Summer Transfer Review – Was it that bad?

Manchester United Executive Vice-Chairman, Ed Woodward

This summer was the longest to endure and one of the most painful in some fans eyes. At the beginning of the window, many thought there were a few priority positions that needed replacing. Generally it went RW, CB, CDM and LB, in that specific order of priority too. The number one right wing target was Borussia Dortmund star, Jadon Sancho. As we all know, the saga became drawn out over the entire window, and due to some poor negotiation on our part, we ended up missing out on our man. The episode lasted until the last day of the window, agitating much of the fan base as it seemed we had a clear run at the youngster. After missing out on Sancho, many expected the club to move for Ousmane Dembele but that deal also fell through late on, for its own reasons. We therefore ended the window without any immediate first team right wingers (we signed two but we’ll get into details on that later). For the centre back positions, we only seemed to have two real targets for the window; Nathan Ake and Dayot Upamecano. Manchester City snapped up Nathan Ake early on in the window for £41,000,000, leaving Upamecano as the remaining target. He then quickly signed a new contract at his current club, RB Leipzig, making a move this past summer not impossible, but highly improbable. That deal then fizzled out and we didn’t hear anything else on centre backs for the rest of the window. Moving onto a defensive midfielder, we never seemed in the race for one. At the start of the window, there were rumours over a move for Partey, but they quickly went quiet and he ended up at Arsenal on deadline day of the window. Then finally the left back position is the only position that we managed to fill, albeit on the last day of the window as pressure mounted after a poor start to the season. That doesn’t mean the window was 100% a disaster though, some astute signings seem to have been made, just not what everyone dreamed of.


Donny Van de Beek

Manchester United midfielder, Donny Van de Beek

The first signing we announced this season (the only deal not announced on deadline day) was that of Donny Van de Beek from AFC Ajax for an upfront fee of £35,100,000 with around £5,000,000 in potential add ons on the 2nd September. A versatile midfielder, he can play a range of positions and roles across the midfield, from an attacking midfielder all the way back to a number 6. He is normally a more offensively minded player, who excels at quick one-two’s and playing between the lines, finding pockets of space in the opposition and using his intelligent movement to hurt them. It is probable that Donny Van de Beek won’t start the majority of matches this season, and will instead provide depth and rotation for Bruno and Pogba. For Ole’s 4-2-3-1, he would slot in at either the number 10 position, playing off the striker, or as a central midfielder in the pivot, likely playing as an 8 or 6, depending on who the partner is in the pivot. As a player, he is a good signing, and United desperately required depth across their midfield, so in that sense it was smart. Against the backdrop of how the rest of the window went, it has been a criticised transfer as it wasn’t seen as a high priority, but in hindsight for many it is a needed signing as one or two injuries could decimate any chances of success this season.

“Van de Beek. Nobody talks much about him, but he has a dynamic in the game, he gets behind Tadic, he arrives, he works, he scores goals.”

Mauricio Pochettino on Donny Van de Beek

Transfer Rating – 7/10


Alex Telles

New Manchester United left back, Alex Telles

The first signing that we announced on deadline day was of FC Porto left back Alex Telles. We had been linked with the Brazilian throughout the last weeks of the window. The Portuguese club were demanding a fee of around £20,000,000, where United felt the valuation was way too high, considering the player’s contract expires next summer, so the club could negotiate a Bosman transfer in the January transfer window. They finally agreed on a deal for £13,500,000 up front with a further £2,000,000 in potential add ons. An attacking minded left back, he got 11 goals & 9 assists in the Primeira Liga last season, which for a full back is very impressive. He does most of his damage in the final third, and with United attacking predominantly down the left side, he will see lots of the ball. Where Shaw is great at build up play, this is not where Telles excels, so we will have to make adjustments for that. Telles looks to get into the final third more and play a variety of crosses into the box. He doesn’t require other players around him to put him in a position to create which is useful, as he will force those opportunities himself. This negates Rashford’s pass he has developed to the underlapping/overlapping fullback to some extent, but does give Marcus the flexibility to roam more centrally as Telles will keep his own on the left flank. The player who may benefit the most from Telles’ crossing ability is one of our other new signings, Uruguayan hitman, Edinson Cavani. He is the most accomplished in the air of any of our forward players, as headed attempts are definitely one of his strengths. Telles has been a popular signing with lots of the fans, as it addressed one of the problem positions identified in the squad.

