Going into the off-season, we wondered how the mighty Manchester United would react. Or more pressingly, how would they respond to their inter-city rivals winning the title. What could we expect to see from the players as they respond to David Moyes’ feeble efforts after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure? And how would the team come out against other clubs of their ilk, who were going out and spending big to get the players they wanted, regardless of the cost, and using them to play in the Champions League, something United were decidedly not doing this year?
They responded by spending and spending big. When the transfer deadline expired – and even a little after – the club had spent tens of millions of dollars on a small number of players that are viewed as world-class. Even the player they acquired on loan came with a huge wage price tag. But what did the Red Devils get for their expenditure? An upgrade in some areas of the pitch, a ginormous increase in firepower, but no closer to solving the most pressing problems the team already has. This club has improved but Louis van Gaal did little to relieve the pressure on the backline, which is already struggling with injuries and trying to adapt to the new formation.
Additionally, the moves show that the Dutch manager had little faith in the youth development system that Ferguson built. Up-and-coming talents, as well as Ferguson’s favorites were dispatched across the continent to make room for his new toys. What we saw this summer was a rebrand of United. Time will tell if it’s a successful revamp, but one thing is for certain – this team is van Gaal’s present and not that of the club’s previous squads.
Who came in:
- Radamel Falcao: The disgruntled AS Monaco striker comes at a low loan fee but almost $30 million in salary, which it looks like United will have to pay. While the talent is undoubtedly there, this move becomes even more necessary if Robin van Persie’s injuries cannot be overcome. The downside to such a move? Even the greatest talents sometimes need a year to adjust to the rigors of the Premier League, but there is little room for error considering who is left as strikers.
- Angel di Maria: The Argentine benefitted greatly from his World Cup displays and his fine form for Real Madrid the past few years. While his over $100 million fee is astronomical, he gives United some bite on the wings and a great scoring threat for the 3-5-2.
- Ander Herrera: He seems like old news now because of his acquisition early in the transfer window, but the attacking midfielder can push Wayne Rooney forward into a more natural striker role and serve as an attack pivot now for Falcao and Rooney.
- Daley Blind: The value of the former Ajax man comes from his positional flexibility of being able to be plugged into three or four positions and his knowledge of van Gaal’s system both from Ajax and the national team. While he’s not the biggest name signing, he’s the kind that can move a club from Europa League to Champions League.
- Others: Once he gets over his injury issues, Luke Shaw will be a welcome introduction in defense at left-back. Argentine Marcos Rojo, who is still waiting on a work permit, gives the Red Devils some depth and potentially solidity in the heart of defense. And the finally, the capture of goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic is a long-term plan, with the 17-year-old loaned him back to FC Vojvodina for the season.
- Danny Welbeck: The centre-forward completed a move to Arsenal after being informed by van Gaal that he should seek playing time elsewhere. Although he never really hit the heights that his potential merited at United, he was a flexible option in attack for the side. More than anything he is a young, tenacious and skillful player that under the right management could become a quality striker.
- Shinji Kagawa: While Kagawa never lived up completely to the promise he brought to United, he was still a player with great qualities and a dynamic option in the midfield. Van Gaal wisely shipped him to Germany to ensure that he could get his Champions League play and United get some money in return.
- Patrice Evra (Juventus) / Nemanja Vidic (Inter) / Rio Ferdinand (QPR): All of these moves make sense as it shows the abrupt transition from the old to the new. Stalwarts for the club, and all champions in their own right, they served the club manfully over the journey. The trio will provide great leadership for their new employers.
- Javier Hernandez: Three successive United managers have had questions about the ceiling of the Mexico international. Van Gaal is giving him the opportunity with the Real Madrid loan to show if he truly can play a key role for a top-flight club. A shrewd move if United retain a fit attacking department this term.
- Others: Alexander Buttner (Dinamo Moscow), Bebe (Benfica), Federico Macheda (Cardiff City), Jack Barmby (Leicester), Louis Rowley (Leicester), Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zageb), Nani (Sporting Lisbon), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace).