By Lewis Mayer
As was the case in 2008, United’s summer transfer business concluded last night with the solitary signing of a proven Premier League player. In 2008 it was Dimitar Berbatov who joined the ranks at Old Trafford after a long couple of months of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill battling to get their number one target. At the time, the Bulgarian was seen as the final piece of Ferguson’s jigsaw, coming into a side that was champions of Europe, possessing the world’s best player and heaps of talent besides.
The late signing of Berbatov on the night of the 1st September 2008 brought scenes of jubilation to Old Trafford in what was hailed as a league winning signing. Similarly, last night also brought about another potent feeling amongst reds, but this time it was relief.
As someone who loathes the endless summer transfer gossip that floats about on the internet, I did my best in the early stages of yesterdays ‘Deadline Day’ to avoid the news as best I could, in the hope that I would receive a text from my mate informing me that we’d signed a player or two. Despite United’s fruitless transfer window I was certain we would see at least two if not three names come through the door. Everton’s Marouane Fellaini and Athletico Bilbao’s Ander Herrera looked positive and the outside chance of Fellaini’s team-mate Leighton Baines following the Belgian down the East Lancs road also stood an outside chance of materialising. And of course, with United there is always the chance of last minute surprise.
Indeed, there was to be a surprise, however it wasn’t that we’d hijacked Arsenal’s audacious and ultimately successful bid for Mesut Ozil, it was that our deadline day dealings rapidly descended into farce.
Around 2pm, I had yet to hear anything from my mates. My phone, sat dormant in the corner (quite unlike Jim White’s as it would turn out), cut a lonely figure. Concern was creeping in at this stage, but I managed convinced myself that owing to very public way in which the club had orchestrated their failed transfer bids thus far, perhaps they had learned their lesson and were keeping schtum; intending on announcing a double swoop early in the evening.
I decided to break my ‘transfer news fast’ and checked Twitter, but was met by a barrage of ‘Sky Sources’, ‘I’m hearing’s’ and ‘Unconfirmed Reports’. It was far too much to take in for someone so starved of transfer news; I had run before I could walk. Schoolboy error.
Having finished work I decided to try and take my mind off United’s inability to sign absolutely anyone, by watching TV, ‘Bargain Hunt’ to be specific. Quite prophetic as it turned out, as it began to appear that Moyes and Woodward were seemingly operating on a similar nonsensical business strategy in the leafy idles of Carrington. Already dithering over the cost of their third and fourth choice midfield targets, they then allegedly bunged in a £40 million bid for Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira, as well as another failed bid for Everton full back Leighton Baines. It was all getting a bit desperate, embarrassing even. You can’t fault Moyes’ commitment, he was inside United’s newly christened AON Training Complex for a good 12 hours plus yesterday, but the fact of the matter is, this should have all been done weeks ago.
United have known for weeks that initial targets Thiago Alacantara and Cesc Fabregas would not be coming to the club, which begs the question why the Old Trafford outfit had to wait until the final day of the transfer window to do their business? It reeked of amateurism and of a hierarchy that did not grasp the situation. And, it got worse.
Not only did it get worse, but it became laughable as we received the news that the deal to bring Ander Herrara to the club had fallen through. This was down to a combination of reasons, the first, that United would not stump up a further six million pounds needed to cover tax when acquiring players from the Basque region of Spain and the second owing to the fact that the United representatives that had turned up in Spain to pay Herrara’s buy-out clause were reportedly not United representatives at all, but stooges no less! Impostors! Bloody impostors!! You seriously couldn’t make it up. The “impostors” were in fact lawyers who worked on the Javi Martinez transfer to Munich. How the Glazers must have longed for the efficiency of David Gill as Ed Woodward sat in office, presumably sweating like the pilot in the film ‘Airplane’, and with two iPhones gaffer taped to his head as he drafted out Fellaini’s contract on a post-it note.
The inquest into United’s summer transfer dealings, or lack of, will be long. And it is important that a reason for the clubs failings is reached. If any good can be taken out of the fine mess the club ended up in it is that it will have been a huge learning curve for the Moyes/Woodward axis, I am sure that a scenario like this will not happen again. And of course, the ultimate capture of Marouane Fellaini, although not the marquee name that the fans and the board were hoping for, proved a fruitful end to a mad month.
Like many, Fellaini was not my first choice; however I was more than open to having him at the club albeit with a few more signings on top. He will certainly improve our midfield, his physical stature and prowess is something we have lacked for many a year and he would certainly have come in handy as we were bullied, yet again, at Anfield on Sunday. Last season he chipped in with 12 goals and seven assists, again, a commodity that our midfield has been severely lacking. Also, the fact that Fellaini was clearly desperate to come to the club, something lacking in both Thiago and Fabregas, is a huge plus point (just a shame we couldn’t have took advantage of a similar desire held by Herrara). We could grumble about the money we had to fork out to get him, but in all honesty I’m just relieved we have finally brought reinforcements into the midfield, something that Ferguson avoided for years despite the fact that the problem was staring him in the face. Despite finally getting the man who Moyes was so keen to be reacquainted with, there was still time for more disappointment as a last ditch move to secure Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao on a season-long loan hit the buffers. United became embroiled in a complicated player triangle which hinged move Los Blancos’ ability to secure the signing of Granada’s Guilherme Siqueira. It didn’t happen and thus, neither did Coentrao to United. It was another embarrassing chapter in what was, Fellaini aside, a transfer window to forget for Manchester United.
So, as the clock ticked passed midnight, and with Jim White’s tie seemingly becoming more fluorescent as the night went on (yes I gave in and turned the dreaded Sky Sports News on. As news of the Herrara deal’s collapse came through, I in turn collapsed into a heap on the floor jabbing relentlessly at the Sky remote in search of some positive news) I decided that it was time to hit the sack, safe in the knowledge that we had signed a player, yep, we had actually signed someone – it felt good. That was until I envisioned Thiago, Fabregas, Ozil and Ronaldo being paraded across a stage with Jim Bowen shouting ‘let’s have a look at what you could have won’. I was evidently drunk on transfer news; it was time to go to bed. Roll on January.