that take the trio off United’s hands.

Rooney – now on to his second transfer request – might command more than £20 million, but it is a sum nowhere near what might have been for a player who once aspired to be the world’s best. Getting through 90 minutes without puffing is the new goal. Or at least it should be.

Far cheaper is CSKA Moscow’s Japanese playmaker Keisuke Honda who is available on a free transfer next winter, but unlikely to tax the budget of even the smallest Premier League outfit – not with next season’s bottom team taking home more than £60 million in revenue from TV rights.

Honda holds rank over Kagawa in the national team, often pushing the United man out to the left, although neither impressed in Japan’s 3-0 loss to Brazil in Saturday’s Confederations Cup opener.

Elsewhere free agents Andrei Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun, Chris Brunt, Florent Malouda, Carlton Cole, Mark Schwarzer, David Bentley and even Roque Santa Cruz will attract some attention, although surely not at Old Trafford.

While any deal for Ronaldo is still a long-shot, despite the speculation-fuelled short odds offered by some bookmakers in recent weeks, United will spend something this summer. Moyes’ apparent identification of the Reds’ major weakspot – central midfield – is a blessing at least. He could hardly fail to spot the problem given how Everton have dominated the area in recent matches against United.

The solution to that particular problem seems unlikely to be either, or both, of the Barça pair Cesc Fabregas and the aforementioned Alcantara. Many Reds hope that it is not Fellaini either given Everton’s propensity to play football of the agricultural kind last season the Belgian in the side.

All of which leads to the conclusion that despite press reports Moyes is still unlikely to spend silly money come silly season. Whatever the club’s new-found financial stability, albeit with £350 million of debt still loaded onto the books, this is still a business owned and run by the Glazer family.

Now that’s silly.

The transfer list

April 27, 2013 Tags: Reads 58 comments
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Manchester United’s season will end with the Premier League trophy heading back to Old Trafford once again. It is, by any measure, a season of success, although disappointment in Europe and two domestic cup competitions will sting Sir Alex Ferguson over the summer.

The Premier League may have been sealed with four games to go, but it hasn’t been a universally productive season for Ferguson’s players, some of whom may well be on their way out of the club this summer.

Poor performances are one thing, but the loss of Ferguson’s trust is quite another. It is the latter that normally guarantees an exit. And while the political machinations of the transfer market are plenty, so predictions almost impossible, here is Rant’s top five potential exits this summer:

Nani
It would take a brave punter to place any money on the Portuguese winger remaining at United beyond this summer. That Ferguson was happy to sanction a sale of the 26-year-old former Sporting player over the winter says much – Nani’s time at Old Trafford is surely up.

Having arrived for a little over €25 million – £17 million in 2007 prices – it is unlikely United will realise a profit on the winger, who has only intermittently fulfilled his undoubted potential. Indeed, for around 18 months or so after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure there was genuine belief that Nani could replace his fellow Portuguese’s star turn.

The output had normally been productive though. The 12 goals and 13 assists produced last season was matched by few in Nani’s position across the major European leagues. And by the end of the 2010/11 campaign many were shocked that Nani was left out of the nominations for Player of the Year.

But with the player having appeared in just 20 games all season – 14 starts – he has done little  to command a substantial fee, or indeed the hefty wages the player has reportedly sought.

Injury had played a part, but in truth the player is no longer first choice even when fit. That players with less natural talent – Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, for example – are ahead in the pecking order is a measure of just how many of his six years at Old Trafford Nani had wasted.

Expect to see Nani sold to a continental club this summer. Juventus, Paris Saint German, and mid-tier Spanish clubs might be in the bidding at around £12-15 million.

Premier League 2012/2013
Starts: 6
Sub: 4
Minutes Played: 546
Goals: 1
Assists: 2
Passing accuracy: 80%
Chances created: 10

« « » »

Anderson
There has rarely been a more disappointment with a player that has graced Old Trafford. Not that there has ever really been any doubt about Anderson’s talent, even if the Brazilian has only recently improved on a history of shockingly wasteful passing. Instead the anticlimax comes in a talent completely unfulfilled; a €30 million fee that will never be recovered and has seldom brought value.

Injuries have stolen much of Anderson’s lustre over six seasons, but that is only a partial truth. The player, a most un-Brazilian Brazilian, has let himself down far too often. Those late nights, the partying when injured, a body not maintained at its optimum, and a casual attitude to training that has so often frustrated. United’s investment has rarely been match by Anderson’s professionalism.

In that Anderson had damaged his most precious asset: the burst of pace and athleticism that brought the player to international recognition as a 17-year-old trequartista in Brazil.

True, Ferguson has rarely deployed the player in an attacking role, where his supporters maintain the former Gremio midfielder performs best. There is scant evidence of that, but in truth little to support Anderson’s involvement as more orthodox midfielder either.

