It is quite funny how early season results can often shape the attitude amongst fans on a totally different matter altogether, with my point of emphasis being our summer transfers. Prior to our terribly unlucky home draw against Newcastle and 5 minute collapse at Swansea everything was hunky-dory. Five quality players in, all the perceived dead wood out, the only complaints were of the nature of formation and starting line-up. Following the defeat however there has been a complete and utter meltdown of insane proportions. As a result even a transfer deadline day addition of Anthony Martial did little to excite the United faithful in the way Memphis Depay’s did, despite him being arguably the more ready talent.
In any summer transfer window the ideal number of new entrants to a squad should be three; one for the defensive, midfield and attacking units, so as to freshen up the squad without causing complete overhaul and disrupting squad harmony. Such was the catastrophe of the Moyes campaign and the sheer number of ageing players left behind by Ferguson, Louis van Gaal has had to play catch up.
So where does the truth in terms of our summer transfer window actually lie? Were the areas we needed strengthening in adequately strengthened? Were new gaps created by departures left unplugged? I’m going to take a look at each unit of our squad from goalkeeper to attack to show that whilst our transfer window was not perfect it was damn close to it.
The big story here is that De Gea stayed, but whether his move to Madrid went through or not the goalkeeping position was always going to be an area of strength. Keylor Navas is a quality goalkeeper and would have been a very good first team replacement, and the snapping up of World Cup finalist Sergio Romero on a free transfer was a shrewd bit of business. There is still uncertainty over Victor Valdes’ stay at Old Trafford but in Sam Johnstone United also have one of their own for the future. Anders Lindegaard left but our backup choices are now much better. Overall the health of our goalkeeping position going into the new season is excellent, with the only question mark being De Gea’s ability to shake off the failed transfer blues. Signing a new United contract as it has been reported he is interested in doing in Spain would go a long way towards putting those doubts to bed. Signing a new deal with a set buyout clause would give him an improved wage for this season and a guaranteed exit route from Old Trafford in the form of a buyout clause; he would get back to playing for his place in Euro 2016 and everybody is happy.
Transfer window grade: 10/10
The requirement pre-summer was a first choice right back and a first choice centre back. In came Matteo Darmian who has had United fans in their millions purring after just a few appearances, shoring up our right back position for now and years to come. At centre back there was one exit that not many people of right mind will lose much sleep on in Jonny Evans, however no new name arrived. The monumental improvement in Chris Smalling really is like having a new signing and he finally now looks like the rock upon which our defence can be built. Speaking of huge improvements, the same can be said of our left back Luke Shaw, who after a summer spent bulking up finally looks worthy of the hefty price tag he came from Southampton with. Back to our lack of a centre back signing… having Smalling partner Sergio Ramos or Nicolas Otamendi would have made me confident that plenty of clean sheets were on the way this year but it seems that Louis van Gaal saw enough in the Smalling and Jones partnership at the back end of last season to be confident in this new unit. As a result of Jones’ thrombosis and Rojo’s lack of fitness Daley Blind has slotted in alongside Smalling and bar a 5 minute blip against Swansea the partnership has looked sound. Paddy McNair who had a great first season at United will continue to serve as understudy, and Tyler Blackett will get vital first team experience in a less demanding league on loan at Celtic.
Transfer window grade: 8/10
I think the term amongst the kids these days is Schmidfield… anyway… I have been calling for Bastian Schweinsteiger to come to United for years and to grab the World Wup winner in his prime at a mere £6.5m is a snip. People will have you believe 30 is past it, but only two years ago those same people were telling me then 35 year olds Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were world class. In Morgan Schneiderlin United have bought for now and the future, and though he is very rough around the edges in terms of his footballing ability, his combative and energetic style will surely complement the likes of Schweinsteiger and our most important player in the last 4 years, Michael Carrick in the twilight of his career. This is perhaps the strongest our midfield has looked since the mid 2000s.
Transfer window grade: 10/10
So Di Maria left for peanuts, and although he wanted to go, I don’t see why United were so keen to accommodate him. So much so that they threw away 15 million quid in the process. That £15m would have been two thirds of the transfer fee for his perfect replacement in Pedro… who after some fannying about from United went to Chelsea. Oh well. We did get a replacement in the form of Memphis Depay however, who though will need time to develop, will become a world class talent for years to come. All he has to do is score 3 goals this year and he will eclipse his predecessor, and having already scored 2, it shouldn’t be that hard. In truth, attacking midfield was one of our strongest areas anyway, with Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini having renaissance seasons, Ander Herrera having a solid first campaign in England and Juan Mata having found his feet in his new position out on the right, with great performances against rivals City and Liverpool. Another exit came in the shape of Adnan Januzaj who has contributed virtually nothing despite being given chance after chance by van Gaal; a season of regular football at Dortmund will surely do him the world of good, and with no option to buy for the German club this loan looks to be a shrewd move for the future. Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira have more than enough quality to step out of their fellow youth product’s shadow.
Transfer window grade: 8/10
This is where things get a bit messy. Not much of a second thought has been given to the exit of Falcao because, well basically he was really shit. Another player who had been really shit for a long time was Chicharito; he was given yet another chance to impress van Gaal and Giggs away in Belgium, but then there was the John Terry like penalty and THAT LOOK which sealed his fate. I didn’t really care, good news as far as I was concerned as more dead wood was gone. At the end of last season a very vocal number of United fans called for the exit of Robin van Persie and for Wayne Rooney to be the first choice centre forward. These fans got what they wished for, but following a rather blunt start to the season they very quickly changed their tune, suggesting that the position he was playing in last season is actually his best position. Make your fucking minds up please! So van Persie left and what we were left with was Wayne Rooney and teenager James Wilson. Not good. Some great news however came in the form of deadline day arrival Anthony Martial who at the age of 19 became the world’s most expensive teenager. This is a classic Manchester United signing, but as with Memphis, time will have to be afforded. Had United kept van Persie on for one more season Martial would have got that time to develop with little pressure, but with the strike force currently at 3, and only Rooney having any noteworthy experience, a huge hope rests upon the transfer of Martial working out.
Transfer window grade: 7/10
Overall, there is much more balance to the squad, with goalkeeping, defensive and midfield positions unquestionable strengthened. The defence could have been improved some more but it is undoubtedly stronger than last year. Lots of dead wood has been shifted and the squad is finally getting to look like a Manchester United one; more balance and filled with youth and promise. Had United managed to keep hold of van Persie or replace him with another plug in, experienced goal scorer I would be a lot more comfortable with our attack but Martial provides something of the unknown, and he could yet surprise us all. Robin van Persie, and Falcao contributed 10 and 4 league goals respectively last season, so their replacements Martial and Wilson (who scored 1 himself) have a target of 15-20 goals to aim for combined. It might be a tall order but this is Manchester United, where greatness is expected and where youth so often succeeds.
Overall transfer window grade: 8/10
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