THIS summer was meant to be different for Manchester United. Not only is there a new manager in place at Old Trafford, Richard Arnold is only six months into his role as the club’s new CEO. At almost every level besides the owners, United are under new management with new coaches, scouts and even negotiators in place. And yet they are still making the same old mistakes.
While others around them have strengthened, Manchester United have stood still. Worse than this, it could be argued they have gone backwards considering Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata have all departed the club since the end of last season. United are weaker now than they were a few weeks ago.
This surely isn’t what Erik ten Hag had in mind when he agreed to leave Ajax for a new challenge in the Premier League. If the Dutchman wasn’t aware of the size of the task, he is now with Manchester United seemingly as inept in the transfer market as ever. Ten Hag isn’t getting much help in turning the club around.
Just as has happened in past transfer windows, United are spending all their time chasing a single target. In 2013, they wasted weeks pursuing Cesc Fabregas only for the Spaniard to turn them down, leaving David Moyes to make do with the desperate signing of Marouane Fellaini on deadline day. In 2020, it was Borussia Dortmund who led United down a blind alley as they refused to sell Jadon Sancho.
This year it’s Barcelona taking Manchester United for a ride in talks over a deal for Frenkie de Jong. If recent reports are to be believed, the Old Trafford club are close to paying a near-exact fee to the one quoted to them at the start of the window. Weeks of negotiation has saved them roughly €5m when ten Hag surely would have liked de Jong in the door early.
Manchester United had a new direct contact today for Frenkie de Jong deal. 🚨🇳🇱 #MUFC
After €65m new verbal bid, Barça ask for €85/86m fee. The agreement is finally getting closer as clubs are in talks about add-ons to reach €85m full package.
Work in progress between clubs. pic.twitter.com/tXZiPKD9NN
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 27, 2022
All the while Manchester United are seemingly incapable of conducting more than one deal at a time. De Jong is the cork in the bottle. Nothing more will flow until the Dutchman has put pen to paper, leaving United with a lot of work to do in an increasingly short timeframe. This is hardly the approach of a modern, dynamic club.
Before this summer, there were stories detailing a scouting overhaul at Old Trafford. According to reports, a data-driven approach has been implemented, and new recruitment staff hired, in the hope that the transfer market mistakes of the last few years can be avoided. But where is the sign of new approach?
Almost every player linked with United this summer has played under ten Hag at one time or another – de Jong, Anthony, Jurrien Timber, Matthijs de Ligt, Lisandro Martinez. What does it say about Manchester United’s scouting and analysis if their transfer strategy is being guided by the contacts book of their new manager just one month after his appointment?
Contrast this to the way Liverpool and Manchester City operate in the transfer market. The former completed the £85m signing of Darwin Nunez in the space of a week while the latter tracked Erling Haaland for years before activating the Norwegian’s release clause as soon as they could. No time was wasted by either club.
There is still time for United to get the players they need, but fans shouldn’t expect too much given the slow pace at which they are moving. Former CEO Ed Woodward once said Manchester United “can do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of.” Now, though, it is United doing the dreaming and the other clubs doing things in reality.