23rd August 2013. Still no signings.
After years of supporting United, i thought i had seen everything the United fanbase had to offer. But this summer, thanks especially to twitter, i have seen things i haven’t seen from United, which is fans begging for signings. But not just any signings. Signings can be world class, or decent players, or maybe even some rubbish players. Basically, fans don’t care who we sign at the moment, they just want us to get someone. I can understand their frustration, because i too am pretty frustrated. I was hoping we would have a couple of signings by now, but nothing as of yet has materialised.
Moyes said he is only after world class players, and if we fail to get them, then we will promote young players in the club. Is this the right approach?
Yes, and no, is my answer. I feel if world class players aren’t available, then we should promote the young players we have in the squad and academy, but there are none in the academy that can play the role we want them to play then its best to get any good/decent player that can do the job. This commitment to the youth is something that Moyes talked about and promised when he took the job. Back then he was hailed and fans said he was continuing United’s traditions of youth development and continuing United’s personification of Sir Matt’s famous line “if you are good enough, you are old enough”. But now, some of those very same fans are saying that if world class players aren’t available, then just sign anyone that is a decent player. Doesn’t this conflict with our commitment to youth? Where are the likes of Januzaj, Lingard, Powell, Henriquez, Pereira, Michael Keane, etc, going to play if we just sign decent first team players that will never be world class and the only purpose they will serve is blocking the route of the kids to the first team squad? As i said, decent/good players should only be signed if world class ones aren’t available, and if our academy has no players that can fill the void at least somewhat reasonably.
Lets look at who we know we have bid for, or were interested in to some extent, this summer.
1.) Thiago. Our first saga of the summer. Couldn’t agree terms, for whatever reason. But it seems he preferred Bayern from the start, along with Pep. Good player, with world class potential, and a central midfielder which we badly needed even before Scholes retired. We tried, but failed.
2.) Fabregas. Our second saga of the summer. Didn’t get any bids accepted, but we surely must have gotten encouragement from him or his agent. Our last bid was close to his valuation i feel, but Barca were always unlikely to sell a midfielder just after they sold Thiago.
3.) Strootman. Everyone said he was in the bag, and then it turned out that it was never a done deal, we never even bid for him. I wanted us to get him. He is a good player, with world class potential in my opinion, but Moyes felt otherwise i suppose, which i can kind of understand since he didn’t play too well in this summers U-21 tournament.
We had a chance of signing each of them, how big or small that chance may have been. All of them are central midfielders, and lets look at other CMs that fans blame Moyes for not signing that have transferred elsewhere in this transfer window. Moyes officially started the job on the 1st of July, met the squad a few days later. He took a couple of weeks to assess the quality, strengths and weaknesses of the squad he inherited, and so no transfer decisions were made until his assessment of the squad was complete. I had mentioned all of this in a previous article i wrote, a couple of weeks ago, and Moyes pretty much confirmed what i said in a recent interview with Sky Sports. Link to that is here (video is no longer available on Sky, so got a transcript from elsewhere):
Therefore, i don’t agree with fans opinion that Moyes should have signed the following players.
1.) Paulinho. He joined Spurs on the 6th of July. So, how could Moyes possibly have signed Paulinho? I don’t agree with fans backlash against Moyes for not signing him.
2.) Wanyama. He transferred on 11th of July. How could Moyes have signed him?
3.) Gustavo. He very recently joined Wolfsburg. He is a pretty good player, and i wanted United to sign him because he would give us something different. He is a pure defensive midfielder, that can tackle well and make good interceptions. His passing and technique is pretty decent. But i can understand if Moyes didn’t want to sign him, because i had difficulty envisioning where he was going to play. Since Carrick our main CM, he starts most games, and so would have Gustavo. But both like to stay deep, and that just won’t have worked out too well because the gap between them and the forwards would have been too big.
We lost Thiago to Bayern, because he wanted them and Pep. Fair enough. Moyes didn’t think Strootman was good enough. Fair enough. We didn’t land Fabregas. Now this is the main issue with a lot of United fans. Most think we wasted time trying to sign him. But tell me, how many top class CMs were in the market before we moved in and tried to sign him? Which other top class CMs could we have tried to get, that we would have had a much better chance of signing than Fabregas (even after accounting for the fact that getting Fabregas was a long shot)? If i am not mistaken, Fabregas was the first CM we bid for after Moyes had completed his assessment of the squad (we talked to Thiago supposedly, but didn’t bid for him). Up till that moment, all available CMs had gone, Thiago, Paulinho, etc. At that moment, the only ones left. were not only top class CMs, but were very difficult to get, such as Fabregas, Modric, etc. So, if we wasted time bidding for Fabregas, then which top CM could he have bid for instead, that was as good as him, and more likely to sign for us? Answers on a postcard (i hate this phrase, but using it anyway). Before you say Modric, he is a favourite of Ancelotti, and if i am not mistaken, it was he that tried to sign him while he was still Chelsea manager, and Modric joined Real Madrid just one year back.
Remember that Moyes said we will only go for world class players, and if we can’t get them, then we will promote young players within the club. I feel he would also consider buying youngsters, from other clubs, that have world class potential, if we can’t get top class players and if the current youth teamers in the club don’t fit the bill for the position Moyes wants to address. This is the correct, and wise approach in my opinion. Only in desperate situations should we just buy players that aren’t world class, but whether United’s central midfield is amazing or not, this is the central midfield we used to win the league last year, and lose out on goal difference to City the year before that. We don’t need bodies as badly as people think we do, even though Scholes retired, but most would agree his performances weren’t as good as years gone by. We have a young Powell coming through. If we don’t get a top CM, then shouldn’t we just give Powell a chance? If not, then what is the point of the youth academy and its players, if we don’t trust them and give them chances? Aren’t we blocking their path to the first team squad if we just sign average players?
