Manchester United struggled in the summer to acquire the signings they targeted and they have a number of factors standing in their way this January transfer window.
This was aptly demonstrated by the club’s pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas – David Moyes publicly declared the champions were interested in the player but it never looked likely from day one.
Not only did the club lose out on a world-class player but the manager lost face which, by now, is the least of his worries but this chase was the one to set the trend for the remainder of the summer.
There was Leighton Baines, of course, who Everton just would not let go of and then there were strange last-minute bids for Ander Herrera and Fabio Coentrao but neither of those proved successful either, for one reason or another.
At that moment in time you could perhaps attribute that to the fact the manager had only just arrived with eight weeks to introduce himself and prepare for the season as well as pursue transfer targets, keep Wayne Rooney and all under the glaring eye of the media and the watching world.
Now, in January, especially after such a miserable start to the campaign that just seems to get worse and worse for the boss, it’s going to be 10 times harder to sign those top-bracket world-class players and here’s why…
First, the club needs to find a world-class player (like, for example, a world-class playmaker in the Fabregas model) who is unhappy at his current club or who is nearing the end of his contract or, for whatever reason, is potentially available in January.
You could point to a player like, for example, Juan Mata but then you have to add the criteria that the player cannot be at a direct domestic rival like Chelsea because no top six Premier League club is going to sell Manchester United one of their best players just like that.
Even if United could strike a deal with Chelsea or, for example, Newcastle for a player like Yohan Cabaye (who I’m not convinced is world class) or abroad perhaps with Atletico Madrid for Koke (still not yet world class either) or Borussia Dortmund for Ilkay Gundogan, there is another problem and it’s bigger than any of the other potential stumbling blocks.
Few top players are going to be convinced that signing for Manchester United is as good an idea now at it was 12 months ago – Robin van Persie signed for United to win titles alongside top players and professionals under the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson. That was 18 months ago when he arrived and look at the difference that time has made to the prospect of joining a club who are the reigning English champions.
A player like Koke or Gundogan is not going to be convinced that he is going to be better off at Old Trafford than he is now in Spain or Germany where he is hailed as the best thing since sliced bread.
It’s something of an unknown quantity, a risky move, to join Manchester United, seventh in the league, out of one of the domestic cups, half out of the other, under David Moyes with morale low in the dressing room and the faith slowing burning out in the fan base: It makes the summer look like even more of a missed opportunity.
It’s unfortunate the transfer window has come just as United are really down on their luck with three defeats in succession and without Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for their next game on Saturday. It’s bad timing but there is very little in the way of clear reasons to join Manchester United right at this moment.
A top player is already earning good wages, presumably, so they can’t lure him financially, a top player is probably playing regularly at his current club so walking into the United team isn’t likely to either and, with the World Cup just around the corner, a world-class player is far more likely to stick than twist unless he can see a move being immediately advantageous to his World Cup ambitions.
We all know the Red Devils will bounce back from all this and things always have a way of sorting themselves out but right now it’s going to be incredibly difficult for Manchester United, with their new chief executive Ed Woodward and their new manager David Moyes to convince a top target to become a new signing.
There is such a stench of instability around Old Trafford right now (which, of course, won’t hang around for long) that it’s going to lead the best players to feel they would be better off steering clear, at least until things stabilise one way or another.
In fact, right about now, the only players David Moyes could convince to come to United are probably Everton players and, frankly, even some of those would have to think twice about it now. The only certainty is it's going to be a long day on deadline day and a long season for David Moyes, especially if he isn't able to bring in some world-class players this month.
Football is a bit like the stock market and by that I mean it's all about confidence - players' stock sky-rockets when they have confidence and, likewise, when a club is successful it breeds confidence to achieve firther success and, crucially, the fans and players have confidence in the club.
We have seen this season teams a lot less scared and a lot more confident of getting a result at Old Trafford and we've seen the team lose confidence and that will be reflected in the transfer market - potential signings will be worried.
Therefore, just like a potential shareholder in the stockmarket, they will be put off investing themselves, their energy and their livelihood in a risk which, right now, is exactly what signing for United is. It's a risk.
image: © Ines11thiago