Ferguson has been steadfast in his support. Yet, there is an inescapable sense that Anderson is a regret whose closure will only come with a departure this summer. Expect the midfielder’s return to Portugal for somewhere south of £10 million.

Premier League 2012/2013
Starts: 7
Sub: 6
Minutes Played: 624
Goals: 1
Assists: 1
Passing accuracy: 88%
Chances created: 10

« « » »

Wayne Rooney
The former Evertonian is no longer a boy – not with more than 400 appearances now on the clock for United. Yet, there is an inescapable feeling that Rooney is on the down-slope of a career that perhaps hasn’t hit the stratospheric heights once expected.

Make no mistake, Rooney’s is an exceptional talent. Here is a player equally comfortable at ‘nine’, ’10’ or in a conventional midfield role, as recently witnessed.

But this flexibility has damaged Rooney’s output this season, with the Scouser rarely deployed as United’s striking focal point. Instead, in a slightly withdrawn role Rooney has intermittently excelled. It has been a season of highs, lows and a little too much mediocrity.

Yet, the question isn’t really about Rooney’s value to United, nor his natural talent, but whether the 26-year-old still has the hunger and physical capability to perform with the elite. That burst of searing pace has gone, while the player is no longer in finest shape.

No longer first choice striker, Rooney could soon be usurped in the ‘shadow’ role by Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa. It is an uncomfortable time for a player who has scored 197 goals for the club.

Could United cash in this summer with PSG reportedly interested? Certainly there are few clubs that could afford the England-international’s astronomical wages, although the transfer fee might be lower than £25 million.

Premier League 2012/2013
Starts: 21
Sub: 4
Minutes Played: 1910
Goals: 12
Assists: 10
Passing accuracy: 83%
Chances created: 37

« « » »

Javier Hernández
Few will be celebrate if the effervescent Mexican departs Old Trafford this summer. But with the striker afforded so few opportunities a fresh start away from Manchester might suit the 24-year-old. Real Madrid’s long-standing interest has not been solidified with an official bid, but there is sure to be heavy interest from Spain should United seek to cash in on a player who has scored 16 goals this season.

Hernández still has plenty to offer, but Robin van Persie’s arrival means there are unlikely to be any more opportunities for the Mexican next season. Hernández moves on or settles for a long-term squad role.

After all, while Rooney, Danny Welbeck, and to some extent van Persie, offer flexibility, Hernández is really only effective in one role. And even if Rooney leaves the club this summer, the Scouser’s departure will surely only come if Ferguson’s brings in a top-class replacement.

Premier League 2012/2013
Starts: 7
Sub: 11
Minutes Played: 779
Goals: 8
Assists: 2
Passing accuracy: 82%
Chances created: 11

« « » »

Anders Lindegaard
The season began with Sir Alex lauding the benefits of rotating his two main goalkeepers – David de Gea and Lindegaard. The campaign draws to a close with David de Gea not only established as United’s first choice stopper, but one of the top two performers in the Premier League. Indeed, Lindegaard’s fall from grace has been so stark since a calamitous performance against Reading at the Madejski in December that it will surprise few if the Danish international moves on in the summer. After all, Ben Amos has patiently waited in the wings for an opportunity, while England under-19 ‘keeper Sam Johnstone is thought of highly by United’s coaching staff.

Just eight starts in the Premier League this season means that Lindegaard is also likely to miss out on a winners’ medal unless Ferguson takes pity on the 29-year-old former Aalesund player. The Dane is likely to be available for around £2 million.

Premier League 2012/2013
Starts: 8
Minutes Played: 720
Goals conceded: 11
Errors: 1
Saves: 18

Poll: should United buy before the window closes?

August 28, 2012 Tags: , Polls 49 comments

Manchester United’s activity in the transfer market is over for the summer, with the club having spent more than £40 million, rising with potential bonuses, on a quintet of new players – Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Alexander Büttner, Ángelo Henríquez and Nick Powell.

At least that’s the claim made by Sir Alex Ferguson at the weekend, who told reporters that United “definitely won’t be buying anyone else, that is for sure. There is no movement I can tell you about, to be honest with you. There is only a few days left now until the deadline and that will pass quite quickly I would imagine.”

Indeed, with United having spent the £40 million budget ‘guided’ during the summer investor roadshow, few expect additional acquisitions unless there are significant movements out of Old Trafford before the transfer window closes on Friday. Dimitar Berbatov, Federico Macheda and possibly even Nani can be expected to leave the club permanently or on loan.

Ferguson has strengthened United’s attacking resources considerably, with Kagawa and van Persie having already impressed, and brought in cover for Patrice Evra with Büttner. However, some fans have expressed disappointment that no new central midfielder has joined the club this summer – an area long-held as the weakest in Ferguson’s squad.

The question is should United spend more to bring in additional players before the window closes.

Should United buy before the window closes?

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