In his typically forthright style, former Manchester United skipper Gary Neville has underlined what many of the club’s fans are thinking. Why are the club finding it so hard to sign anyone?
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has identified three areas of weakness, a wide right-sided player, left-back and central defence.
But, despite being linked with scores of players, so far they are yet to add to their solitary close-season purchase, £35m Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax.
“It’s appalling that in this market, which is probably the easiest in Premier League history to get transfers done, that United haven’t done more yet,” grumbled Neville on Twitter. “The others are managing to get things over the line, why not United?”
Neville’s comments heap more pressure on United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and his transfer negotiator, head of corporate development, Matt Judge.
The Sancho pursuit
Solskjaer made Jadon Sancho his number one transfer target but Borussia Dortmund have so far resisted United’s advances.
The German club did indicate a willingness to do business earlier in the summer but placed a 10 August deadline on a deal being done to coincide with their return to pre-season training.
United felt the deadline was arbitrary and ignored it. At the time, they were more concerned at Dortmund’s asking price – over £100m – which they felt was too high, and the difficulty of negotiating through a third party, which is at the Bundesliga outfit’s request.
It is understood Sancho’s salary and agents’ fees around the transfer are sorted. But, so far, Dortmund are sticking to their mantra that the deadline to do a deal has gone.
They have rejected United’s latest offer and insist they will not sell. The question now, is do United continue the pursuit or look elsewhere?
Potentially, there are deals that can be done. Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele and Ivan Perisic at Inter Milan are two quality players who are obtainable.
However, whether either would be willing to join on loan – Perisic spent last season at Bayern Munich, who decided against making the move permanent – is open to debate.
Watford’s Ismaila Sarr has also been mentioned. The advantage here is that internal transfers between Premier League and Football League clubs can continue until 16 October. But Watford are adamant they are only interested in a straight sale and Sarr is unproven at the level United are looking for.
United have identified Porto left-back Alex Telles as a player of interest. However, as with Sancho, they feel the asking price is too high. In this instance it is £18m for a player who is out of contract next summer and, because the transfer window has shifted, can sign pre-contract terms in three months’ time.
The financial side cannot be ignored.
Neville may believe deals are easy to do but in addition to not signing players, United are having difficulty realising their assets.
Andreas Pereira is set to join Lazio on loan but there are half a dozen other first-team players available for sale that United are yet to move on.
Chris Smalling has been training on his own, hoping to return to Roma, where he enjoyed a successful loan spell last season. Smalling knows agreement is not certain, which would effectively turn him into an outcast.
It is not what the former England man wants. However, he will accept the situation if that is what occurs, leaving United picking up a hefty wage bill for someone who is not getting picked. Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo are other central defenders who fit into the same category.
Without reducing the head count, it is difficult to see United making further additions in an area of the pitch where problems clearly exist, which only increases the spotlight Neville is shining on the club.