Over the past few days, some United fans have been going ape shit on twitter saying we should be signing Willian. Why? Just because he is a good player? He prefers playing on the left wing, for which we already have Nani, who is as good as Willian if not better, and Young, who is average at best. Signing Willian could improve the left wing options. He has no chance of playing as a CAM, due to Rooney and Kagawa. No chance of playing on the right wing due to Valencia and Zaha. If we were to sign Willian, where the hell are Lingard and Januzaj going to play? Ever since preseason, fans have been begging United for putting both youngsters in the first team squad, but how are these two going to get chances if we sign Willian? As it is, LW, CAM and RW, have 2 options in each role even before Januzaj and Lingard are considered. That is why, during this summer, i have realised that some United fans have the Pacific Rim mentality.
Didn’t get what i meant? Let me elaborate.
Around 2 weeks ago, me, my younger brother, and my cousins went for a movie. I wanted to watch Wolverine, but my eldest cousin (lets call him, D) wanted to watch Pacific Rim, and he persuaded the others, even though he already watched it before. I saw the ratings online and heard it was uber shit, but majority wins, so i went. Bought the biggest bucket of caramel popcorn, and a pepsi without ice (they didn’t have coke). Got in my seat next to D, 5 minutes after the movie started. The hall was pretty empty. Movie was crap, and totally overrated. It flattered to deceive, and tried to be very fancy (just like some United fans when it comes to their knowledge on how to run a football club). Only entertainment was some of the action scenes, and the fight for the popcorn. But the one thing i learnt from this movie was that D had a fetish for big robots and/or big monster movies. No matter how shit the movie is, he will still go to the cinema to watch it, twice. This eureka moment happened during the movie, and i kept turning my head slowly to see D’s face during the movie. He was so into the movie (giggling, wide eyes, etc), loved the fighting scenes, cheesy dialogue and jokes. After the movie, and on the way back, he kept defending the movie after i kept saying i would rate it as 2/10.
Just like how D has a fetish for such movies (no matter how bad they are), some United fans have a fetish for collecting good players, even though we may be stacked in a certain position. So many United fans want Willian, even though there is no space to fit him in. We do have a little space since Young is average, or maybe even as crap as Pacific Rim, but shouldn’t that that little space be used to squeeze in a young, talented player from the academy, like Januzaj or Lingard? Most of these fans that want Willian, also want those two youngsters promoted. Where is all this space coming from? Did i miss the memo where United can field more than 11 players at a time during a match? I watched Pandorum and Sunshine recently. Both were very good movies, but none were enough of a mindfuck to make me miss the memo so many other United fans seem to have gotten. There are many other players that some United fans want to buy, that are good (but not world class), even though we have no space for them in the squad.
PS: How do most of these United fans know Willian is so good? Did they watch the Ukrainian league regularly while he was there? Do they watch the Russian league on a weekly basis? Answer to both questions, is bullshit. Most of them just watched some youtube montage clips of Willian, and think he an amazing winger. Nani has some amazing youtube clips too, but i don’t see United fans giving him as much love as they are showering on Willian. Let a few years pass, and even Bebe will have a few sick montage videos. Would you then want to sign Bebe based on that? Willian is good, but not world class. Nani is as good as he is, and if United fans want Januzaj and/or Lingard to get chances, then walk the talk and beg United to put them in the squad instead of buying Willian.
Fergie told us to support Moyes, and any man with common sense knew that this summer was going to be a transition stage for Moyes and Ed Woodward, hence the bumpy ride. Both didn’t have time to plan out the summer campaign, since Moyes wasn’t the manager last season, and only got a chance to assess the squad in early July till mid July, and was assessing the squad while on tour mind you (so he didn’t even get a chance to look at every single player before he moved into the transfer market). After the assessment was done, the only CMs left, were the ones that can be personified by the great man below.
Most of us wanted United to try and get a world class CM, and that is exactly what we have been trying to do. If the million to one moves for Modric and/or Fabregas fail, then we still have Fellaini as backup option, and i am willing to bet that he wants to join us, and Everton will agree to a deal if we bid their valuation, at least thats what Martinez words yesterday seemed to be hinting at. Personally, i don’t think Fellaini is world class, but i would take him if Moyes think Powell isn’t ready yet and if he thinks Fellaini is good enough.
But, i get a sense of comfort in the knowledge that we tried to get a world class CM, and seem to still be trying to get such a player. The coward’s way out would have been to just buy Fellaini right from the start, but Moyes stayed true to his word and tried to sign Fabregas, and possibly even Modric. Unfortunately, by the time Moyes was able to get into the transfer market, players that could have interested him (like Paulinho) had already been transferred. Moyes prefers signing players early in the transfer window, and that is what i expect will happen from next summer and onwards. If Ed Woodward is incompetent at transfers, then he too will learn and the experience till next summer will be a baptism of fire, just like David Gill learnt, but then again, he had it easier than Ed since he started his tenure as CEO while Fergie was manager, whereas Ed is not only the new CEO but he is also the CEO of a brand new United manager. This summer was always going to be a transition phase.
But, i am confident that Moyes and Ed will sign a player or more before the window closes. Events of this summer won’t be repeated again, since the circumstances that dictated this summer’s transfer campaign are a one-off. Its not like we are going to get a new manager next year or a new CEO. There is a very interesting article on Moyes and his scouting/transfer assessment system, that i think everyone should read. I like Moyes method, and look forward to seeing it in full flow in next summer’s transfer window.