What Manchester United must do between now and January transfer window
Manchester United supporters didn’t get what they wanted in the transfer window.
But despite the disappointment that many supporters will feel after an underwhelming transfer deadline day, it is now the job of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players to prepare themselves on the pitch for what will be a vital season.
United cannot afford to lag behind their rivals, whatever you think of their respective transfer windows, on the field or in the boardroom between now and January. Some will argue Tottenham have enjoyed the best summer, others will be concerned about the way Everton, Leicester and Wolves have strengthened their squads.
United have at least bolstered their defence in signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire — two quality defensive additions, whose arrivals augur well for the future. That will make it easier for Solskjaer, Ed Woodward and United’s transfer decision makers to concentrate elsewhere, with key decisions now to be made.
The club’s idealistic plan was to identify targets well before last season had finished, ready to make bids early in the window. Yet they had to wait until the final week of the window to land Maguire and weren’t able to bring in a central midfielder to replace Ander Herrera. As for replacing the outgoing Romelu Lukaku? Well, that was a non-starter as the Inter Milan deal took until the final day of the window to go through.
The same mistakes cannot be repeated and United’s transfer work for January must start now.
It is plain for all to see that they need a central midfielder and an extra forward option. Whether they pursue their interest in players like Sean Longstaff or Jadon Sancho — who pricked their interest but proved unattainable this summer — remains to be seen.
But the idealism must become reality between now and January. That’s five months to complete the three-step process: scout, bid, secure.
All the while the pressure will be on Solskjaer and the players to produce enough results to keep United in a genuine hunt for the top four. They can hardly hope to keep pace with Man City and Liverpool if they finish fifth or sixth for another year.
So the Norwegian needs help and an obvious shortcoming at Old Trafford is (still) the lack of a technical director.
United have been considering candidates to step into the breach between Solskjaer and the board, but transfer negotiations this summer have again been handled by Woodward and head of corporate development Matt Judge.
You suspect a true transfer guru in that position at the club would help the recruitment process become a lot smoother and more efficient. At the moment, it’s an agonisingly slow process. That was shown in the protracted Maguire and Wan-Bissaka negotations.
Solskjaer, of course, should be credited for his transfer policy. There’s no doubt United have done the right thing in some instances this summer in eschewing quick-fix mercenary signings on big wages in favour of the long-term project. They’ve signed some young British players and look a more cohesive overall United — but they’re lacking in certain areas.
Those defensive of the club’s dealings may argue these things take time.
But a project needs planning and there’s the sense that United did not have contingency plans when their top targets failed to materialise this summer.
The transfer planning for January must start now and when 2020 comes, United must have the vision to make at least one important signing, discarding the usual excuses about how difficult mid-season transfers can be.
United must ensure the window that has just closed was just the start of something. Not another story of what might have been.
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