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Football

Manchester United making Progress in the transfer market

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Man Utd have taken a step in the right direction in the transfer market but progress is still being hampered ahead of the winter window.Nothing has encapsulated the chaos and calamity of a Manchester United transfer window quite like a friend’s experience of Ed Woodward’s first deadline day in September 2013: “I went to bed and Fellaini was staying and Coentrao was signing. I woke up and Fellaini had signed and Coentrao had stayed.”Open season is usually declared on United in the wake of a window closure and they often get both barrels. For the third summer running, the domestic deadline passed with just three new additions and the manager short of at least one priority target.United are in the cross-hairs of revisionists, too. Whether it is Liverpool mischief-makers or a confidant of Virgil van Dijk’s, tales have emerged of a late United enquiry and Jose Mourinho vetoing a move for Van Dijk. They are about as true as fairy tales. Regrettably for United, they were just never in for Van Dijk.High-level sources at United described the £75million fee Liverpool agreed with Southampton for Van Dijk as ‘cheap’ in August of last year. The word from United at the time was they had the funds to spend £100m on a centre half yet did not deem any of them worthy of their valuations. So a year after they balked at the £75m Leicester demanded for Harry Maguire, they paid £80m for him.Maybe it was just as well Maguire stayed for another year at Leicester. Had United yielded 13 months ago, he would have been parachuted into a Mourinho maelstrom on the back of a freakish World Cup for England, without a pre-season and suddenly the joint-costliest defender on the planet. Maguire may have buckled.Still, United were the second-best team in the land and now they are sixth-best. By virtue of United getting worse, Maguire has become better. His accomplished start was inevitable and the mood around the club is now friendly rather than fraught for new additions.Newly-signed United centre halves tend to struggle initially and Eric Bailly, player of the month in his first month, was the standout exception in 2016. Before Bailly, Henning Berg bucked the trend in 1997. Berg, like Maguire, was a Premier League veteran – with a winner’s medal from his four years at Blackburn.United did not really need to put their first monthly player accolade to a vote. Daniel James recovered from a premature promotion at Wolves with two goals in as many matches and made good on his early promise in training. Those present for his first sessions at Carrington said United players ‘could not lay a glove on him’. United thought outside the box to spend £15m on James and he has been lethal inside the box.Aaron Wan-Bissaka has enhanced the defence and attack. Matteo Darmian admittedly enjoyed an auspicious start four years ago, though it was apparent in his third Premier League start against Newcastle he was averse to attacking.That player of the month vote was only worthwhile for United in that it showcased their improved recruitment strategy; James, Wan-Bissaka and Maguire were the three nominees. No other Premier League summer signing has outscored James so far and Maguire was man of the match on his debut against Chelsea.United will never admit it publicly or privately, but their recruitment reboot was partially enforced by relegation to the Europa League. Their summer stock was the lowest it had been in decades and the focus on British talent was a convenient get-out. “Ninety-nine per cent of players want to play for Manchester United and the rest are liars,” Gordon McQueen once proclaimed. The majority of home grown players have always been enticed by United.The strategy change has been such a success so far perhaps Sean Longstaff would have unlocked some of the compact defences United have failed to break down. Woodward was right not to call Newcastle back after they demanded £50m in early July, though United were so dormant on the midfield it seemed there was no fall-back for the fall-back. Longstaff’s representatives admitted there were ‘a few’ midfielders ahead of him under consideration by United.An elite club manager requiring two summer transfer windows has become a cliché and there is no rhyme or reason for United ending the summer with three new players and a net spend of £60.4m when they posted a record revenue of £590m a year ago. It is not a coincidence United have never spent over £150m in a single summer on permanent additions and senior club sources confirmed their annual preference for three in and three out in a window. It was three in and six out.Something or someone is stunting progress for the football figures and the source is doubtless 4,200 miles away in Tampa, Florida. Already, United’s number nine and midfielder are injured and if Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba are unfit for the key clash with Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday it would not be disingenuous to regard the visitors as favourites. United currently look likelier to get out of Europe than Boris Johnson this season.Bayern Munich were derided for ending up with Ivan Perisic rather than Leroy Sane or Callum Hudson-Odoi, only they replaced Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben with Perisic and Philippe Coutinho on loan deals to enhance their squad in the short-term, ahead of a likely move for Sane next year.As Sir Alex Ferguson quipped in May, ‘they run the club in the right way’.

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