After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer somehow managed to drag his Manchester United side to a third-placed finish in last season’s Premier League, the belief was that the manager would be given the tools to build on that and close the gap on both Liverpool and Manchester City.
Jadon Sancho was the man mooted to be heading to Old Trafford. The Borussia Dortmund winger was expected to rebuild the legacy of the famed No.7 jersey and add to the attacking flair that had been witnessed in the closing parts of the 2019/20 campaign. For one reason or another, the move failed to materialise.
Instead, in came Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles, Edinson Cavani and Facundo Pellistri, with Amad Diallo potentially joining up with the squad in January.
The result is a divided fanbase. A fanbase who has watched the likes of Chelsea, Aston Villa and Leeds United outspend the biggest force in English football.
However, if the promise of Jadon Sancho hadn’t been there, would you call this a successful transfer window for Manchester United?
Forget the pounds spent for a moment. Forget that the business should’ve been completed weeks ago. Instead, look at the talent. A midfield engine to compliment the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba that adds strength in depth. A potential upgrade on Luke Shaw. One of the world’s top strikers of the last decade and two youngsters capable of becoming long-standing Manchester United players.
Whichever way that is spun, that is a transfer window straight out the book of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. The promise of a big money, high profile name such as Sancho shouldn’t detract from this.
Cavani, for example, could prove to be the most lucrative piece of business performed by United this summer. A proven goalscorer, a serial winner. The Uruguayan netted 200 times in 301 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain, 104 in 138 for Napoli before that.
It’s clear that Solskjaer doesn’t trust Odion Ighalo. After a promising start, the Nigerian has failed to make the matchday squad for the last two Premier League outings leaving United without a recognised striker on the bench. With Martial’s dismissal against Tottenham, the addition of Cavani will mean that they 33-year-old could be thrust straight into the side for the match against Newcastle United later this month.
🇺🇾 New Manchester United signing Edinson Cavani scoring goals against Premier League sides 👀@ECavaniOfficial | @ManUtd | #UCL pic.twitter.com/5qbcsYwZY4October 6, 2020
Telles is also a shrewd signing, one that will offer an attacking threat from the left which is often lacking from Luke Shaw. The Brazilian has already notched up two goals and two assists in just three appearances for Porto this season, adding to the 19 goal contributions from last season. Shaw, on the other hand, has zero goals or assists in the Premier League since the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in April 2019.
Van de Beek has already shown touches of quality in his brief stint in a Manchester United shirt, scoring on his debut in the 3-1 defeat against Crystal Palace on the opening day. It surely won’t be long before the Dutchman is given his chance from the off in the Premier League, with his only two starts to date coming in the Carabao Cup.
When Ferguson signed an unknown Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 to replace outgoing legend David Beckham, eyebrows were raised. Fast forward five years, and the Portuguese superstar helped United become the best club side in world football, while also being crowned the best footballer in the world.
Few had heard of Facundo Pellistri until he signed for the club, but then few had heard of a certain CR7. Make no mistake, this is the kind of signing Fergie would’ve lapped up.
There is an obvious gap from the summer window, made more obvious by the humiliating 6-1 defeat against Spurs: a centre back. Despite having the second-best defensive record in the Premier League last season, United have conceded 11 goals in just three games so far in 2020/21.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have suffered an alarming loss of form, whilst Eric Bailly still seems raw. However, there’s an obvious answer in the form of 18-year-old Teden Mengi. The youngster is highly regarded at Old Trafford and those beliefs seemed justified when he captained the under 21 side to a 6-0 win over Salford City in the EFL Trophy last month.
Mengi will offer pace which Maguire and Lindelof both lack, and to quote a certain Sir Matt Busby, “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.”
United may not have landed that marquee signing so many fans hoped for but, in the end, it looks like it could prove to be a very successful window after all.