Of the five men United were seemingly the most desperate to sign last summer, four of them are not having the best of times.
As always, Manchester United’s potential transfer activity took up its fair share of column inches over the summer. But in the end, only one senior player arrived, only to end up spending the vast majority of his time on the bench.
The £27.5million David Moyes paid for Marouane Fellaini has already been widely discussed. But what has not been is the possible curse that has struck both him and the other players United showed a genuine interest in signing during the last transfer window.
In total, United were linked with 38 players over the summer, but of those, five generated the most headlines.
Along with Fellaini, those men were Leighton Baines, Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera. And aside from Baines, none of them have enjoyed the best of times since switching to, snubbing, or missing out on a move to Old Trafford.
While it is a tad dramatic to claim United’s failed and successful targets have been struck down by some kind of curse, a closer look suggests something has gone awry.
The Belgian midfielder joined on transfer deadline day and did not look bad to start with. After wetting his feet from the bench against Crystal Palace, his full debut against Bayer Leverkusen showcased a man who got his foot in, broke up the play with ease and genuinely looked like the player United had been missing since Owen Hargreaves’ brief pomp.
But since then, it has all gone downhill, and Fellaini can rarely get a game with Phil Jones now preferred in the defensive midfield position – and excelling there.
There is still time for the Belgian…plenty of it. But he needs to up his game considerably.
The longest (or perhaps most tedious) rumour in a summer full of them was the one linking United to a Barcelona player; I am just not sure if it should be Thiago Alcantara or Cesc Fabregas. Either way, the former either snubbed United for a reunion with Pep Guardiola, or raised doubts in the mind of Moyes as to his ability to perform in England.
Great things were expected of him after his switch to Bayern Munich, but he tore ligaments in his right leg on his debut and has been recovering since.
When he does finally get a run of games together, he should excel. But his start to life at the Allianz Arena did not go according to plan.
The young midfielder started 34 matches for Athletic Bilbao last season. In short when he was fit, he played. But since United’s bizarre and ill-fated apparent pursuit of Herrera came to a comedic end, the 24-year-old has lost his starting spot.
First dropped for a match against Real Madrid, when United’s reported interest initially came to light, Herrera got back into the team only to spend the last two matches – against Atletico Madrid and Levante – as an unused substitute.
Whether Moyes comes back in for him in January remains to be seen, but there is no doubt his star has lost some of its shine since the summer.
I am still a little confused why United bid for Fabregas in the first place, and then continued to bid, despite having each previous one swiftly rebuffed. The belief they received encouragement from somewhere will always exist, but whatever the truth, the former Arsenal man opted to stay at the Nou Camp.
But speaking after his brace against Real Betis on Saturday, Fabregas made a statement that suggests all is not well despite the number of appearances he has made this season.
“I know the boss has a starting team in his head and I am not in it,” the Spaniard said. “I played a good game against Celta, and then I was left out for most of the two games (against Espanyol and AC Milan) and that really messes you up.”
He now hopes he has forced his way back into Gerardo Martino’s first-team plans. But could the curse be about to strike for the player United were seemingly most desperate to acquire?
image: © Ines11thiago