Tuesday, 8 September 2015
EVALUATING THE TRANSFER WINDOW---PART II
Having done the bulk of the transfer in-comings before the squad departed across the pond to the States, there was a need to evaluate United's transfer business up to that point. The British transfer window was slammed shut on Tuesday last week because of a bank holiday on the Monday. Manchester United have since been active in the market although the majority of business centred around who would leave the club as opposed to who would join.
There was a feeling that given the purchases before the summer tour, Louis van Gaal was considerably comfortable with his options. Just about every newcomer up to that point satisfied the manager's craving for control and minimising of risk. Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger have added such security defensively that it took us all of 5 games to finally get worried about Sergio Romero in goal.
Since then United have brought in just the one significant addition; Anthony Martial from AS Monaco for an eye watering 36m rising to 54.7m. If you believe what the club is briefing, Martial was a target for most of the leading European clubs with the likes of FC Barcelona, PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City entering into pre-contract agreements with Monaco. The idea was that the French club would not put him on the market until next summer. We are therefore led to believe that United have stolen a march on the European rivals with this signing.
These are the harsh realities: 1. Manchester United now have one senior striker. 2. That senior striker cannot be relied upon to get the 25 goals the club would need from its centre forward to guarantee a credible league finish. 3. United have added potential to their forward line in Martial with no guarantee of a consistent supply of goals. 4.An perhaps most crucially, Louis van Gaal has added the one thing he lacked and craved from his forward-line, pace!
However, we have to temper those realities with the system and style of play that Louis van Gaal has successfully bedded into the DNA of the club. It hardly plays to the strength of an attacker, let alone a striker. Indeed, the number 9 plays with his back to goal for most of the time despite being in a side that will dominate possession for the majority of the match. As it stands, the manager will get the most of his attackers if, and only if, he withdraws Wayne Rooney to the Number 10 role (even though he's far from the best we've got in that position) and playing Martial up top with the freedom to use the flanks as and when it suits his game.
Unfortunately for the French teenager, his price tag means that the media criticism will be anything but kind on him. Indeed, the 19 year old has already been dismissed by many before he has even set foot on the Old Trafford turf, let alone the bench. Amazingly, there are those who honestly believe that a man of the ruthlessness of Louis van Gaal can sanction a signing as a 'panic-buy', moreso a teenager! Martial may not turn out to be the Thierry Henry that others expect him to be but I think its overstepping our boundaries to expect that the club will bring in one of the names linked to it through the media or a player with a high rating on FIFA 16! Manchester United employs scouts around the world to identify talent they think can make the grade at Old Trafford. Now there wouldn't be much of scouting if the said scouts simply forwarded the same names in the media, would they? Time and time again, we expect the club to bring in a name we've never heard of before; Roy Keane, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Bebe. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. No harm in that.
For 36m? Ed Woodward has been hawking the club around the world getting all sorts of sponsors to partner with the world's most popular football brand. If that money is not spent on the football team, you can bet your house it's being wired into the Glazers' personal accounts. Given that I, like many of the fans do not stand to benefit a penny from it, I'd rather it's wasted on panic buys, young players, unproven potential et al. The mourning in the media will however have you believe that it was their money that was spent. Never mind John Stones is valued at more than 40m!
Ultimately though, United's season is likely to be affected by departures more than arrivals. Indeed, many of the signings made have been to replace rather than improve. This is the first time in quite a while that United do not have as deep a squad as any other in the league. Jose Mourinho, last season, pointed out how difficult it was to prepare for games against United because of the number of options we had in our squad. This time, I imagine it cannot be too difficult to plan for the couple of options United have up top and at the back. Given the number of competitions that the club is involved in this season, van Gaal will have to be clever about how he utilises his squad going forward.
Certainly, I'd imagine that the likes of Jesse Lingard, Andreas Perreira and Patrick McNair feature more prominently than we expect. Michael Carrick seems to be the only player from last season reading the injury script to the letter, but thankfully, he is now adequately replaced. Fingers crossed the light-weight areas remain in full-health.
Perhaps the one facet that seems to have escaped everyone regarding the transfer window is that 12 months in, Louis van Gaal has finally made the Manchester United squad his. It cannot therefore be said that he remains with too many sympathisers outside the club (not that he every needed any). Indeed, despite the pessimism among fans, the manager claims that he is happy with the balance of the squad that he has got. There's nothing more you can demand from a transfer window if the manager is happy with his options. The Dutchman now needs results from his players.