Tuesday, September 3, 2013


The worst thing about this window has been timing and indecisiveness. More than the fact that we paid 4mil extra for Fellaini than we could have had we acted earlier, the timing and indecisiveness of our moves in the market have not been to United usual standards. Whenever United have moved for a player, it’s usually been too late strategically or we have not been decisive enough about the offer for the selling club to take us seriously. We've either screwed up the initial approach by offending the selling club with a low ball offer(Everton/Baines), not sounded out the player's agent to see if the player wanted a move to United (Thiago/Fabregas), moved too late to get the deal done (Atletico Bilbao/Herrera & RM/Coentrao) or not kept communication lines open to understand what was being done to get the deal done (Herrera).    

Having sounded out Thiago, and knowing that he wanted to join Pep in Munich, why did we wait till they had completed that deal before bidding for Fabregas, Barca were never going to allow two midfielders to leave in 1 window, so we should have moved first. This obviously means Fellaini wasn't our first choice, but it doesn't explain the lack of negotiations during July and August, most business students know that you should almost always be looking to buy from two sellers, before independently deciding which deal is better (or in this case who will sell and at what price etc) so that you retain the power. Given Moyes' experience in transfer business and Woodward's in conducting high level negotiations with corporate entities, I expected United to have had the Fellaini deal 90% done, with the price agreed upon before his escape clause expired, while we were making our bids for Fabregas. Another factor to consider is the morale consequences for Fellaini- knowing that the club tried to sign so many players before him, with Khedira and De Rossi's names being mentioned post deadline as deals that failed. Such public transfer failure will no doubt make it harder for United to convince other clubs to sell players, who will sense desperation, but I find it hard to believe that it took till the last 4/5 days of the window for United to start making a play for Ander Herrera.
Truthfully, I had not identified him as someone who might improve our squad, rather i looked at Ganso at Sao Paulo and at McCarthy at Wigan as those who could improve our central midfield strength and creativity; though having a look at his stats on transfermarkt, I can see why United should be interested, given his favourable stats in comparison to Isco and Illarramendi.  That said, no club is going to want to sell arguably their best midfielder and leave themselves without a recognized, low risk replacement, so it’s not surprising that the deal to bring the Atletic Bilbao player failed, though their actions are far from honorable and certainly made United's late pursuit of Herrera almost impossible. I question whether we were ever really serious about signing any of the following players, who could have strengthened our midfield/squad Wanyama, Strootman, Paulinho, Erikson; given the ease and speed with which their deals to Southhampton, Roma and Spurs were completed.

I also question the timing of the loans out of the club, if Powell and Bebe weren't going to feature, why not give them more time to acclimatize to their new clubs, instead of dropping them in after the season has started? Why hasn't Macheda found a new club, it’s obvious he's not going to progress at United unless we sustain multiple injuries to our strikers, given he is behind RVP, Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez, and is probably fighting for a carling cup squad position with Angelo Henriquez and Will Keane.  

Obviously a new manager needs time to assess his new club; the coaches, the players and the scouting system, but I fear that in bringing so many new faces to the club in coaching and scouting roles, as yet none of them are confident enough, or have seen enough of the players to make definitive judgments about their quality, or the appropriateness of them staying on the books. The amount of change that occurred at the club did not make it easy for the manager to assess his squad, or for the club to conduct transfer businesses. Given he's really only ever needed to think about United twice a season, we must afford him some time and space to make his own decisions in regards to which players to sell and which to keep, but surrounding himself with coaches who are in a similar position, to me, makes no sense.

 Preserving institutional memory  is vital to any large organization undergoing a transition between leaders, and the retirement of Sir Alex and David Gill and the subsequent retirement of the chief scout Martin Ferguson and the termination of Phelan and Muelensteen's contracts, a lot of management and transfer know-how has been lost, with Woodward not having the experience of doing high value transfer business, while Moyes has never really had to deal with the pressure of identifying and acquiring targets under the spotlight of the global football media, nor dealing with now-fellow giant football clubs and their egotistical leaders.
If Muelensteen, Phelan or Martin Ferguson had stayed on for a short while into Moyes' tenure, it may have prevented a summer of dithering over sales and missed opportunities to improve the squad. I am sure that any one of the old guard would have told Moyes that Young needs to move on, Nani can't be relied upon on and really only performs for 2/3 months a season and that a left winger and a couple of central midfielders are of higher priority than another left back.

It would have made Woodward's life easier if he walked into the room at a selling club if Gill had made the introductions- even over the phone, or if he had either of the Ferguson brothers, Sir Bobby Charlton or some other notary making the introductions, given his lack of footballing social presence. Given his experience is in tying up deals to generate cash via sponsorships and commerical deals, and prior to that in M&A, I would have thought a "footballing man" would have been trusted to lead negotiations with selling clubs, with Woodward taking a back seat until he's gotten the hang of haggling for players. 

Hopefully, Sir Alex's return to the club as a director will help Woodward and Moyes sign Herrera and other targets in the January window, and until then, we must hope that Moyes can make the most of Fellaini as his only summer acquisition to ensure we successfully reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League and stay in reach of the Premier League summit.