It is the case of another January transfer window and another snooze fest for the greatest club in English football at this moment in time.
Ever since the Glazer family took full control of Manchester United in 2005, supporters of the club have witnessed a gradual decline in quality both off the pitch- in relation to the way the club is run- and on the pitch in regard to the fact the team has never consistently competed for the top trophies.
A big part of this has been the failure to back managers in transfer windows, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ralf Rangnick having all been let down by the men in charge at Old Trafford.
The mentioned gradual decline of United certainly seems to be turning into progression under the latest manager Erik ten Hag, who has impacted the quality and mentality of his squad greater and quicker than anybody will have thought he could. One thing that has not changed, though, is the consistent failure to back the manager in the January window from the club hierarchy.
The big-money transfer of Bruno Fernandes this time in 2020 will come to the mind of many fans, but aside from the sporadic splash in recent years, United have never utilised the winter window in the way that other teams have; the other big clubs in England have taken hefty strides ahead of The Reds with January signings in recent years to strengthen their challenge for the second half of campiagns.
United have often missed out on Champions League qualification and any deep runs into competitions due to the lack of spending, while other teams have pipped them to it. Fans and pundits alike predict that, despite Ten Hag’s amazing progress that has been made so far, the Dutchman may fall short of what he could be capable of doing due to inadequate backing in the mid-season transfer window.
Benoit Badiashile (£35m), Joao Felix (loan), Mykhailo Mudryk (£88m) and Noni Madueke (£29m) have all been bought for Graham Potter’s struggling Chelsea, whilst Mikel Arteta’s title-charging Arsenal have been supplemented with Leandro Trossard (£27m) and Jakub Kiwior (£21m) and are still reported to be looking to bring in a midfielder. Without listing every transfer, Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle are all actively seeking to add to their squads as well.Embed from Getty Images
Meanwhile, Ten Hag has settled with Wout Weghorst on loan as his only acquisition so far. The striker is a likeable guy and even bagged his first goal recently, but it does not take a genius to work out that he was not the man Ten Hag will have wanted in an ideal world. It is common knowledge that the manager wanted Coady Gakpo or Joao Felix, originally, who are now at Liverpool and Chelsea respectively.
Some consider the lack of spending this January acceptable as the club will soon be sold, but many are considering if this is an appropriate stance to have. A mere £30m outlay on one or two players could be the difference between the Champions League and the Europa League; top four seems nailed on now, yet there are many games still to be played and the current quality in the squad’s depth leaves a lot to be desired.
Also, from the Glazer’s standpoint, a decent financial outlay could improve the team’s chances of winning something, which would then make the club more valuable and lead to more profit in any sale that is forthcoming.
For the first time in years, fans can see a project amongst the manager and the players that they can genuinely get behind and back. The trophy drought since 2017 could soon be ended and there is an all-round good mood around the club.
Sadly, the bottom line is that there are no football minds in the hierarchy at the club that will see the benefit of spending, and the disregarding of January transfer windows is continuing.
It is hardly all doom and gloom. United are definitely going places under Ten Hag. It is believed that the club are looking to bring in another forward on loan which- given the situation- fans cannot turn their noses up at. It is just frustrating that The Red Devils could be doing even better if the ownership was remotely competent in a footballing context.