It's time to start getting rather concerned about Manchester United's work in the transfer market. The manager is saying all the right things and results have been impressive in pre-season, but the club hierarchy aren’t doing their job. The squad still needs an overhaul and while Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera joined early in the summer, the flood of expected signings has not materialised.
It was a superb move to appoint a manager of Louis van Gaal’s stature, but he isn't getting the support he needs from the executives and those in control of the money. He needs the right players in his squad. Where is his big statement signing?
Look at how Real Madrid conduct their business. I don’t think anyone expected them to get the James Rodriguez deal done so quickly, but they just opened up their chequebook and paid what Monaco wanted.
Why are Manchester United not doing the same? The club are always telling the fans and public how they have all this money to spend on big names. Why not ask Dortmund how much they will sell Mats Hummels for and write out a cheque there and then?
Anyone could have done a £27m deal for Shaw as Southampton were never going to turn that down; ditto Herrera and his £29m move from Athletic Bilbao. But when it comes to the tricky deals for the really big names they can’t get them over the line, and it’s a huge concern.
They’ve known for a long time how important it was to sign a player like Hummels, but here we are, a few days before the start of the new season, and they haven’t signed a single centre-back. They haven’t even managed to sign one of the Dutch defenders United have been linked with all summer yet.
Paul Scholes was right: Ed Woodward still has a lot to prove as United vice-chairman. He has been shopping in Aldi when United are a Waitrose club. Where are the big signings to back up the appointment of Van Gaal?
Manchester United are all about buying big names, but for the second summer in a row it hasn’t happened, and there is a lot of scepticism now. The squad is still very thin and in vulnerable areas too.
For Manchester United to even think about winning the league they needed to sign a couple of defenders. You can’t lose two players of the calibre and experience of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and expect to head into the new season without reinforcements.
It is a big concern. They cannot win the league and unless they make a couple of really good signings in defence and one in midfield, they will be in a battle for the top four. What happened to Liverpool last season cannot and will not happen to Manchester United.
The defence is the biggest concern. Van Gaal has switched to a 3-5-2 formation which requires three centre-backs, and United only have Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans. They can’t rely on either Smalling and Jones, and what if one of them gets injured? They would be in all kinds of trouble, especially if it was Evans as he is the most commanding of the trio.
I just don’t trust Jones and Smalling. With the latter, you don’t know what he is going to do next with the ball, while Jones is always likely to give the ball away because he is too impetuous. He is not patient. He throws himself in, and he doesn’t protect himself as a defender.
I worry that three at the back has never been successful at the top level in the Premier League. The top clubs don’t play it – it’s weaker sides who use it as it’s more defensive than offensive. I played in a 3-5-2 formation for a few years at QPR before joining Manchester United and it was a negative, destructive style of football rather than positive or creative.
If you look at the midfield they are also light there, with prospective deals for Arturo Vidal and Angel Di Maria not looking close to completion. But that has been the story of the summer.
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