If you’ve ever gone to the shops on Christmas Eve on a do-or-die mission to bring back Brussels Sprouts only to find an empty green crate where the miniature cabbages once lived, you’ll know what it’s like, on a slightly smaller scale admittedly, to live the life of Ed Woodward during a transfer window.
For the Manchester United Chief Executive, the agony of a badly-timed transfer window is over, and to United fans’ relief, players have been signed. Good players, too, and potentially great players. But, after a summer linking United to Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund, it still feels to many like a disappointment instead of a positive.
The set-up didn’t help, of course. Two home defeats (a 1-3 reverse to Crystal Palace before a 6-1 mauling at the hands of former manager Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur) had created a negative atmosphere around the club, coming just weeks after indiscretions by captain Harry Maguire and Mason Greenwood cast a shadow over the side who surged to 3rd place in last season’s Premier League.
Things change so quickly in football that there is no sport like it. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was 33/1 to be the first Premier League manager to leave his job at the start of the season, but the Norwegian is now a 2/1 shot few see the value in missing out on.
The players United have brought in, however, are very decent and do strengthen the starting XI as well as the squad.
Alex Telles (£15 million from Porto)
With 26 goals and 50 assists for Porto, Telles is a massive danger down the left-hand side. He can hardly be a bigger liability than Luke Shaw at present and with Brandon Williams now able to learn from a seasoned player with Champions League experience, could one of United’s problem positions since Patrice Evra’s last good season in 2013 be suddenly solved?
Amad Diallo (Estimated £20m from Atalanta in January)
A hugely exciting right-winger, Amad Diallo, also made his way to United on Deadline Day, although he won’t join the club until January, as he will continue his development with Atalanta until then. Just 18 years old, Diallo is one of the most exciting young prospects in Italian football and the Ivorian player confirmed his own excitement for the move on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
Having scored on his Serie A debut, Diallo could yet be a very exciting player to join United and would seem to suggest that The Red Devils pursuit of Jadon Sancho is over not only for this season, but indefinitely.
Verdict: Future Star but not this season
Edinson Cavani (Free, Paris St. Germain)
Technically, not really a signing, but a new home for a 33-year-old who will be in for a year on a short-term deal, Edinson Cavani comes in to bolster United’s frontline. Offering something different at the top of the pitch, whether Cavani still has the physical ability to keep the pace in the Premier League is the big question.
For no transfer fee and a £200,000-per-week wage that is likely to be built around performances, it’s possibly a no-lose situation for United, but it’s still a high-risk move given the signing of a defender was infinitely more pressing.
Overall, while United have improved their squad options, future talent and starting XI in the window, the lack of structure to the signings hints at a worrying trend of repeating on a loop the push for Champions League qualification, managerial casualties after a dip then a complete change of direction. Millions of pounds have been sacrificed to this end and with Solskjaer under immense pressure, the worry is that United could easily do the same again.
No signing, no matter how good, can change a club culture on their own.