Wednesday, 2 September 2015

How Manchester United's dignity went out the door after Sir Alex Ferguson left Read more

preparation? Manchester United at the centre of another chaotic deadline-day drama.
Whoever is to blame for the David de Gea shambles, and heaven knows there was enough finger-pointing on Tuesday, the unseemly end to it all does not reflect well on two of the world’s biggest clubs.
United, for their part, have neglected the goalkeeper situation for far too long. It was a problem waiting to happen.
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David de Gea's move to Real Madrid fell through after the paperwork wasn't submitted before the deadline
David de Gea's move to Real Madrid fell through after the paperwork wasn't submitted before the deadline
Manchester United completed the £36m signing of French Under 21 international Anthony Martial
Manchester United completed the £36m signing of French Under 21 international Anthony Martial
Instead of being seen to be strong in their dealings with Real Madrid, they are left with a disillusioned player who will leave for free next summer, United having failed to secure either a world-record £35million transfer fee or Sergio Ramos in return.
Confirmation of the collapse of De Gea’s move came hours before United confirmed the signing of little-known French teenager Anthony Martial from Monaco in a staggering deal that could be worth up to £58m, despite assertions from Van Gaal that they would not panic buy.
No-one saw it coming, least of all captain Wayne Rooney who was credited by his manager at the weekend with having an input into everything from team selection to the players’ dietary requirements.
United were linked with a move for Sergio Ramos, but he signed a new contract with Real Madrid
United were linked with a move for Sergio Ramos, but he signed a new contract with Real Madrid
Manchester United's Ed Woodward with co-owner Avram Glazer (right) and Sir Bobby Charlton (left)
Manchester United's Ed Woodward with co-owner Avram Glazer (right) and Sir Bobby Charlton (left)
On the flight home after United’s defeat at Swansea on Sunday, Rooney went to France international Morgan Schneiderlin. ‘Wayne asked who Martial was, because the English press had started to speak,’ said Schneiderlin on Tuesday.
Both issues have left United and their chief executive Ed Woodward facing serious questions — and not for the first time in the two years since he took over the role vacated by David Gill. The folly of allowing Gill to leave at the same time as Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 has been well documented. Woodward, like David Moyes, was stepping into some very big shoes.
Nor would anybody suggest that United did not make mistakes in the market before then. It is an unpredictable place. But there was a way of doing business, a quiet dignity that reflected the club’s stature. But it is one that seems to have been discarded in the past two years.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said that Manchester United identify their targets and do their business swiftly
Sir Alex Ferguson once said that Manchester United identify their targets and do their business swiftly
New signing Memphis Depay in action for Manchester United in their defeat at Swansea on Sunday
New signing Memphis Depay in action for Manchester United in their defeat at Swansea on Sunday
‘We try to identify players as quietly as we can and do the deals as quickly as we can,’ Ferguson once said. Quickly and quietly are not words you associate with United these days. ‘There is no value in the transfer market’ was another Ferguson mantra at Old Trafford. Indeed, eyebrows were raised when he eschewed United’s cautious approach to sign Robin van Persie for £24m in 2012.
The summer after he left United took the unusual step of identifying some of their top targets — Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Leighton Baines — and ended up with only Everton’s Marouane Fellaini for £27.5m, £4m more than his buyout clause.
Then there were the scattergun attempts to sign Fabio Coentrao and Sami Khedira from Real Madrid in the final frantic minutes on deadline day, and the bizarre sight of lawyers turning up at Spanish League HQ to conclude a deal for Ander Herrera even though United had refused to meet his £32m release clause at Athletic Bilbao.
Woodward’s response was to shoot for the stars. Juan Mata arrived the following January for £37.1m. United then spent a British record £59.7m on Angel di Maria last summer, and stole the headlines in another last-day drama by signing Radamel Falcao.
Di Maria in 2014
Di Maria in 2015
Angel di Maria signed for a British record £59.3m last year (left) but was moved on to PSG this summer (right)
Chelsea beat Manchester United to the signing of Barcelona's Spanish winger Pedro
Chelsea beat Manchester United to the signing of Barcelona's Spanish winger Pedro
Javier Hernandez joined Bayer Leverkusen after falling out of favour at Old Trafford
Javier Hernandez joined Bayer Leverkusen after falling out of favour at Old Trafford
Falcao and Di Maria have since gone along with Van Persie. Van Gaal insisted that he had Javier Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj as back-up for striker Wayne Rooney, but both left in the last 48 hours.
‘I want to go back to feeling important and happy,’ said Hernandez after joining Bayer Leverkusen for £12m, 24 hours after Di Maria admitted to having a difficult relationship with Van Gaal.
United began this transfer window well. Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian all look like good signings in key areas. But they have been undermined by the goalkeeper issue and glaring gaps in attack.
Woodward flew to Barcelona to sign Pedro but was gazumped by Chelsea. Now he has splashed a world record fee for a teenager to land Martial. It’s a high-stakes game, and one that United can ill afford to lose this time.