By Adam Joseph
Deadline day has passed without a single signing arriving at Old Trafford in the winter transfer period. Ed Woodward heads toward a sixth consecutive failed window without acquiring the targets that the squad so badly needs. Defensive reinforcements and a source of goals have been badly required, but to no avail.
Some may argue that no arrivals signal a lack of confidence in the current manager, meaning the club may not want to invest in a manager they have no faith in beyond the season. The question that stems from that though is a big source of the frustration – then what exactly are United doing?
New signings are the quickest remedy for midseason struggles. Most new arrivals (where Anthony Martial is the exception, not the rule) will take time to adapt, but every announcement comes with newfound optimism and belief for the players and the club as a whole. That’s not to say that players should be signed solely for this purpose, but it was clear that there’s a terrible need for reinforcements at Old Trafford.
Defensive struggles remain, with Chris Smalling crying out for an experienced or at least classier partner next to him. Daley Blind has done an admirable job in defence, but his forward passing brilliance and diminutive physique is better suited to playing in a midfield role. He is quite simply not a Premier League centre back week in and week out.
Long term injuries to Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and last resort Ashley Young has the left side being held down by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The youngster has performed admirably and alongside fellow full back Guillermo Varela at Pride Park, but if the youngster goes down next with injury, what then? And should United be relying on yet another young player to hold down a first XI spot?
Meanwhile up front despite the three goals at the weekend United’s luck will not always be as good against stronger opponents. Clashes this week await at home to Stoke City and then away to Chelsea, where the Red Devils will face a sterner test than Derby could provide. At the start of the season concerns were valid about the depth of the frontline and those concerns have rung true through the first half of the season.
Manchester United won a game of football at the weekend, and they did so with surprising conviction. A 3-1 victory over Championship side Derby County gave some brief joy to Red Devils fans after a testing period where joy was scarcely found.
It was not an end-to-end game by any means, with United again dominating that statistic with 67 percent possession. They registered only three shots on target and six in total, but for the most part it was them who controlled the flow of the game.
The red side of Manchester now progresses through to the fifth round, where a meeting with Shrewsbury awaits. The draw continues to favour United with somewhat weaker opponents getting put against them, and perhaps this is the year they can make a Cup run. But that is the most optimistic of predictions, because one win against Derby will not eradicate the increasingly terrible atmosphere and tension that surrounds the club.
Jesse Lingard has risen to a level of prominence so far this campaign, but this is still the same player who struggled a heap on loan at Pride Park in his time there last season on loan. Lingard a year later now finds himself in the first XI at Old Trafford. As nice as that is for a United youth product to have made the grade, he is not of sufficient calibre at present to be starting for Manchester United. Why a superior player like Memphis sits behind him is truly bizarre and is yet another questionable tactical choice of Louis Van Gaal’s.
The uncertainty and questions within the playing staff and around the club are endless at the moment, despite the recent upturn in form. However the greatest uncertainty lies off the field. Beyond Ed Woodward’s incompetence and the Glazers only love of the bottom line, lays the confusion around the tenancy of Louis Van Gaal.
Now the club don’t owe anyone an explanation as to where his future is with the club. Planning now and in the future is nobody’s business, but the silence around the club is deafening when rumours are flying around about Van Gaal’s future in Manchester. It’s truly poor management the club have not once clarified any of the speculation.
Reports have surfaced that Woodward has taken full transfer control and the Dutchman has had any powers taken away from him. Whilst taking away Van Gaal’s influence from the market is not the worst idea considering his spending record at the club, but giving it to Woodward is a far worse thing. His constant incompetence through every single transfer window that he has overseen during his attempted “Gaalactico” policy.
To not address glaring needs again and again at the club is unacceptable, and whilst targets like Renato Sanches are nice long-term pieces they fail to address imminent needs. The club is already relying on youth like Anthony Martial and Memphis far too much; do they really want to convey that onto the next starlet that they sign? Experience and class are needed as much as youth is.
Then of course there is the elephant in the room; Jose Mourinho. His recent rumoured change of heart and desire to become the type of boss Old Trafford would want to appoint. Even for the anti-Mourinho crowd the idea of him is growing by the day. But within the confines of Old Trafford, there is an apprehension to appoint such a controversial figure.
However the club is running out of targets. Pep Guardiola’s future is up in the air, but right now his future appears to be on the sky blue side of Manchester. Carlo Ancelotti is Munich bound. So who else is there?
Diego Simeone has deep emotional ties that money can’t buy at Atletico Madrid, and has stated his desire to return to past employers Lazio or Inter Milan as his next project. Ryan Giggs is a romantic appointment, but the club quite simply are not in a position to take another risk. There just isn’t a good enough structure at the club for Giggs to have a chance to succeed.
Mauricio Pochettino is a curious case, but Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy might demand a record fee for a manager if he is to arrive. Realistically, what else is there besides Mourinho? Barring a change of fortune for Van Gaal that almost seems impossible at this point, the Portuguese may be inevitable at Old Trafford.
One win has not cleared up any of the ambiguity around the club, and with two massive challenges ahead there’s no let up yet for them. The transfer window will likely shut without a wimper, and Stoke and Chelsea lie in waiting. Can Van Gaal’s players pull out two more acts of defiance?
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
Follow him on twitter @