Transfer window verdict: Manchester United take big risk in failing to strengthen with trophies and top four on the line
Transfer deadline day passed with no incomings at Manchester United, and not even a hint of one. Not even for a moment were fans excited over a possible move.
Donny van de Beek left on loan, while Jesse Lingard was denied a departure. Dean Henderson and Phil Jones also stayed despite being linked with exits.
The transfer window as a whole never really looked like providing many signings for United. Surely just one would have not been too much to ask?
The midfield was neglected in the summer at the expense of attacking positions, and it would have been sensible for the club to address this. The club could not even bring James Garner back on loan as a stop-gap solution.
We have seen all season long that United’s midfield is not good enough. It’s a large part of why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked.
There were bargain deals to be done. Denis Zakaria was available for £5 million, and Boubacar Kamara of Marseille for not much more. United decided neither player was worthy a small gamble.
Amadou Haidara had been mentioned by The Times as a possible addition when Ralf Rangnick first took over, but this failed to materialise, and talk of Ruben Neves proved to be just talk.
The window showed Rangnick really is just an interim boss. United are holding onto the money for the summer. It suits the Glazers, and doesn’t necessarily mean there will be extra to spend in summer either.
United hope for addition by subtraction
By trimming the squad down a little, with Martial, Amad, and Van de Beek gone, you could argue United are weaker than the transfer window began. Mason Greenwood’s suspension removes another option.
The smaller squad could help, creating a tighter-knit group, and getting rid of some of the unhappy players.
This makes squad selection easier, means less unhappy players knocking about, easing a headache for manager Ralf Rangnick. There is a chance this adds up to make United better.
Not all of the unhappy players were moved on though, with Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson among those still knocking about. United need depth in case of injury and Covid, but if everybody is fit, then Rangnick won’t be able to please everyone.
United hope Hannibal will step up into the first team squad and join Anthony Elanga, while Paul Pogba’s return from injury is also a welcome boost.
Fine margins could decide season
There’s no doubt United have gambled by not signing a defensive midfielder. It is a decision which could see United fall short in hopes to win the FA Cup, the Champions League, or earn a top four place.
If there is an injury to Fred, Scott McTominay or Paul Pogba, let alone two of them, then United’s midfield is dangerously low on quality.
In January 2019, United chose not to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a January signing. The club missed out on a top four place by just five points. A fresh face could have made the difference in qualifying for the Champions League, and not, and adjusted who United could have signed the following summer.
So falling short this season could have a big negative effect for United’s next manager, and the club could look back on this transfer window and regret not trying to do more.
Tottenham are United’s biggest competitors for a top four spot and they have strengthened with the addition of Dejan Kulusevski from Juventus along with midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur on loan, an addition who would have improved United’s options.
Their decision to go the extra mile to please new boss Antonio Conte may prove the difference, and that’s part of why United didn’t want the Italian, for fear his demands would be too much for the board.
United are into the Champions League last 16 for just the fourth time in the last nine seasons. This is a great opportunity, with Ronaldo leading the line. Instead of using this time to push on, United have sat on their collective hands, and nobody will be surprised to see the team fall short.
Ralf Rangnick has been let down, and most of all so have supporters, who hoped for a title challenge. Instead the club feels like it doesn’t even have the ambition to fight for the top four, and instead just wants to punt on this season and get to the next one.
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