“He’s a really good player. You can play openly and in many other positions he is a good player”

Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos on Alex Telles

transfer rating – 8/10


Facundo Pellistri

18 year old right winger, Facundo Pellistri

One of two Uruguayans to join the Red Devils on deadline day, the relatively unknown Facundo Pellistri made his move from Penarol in South America to United for a fee of around £7,650,000 on a 5 year contract. He is a diminutive and very skilled player, who who glides around the field and has a play style similar to that of David Silva according to those close to the player. Not blessed with blistering pace, he instead combines technique with skill to dance between players on his mazy runs. The one criticism that has been echoed by various sources, is that he is not very physical and sometimes can be bullied, which as people know, the Premier League is a fairly physical league. There is not a wealth of knowledge on the youngster over in Europe, but it is said the player will be fast tracked to the senior team, so we could see him in the side sooner rather than later. He is a right winger, which was needed, but it is unlikely he will make an immediate impact as it is more likely a move for the future, not fixing any current issues in the squad.

“Pellistri is a young lad and I really love the way he plays the game, he’s the typical South American footballer who has that mischievous nature to his game”

Edinson Cavani when asked about his fellow countryman

transfer rating – 6/10


Edinson Cavani

Former Paris Saint-Germain forward, Edinson Cavani

In one of the more surprising moves for the club this summer, they picked up striker Edinson Cavani on a free transfer, with him signing a two year contract at the club (reportedly with the option to break it after one year, both for him and the club). A move that has left many fans with mixed feelings, he looks to come in and give United a different dynamic up front to what is already offered by Martial. His goalscoring rate at his previous club, PSG, was 0.82 goals per 90 in the league, and that was over 7 seasons, with most of those alongside a combination of other ball hungry forwards in Zlatan, Neymar Jr and Mbappe. This speaks to his quality as a player and how consistent he is, despite of the fact he was often not the main man. He will not get the same quantity of chances at United compared to PSG, a bi-product of the different styles of each team, and their respective dominance in each league. Though not a perfect metric, we can look at the non penalty xG per shot as a comparison between Martial and Cavani, this will give us a very basic idea as to which player is receiving the better quality chances. Over Cavani’s 7 seasons at the Paris club, he average 0.24xG per shot, Martial at United has averaged 0.13 xG per shot. This is quite a big difference so expect to see Edinson’s goal output dip a bit, unless his excellent off ball movement can make up the difference. Whereas our current number 9 looks to drop off and link play a lot, expect our number 7 to play more as a traditional centre forward when he is in the line up. Overall he provides great depth to the squad, and if used correctly, could be a dangerous weapon, especially combined with the likes of Telles.

“An out-and-out No9 would be Edinson Cavani. He’s a very strong player with great movement in and out of the box. He also helps the team with his hold-up play and is a great No9.”

Ruud Van Nistelrooy when asked which current striker resembles himself

transfer rating – 6.5/10


Amad Diallo

New Manchester United winger, Amad Diallo

In one of the fastest moving transfers of the transfer window, Manchester United secured the signing of young Atalanta winger, Amad Diallo (move to be completed in January when work permit details are finalised). The club paid £18,900,000 up front with around that same amount again in potential add ons for the Italian club. Our second 18 year old right winger of the window, Diallo comes in with a reputation as one of the most exciting prospects in the whole of Serie A. Blessed with blistering speed, he has an exquisite first touch and as stated by his team captain, Papu Gomez “He plays like Messi. To stop him in training, we have to kick him!”. High praise as you can see for an 18 year old with three senior appearances. We will have to wait until at least January to see our first glimpse of the youngster in a United shirt, and even when he does arrive, there is no guarantee he comes in straight away and solves the problem at right wing because he is so young and raw.

“He plays like Messi. To stop him in training, we have to kick him!”

Atalanta captain Papu Gomez on Diallo

transfer rating – 7/10


Conclusion

Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

On the face of it, some people may say the transfer window wasn’t that bad, we still managed to bring in 5 players etc, etc. We have to however, view it objectively and with the standards we set out at the beginning of the window, and not reduce our expectations in hindsight. As was previously mentioned, we had hoped to get a right winger, centre back, defensive midfielder and a left back by all accounts. We only managed to acquire first team players in one of those positions, Alex Telles at left back. The club spent the entire summer chasing the ghost of Sancho, which it later became apparent was a wild goose chase once the 10th of August had passed; the majority of our transfers had to be rushed on the final day as we finally realised Jadon was a no-go. Van de Beek and Cavani may prove to be great squad depth signings, and may even become starters, but the elephant in the room remains. We didn’t get starter quality players for the 4 positions Ole asked from the board. We did sign two wingers, but they are both 18, with not even 30 senior games between them and one of them doesn’t even join until January. None of the signings were particularly bad in isolation, but when the context of what was needed for the squad, the board let us down. In light of that, it is hard to give our transfer window a score above 5, and in my opinion is closer to a 4/10. We have made some good signings, some of which were needed, but failed to address 3/4 of the problem areas singled out by the manager. Now, after a rough start to the season, Solskjaer’s job looks under threat, and without the players he asked for to help him, looks like he is fighting against an ever more impossible task to keep his job.

transfer window rating – 4/10


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