The rain is pouring down in England today and there is an inescapable feeling that summer has gone. The end of the football market is closing and Manchester United are dashing along the aisles still in search of their key ingredient. There certainly looked to be a sour taste in Louis van Gaal’s mouth yesterday.
The final hours of Manchester United’s transfer window are shaping up to be hectic and rather disjointed. The same could be said for their performance at Swansea City on Sunday afternoon as an organised defence exposed their toothlessness once again. Things are shaping up for another season of mixed blessings.
Swansea are an admirable football team with a collection of well-drilled players and, in Bafétimbi Gomis, a striker who is a bit of a handful. But can you see United surrendering 2-1 to them if Fergie had been in charge? With the game petering out, hope was already extinguished. Things weren’t like this in the old days.
The reaction has not come towards the end of games for United of late. Instead, the end of transfer windows is when the frenzy begins. It is far less edifying. In the past, a striker would be thrown on and Peter Schmeical sent up for corners. Instead, United have bid £30 million for a French teenager.
It seems unlikely that Anthony Martial will prove to be the panacea for United’s problems. Nor is the imminent sale of Javier Hernandez to Bayer Leverkeusen. The arrival of these events so late in the piece strongly suggests they are last-minute decisions. Which suggests below average planning.
Louis van Gaal was correct in defending Sergio Romero in the aftermath of Swansea’s victory. The keeper should have done better with their second but the fact of the matter is United should be causing more damage at the other end of the pitch.
The usual conclusion people come to is that Wayne Rooney is either past-it, overrated or the anti-Christ. There are different scales of opinion on Rooney but the tactics are not helping his cause. United are ponderous where once they were ruthless.
Those in the ‘Rooney is past-it’ camp collected plenty of material in Wales. He gave the ball away for Swansea’s winner but did so whilst trying to play an incisive early ball. On another day it would have gotten through and lead to a United chance. No one else on the team was attempting that kind of pass at the weekend. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t that guy.
Nonetheless, he did miss a gilt-edged opportunity early in the match and there can be no excuses for that kind of carelessness. Chief Exec Ed Woodward has mist a few git-edged chances of his own this summer.
If Martial turns out to be better value than Pedro at twice the price, there will be much rejoicing. Prepare for much hand-wringing in the meantime though. These things wouldn’t matter so much if there were performances and results that offered encouragement. Alas, this is only slightly so.
There was a mild smattering of boos after the Newcastle game and the dropping of points again this weekend seemed both unnecessary and the direct result of United’s lack of cutting edge. It hardly helps that City are performing perfectly just down the road.
The outgoings list is due to expand before the window closes too. De Gea is on his way to Madrid and that gesture I saw outside the gates last week might have been his middle digit after all.
The word I shouted?
Chicharito won the hearts and minds of many of the faithful but there were always those with misgivings about him. I had a brief chat with a former player last Saturday who said he was “never United quality.” LVG clearly agreed, despite Giggsie’s alleged disagreement.
Empires are not built or destroyed on one summer’s worth of business but history waits in judgement on the careers of Woodward and Van Gaal over the next few months. Depending on your interpretation, this period has been either a triumph or a catastrophe. There are arguments for both but the football results, and the performances behind them, will ultimately decide their fates.
The summer has definitely gone now and, like the rest of the country, Manchester United and Van Gaal have to go back to work. They have certainly got plenty to do.
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