MANCHESTER United’s training ground, 9am on transfer deadline day. A television camera is poised outside the security barrier waiting to film any late surprise arrivals as rain starts to fall from the heavy Mancunian sky. The storm clouds have not lifted above United, with daily sagas, most of them negative.
New signing Bruno Fernandes and other players arrive for training ahead of the game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, the sixth between the clubs since last March. It’s a big game. Aren’t they all? Mix in the prospect of a fan walkout because of deep dissatisfaction with Ed Woodward and the Glazer family, a new signing and a Munich disaster memorial event pre-match and there’s plenty to watch out for.
The signing of Fernandes has been welcomed by fans. Injuries to a small squad meant United needed strengthening in this transfer window and fans would have been even more angered had that not happened. A smiling Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is asked if there will be any more players coming in. He says not. He’s asked again if he can be sure since he’s suggested that a striker is needed following the injury to Marcus Rashford. Mason Greenwood is undeniably talented, but he’s a teenager and his inexperience and ineffectiveness showed in Wednesday’s Manchester derby victory.
— SPORF (@Sporf) January 30, 2020
“I am not sure, I don’t expect any more business to be done,” Solskjaer says when pushed. “I don’t think anything is going to happen.” It’s hardly definite, like it was when he said that Ashley Young and Alexis Sanchez wouldn’t be leaving the club in this transfer window.
“Sometimes I say something here and something else happens,” Solskjaer continues. “Sometimes I say I am happy with a player and he gets a different message so I don’t want to help or make speculations grow more and more today. I expect nothing to happen but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”
Norwegian striker Josh King, who played under Solskjaer as a United reserve, is being linked with a return. Injuries didn’t help, but he left United after realising he might have a hard task getting in the team ahead of, at various times, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Chicharito and Daniel Welbeck. Those were the days.
United have made an approach for King but were turned down. Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe said the decision to sell wasn’t in his hands. He also indicated that King would be keen to return to United, saying: “I know what Manchester United means to him with his history connected to the club. Josh is outstanding physically, technically and mentally – he has the complete package, a little bit of everything. He just wants more goals to show just how high his potential is.”
King joined United as a 16-year-old youth team player from Oslo side Valarenga in 2008. United then were the reigning English, European and world champions and King shone in youth and reserve teams under Solskjaer, before being loaned to Preston North End after an impressive pre-season in 2010, and then to Borussia Monchengladbach in 2011. He went to Hull City in 2012 before joining championship side Blackburn Rovers full-time in 2013. In between, he came on twice for United’s first team, first in a dead rubber Champions League match against Galatasaray and second in a cup match against Wolves.
In 2015 King turned down the chance to stay at Blackburn and joined Bournemouth ahead of their first-ever season in the Premier League. Thanks to guidance and encouragement from manager Eddie Howe, he immediately became a regular. King’s first season wasn’t full of goals – he scored seven in the league, including a winner against United which he celebrated with enthusiasm. He felt Sir Alex Ferguson could have treated him better.
Bournemouth are actively looking at Josh King replacements, mainly overseas, for if the player joins Manchester United.
— Transferchanger (@TransferChanger) January 31, 2020
Former Norwegian striker Jan Aage Fjortoft thinks King has star qualities. “Joshua’s got this ‘John Carew at his best’ look about him,” he says. “He’s quick and strong. When he goes forward he sprints with strength and not a lot of players have that, they’re either quick or strong. “He’s got a natural positive arrogance about him too which the best players in the world have. That’s usually a strength, that ‘I don't care who I’m playing against.’ Joshua will never fear anyone.”
The camera will be waiting outside the training ground to see if King shows up. For now, Solskjaer is happy that Fernandes has joined the club.
“He's fit to play and he will be involved, he’ll definitely be in the squad once he gets the training out of the way today,” explains his new manager. ”He has had a few hectic days now, his little daughter was three years old yesterday so I don't know how much he will be involved but he will be in the squad.”
Solskjaer is asked why United went for Fernandes now. “It’s about timings, priorities, and also valuation, money, and you have a club that owns him and you can see how in January how much he means to them and they wanted to keep him.”
He can’t emphasise the positives enough, pointing out this is not a knee-jerk signing. “We're just happy to finally get it over the line, we followed him for years and he has grown in that period, more mature, assured performances, a great leader of his team and even with all the speculation that has been around him from every club in Europe linked with him, he stayed focused and played some fantastic football for Sporting Lisbon. It tells us how professional he is and when you get to meet him and see him, he’s a fantastic human being.”
The talk is good, as it always is with a new arrival. I had huge hopes for Memphis Depay and Shinji Kagawa and neither worked out. Let’s hope Fernandes is what United need right now.