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Europe - United: The Toothless Shark of the Transfer Market

Manchester United continues to struggle to attract the players they want.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Manchester United Executive Vice-chairman Ed Woodward self-isolating at United’s opening league game against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford recently. United’s record in the transfer market during his tenure has been pretty dreadful.
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

In the days of Sir Alex Ferguson and Chief Executive David Gill, United generally got their man, if they really wanted him.

Since the pair, who both retired in 2013, left their roles, United’s transfer-market dealings have been nothing short of shambolic.

It may be increasingly difficult given there are more clubs around with greater financial clout than in the past, but other clubs can actually get their business done, and completed early, while by comparison United labour, and as often as not, fail.

Just look at their current pursuit of Jadon Sancho and consider how long it finally took for them to land Bruno Fernandes last season...

Former captain and Sky TV pundit Gary Neville has been critical and outspoken. “It’s appalling that in this market, which is probably the easiest in Premier League history to get transfers done, that United haven’t done more yet,” complained Neville on Twitter. “The others are managing to get things over the line, why not United?”

Gary Neville - very critical of United’s transfer market prowess...

Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward, as unpopular to United fans as its American owners, has failed to land many of the targets identified by successive managers, Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho.

Having unsurprisingly delegated responsibility for transfer negotiations to Head of Corporate Development Matt Judge in 2016, Woodward and his Bristol University educated side-kick continue to frustrate the current manager, Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer, as the Norwegian tries to build upon last season’s third place finish.

Donny van de Beek did arrive for £35m from Ajax, but Solskjaer has identified three other positions for strengthening; left-back, centre-back and a wide right attacker, and so far with the deadline only a few days away, United have not so much come up short as they have completely devoid of any progress at all.

Unless of course they know something about the Sancho transfer we all don’t. But which sane-minded person would bet on that?

Now since it looks like United’s main target will be missed, they appear to be resorting to loan deals to cover the lack of success. Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele is reportedly the subject of loan negotiations currently, even if it’s understood he’s reluctant to leave the Catalan club.

But he looks to be down the pecking order under new Camp Nou boss, Ronald Koeman, so something may develop. But is the Dembele interest simply a ruse by United to try force Dortmund’s hand on Sancho?

Ivan Perisic is another loanee who might interest Solskjaer. The Inter-Milan player spent last season on-loan at Bayern Munich, who declined an option to sign him after the loan expired.

There may be brighter news on the left-back requirement with Alex Telles likely to move from Porto this week, but again United’s and Porto’s valuations of the player differ significantly and that has so far held up progress.

Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles was also been linked to United today, a fee in the region of £22m being mentioned, but the London club has moved quickly to rubbish reports.

But it’s not only in buying that United are experiencing problems. Moving players out is problematic too.

Brazilian Andreas Pereira is set to join Lazio on loan but there are several others United have not been able to move on.

Chris Smalling, training on his own and wanted by Roma, awaits for the Serie A club to meet United’s asking price.

Juventus v AS Roma - Serie A
Manchester United’s Chris Smalling, wanted by AS Roma after completing a successful loan spell at the Serie A club.
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Two other centre-backs, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, fit into a similar category; still on the books despite being surplus to Solskjaer’s requirements.

Jesse Lingaard is unlikely to have an Old Trafford future and United seem content to move on Daniel James too (provided a right-sided attacker is acquired).

Does United need to move at least some of their unwanted players, for whom there has been little interest outside of loan inquiries, in the transfer market before they can flex enough financial muscle to prize their main target away from Dortmund?

Or do they have the resources, but believe Jadon Sancho doesn’t represent value for money at £108m?