There was a time under Sir Alex Ferguson when Manchester United sat at the peak of European football. “Top end” players wanted to join the Red Devils, although the Scot rarely delved into the transfer market for such stars. Nonetheless, attracting world-class players wasn't an issue, even though United’s financial powers were restricted.
Fast-forward to 2014 and United are struggling to attract the best talents in European football.
Daniele De Rossi famously claimed last season that he would have "committed suicide" had he gone to United last summer. His comments tell a lot about where United stand in the minds of the established players.
Konoplyanka: "Man United? I'd rather stay at Dnipro and play in the Champions League".— Artur Petrosyan (@arturpetrosyan) May 23, 2014
Arjen Robben on a possible move to Manchester United: 'that's not an option. I'm staying with Bayern Munich. Period.' (via De Telegraaf)— Elko Born (@Elko_B) May 24, 2014
So why don't these players want to come to the Theatre of Dreams, despite United offering them a better salary package than they could get at many other clubs?
The answer is simple: the cons of the transfer currently outweigh the pros.
Since the departure of Ferguson, United have shown a remarkable decline in their on-field performances. David Moyes struggled to get his act together and ended up getting the boot, before United ended their season with their worst ever Premier League finish.
The Red Devils came seventh and therefore won't participate in the Champions League next season.
“Every player wants to play in the Champions League,” Gareth Bale had once said during his days at Tottenham Hotspur. Yesterday, Konoplyanka publicly rejected United, saying he would “rather stay at Dnipro and play in the Champions League".
The likes of Fabregas, Kroos and Robben all want Champions League football. And their respective clubs want to keep these players so as to win that very competition. Fabregas described his Champions League experience with Barcelona as a "dream", while Arturo Vidal has made it an “aim” of his to win the illustrious competition.
Hence, it's hard to see these players leaving their Champions League playing clubs that are continually competing for trophies for a club that is in decline, just for a few millions. After all, they will have to come to a new league, adapt to a new country and playing style, learn a new language (in some cases) and only hope that they get to play in the Champions League soon.
Moreover, if these players do want to leave their respective clubs and if their employers allow them to do so, there are other sides participating in the Champions League that will offer them bumper contracts like United and a more suitable environment.
Louis van Gaal has been appointed as United’s new manager and the Dutchman has been given a transfer kitty of £150 million to overhaul the former English champions. Yet, it’s hard to see an established player coming to Old Trafford this summer.
Maybe it's time for United to target players who are looking to move from a relatively smaller club to a bigger one, like Luke Shaw, Jordy Clasie and Memphis Depay. They will surely love to represent a club like United and will cost less (at least in some cases). They won't guarantee instant success but will surely improve the club.
Paul Scholes recently stated United new “five or six new players” to compete for the Premier League title. His former teammate Roy Keane holds a similar view. Established players are not coming to United. It's as simple as that.
So Ed Woodward can either unsuccessfully try to rope in the likes of Kroos and Fabregas or quickly wrap up deals for five to six upcoming talents.