Manchester United are taking risks to transform the team in the transfer window – Samuel Luckhurst

June Gloom was conceived by Californians for the cloudy weather in the sixth month of the year and it now appears to have been taken over by Manchester United supporters.

The last time United went through June without a single purchase was in 2010, when they had already given Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez tours of Old Trafford that year. Even in the infamous summer of 2013, Guillermo Varela was paraded by then United Chief Operating Officer Michael Bolingbroke on a late Friday afternoon.

The reaction to David Moyes’ fateful mistake was fairly quick. Louis van Gaal signed deals for Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw before July, ignoring an expected transfer for Toni Kroos.

Also read: Why United hasn’t signed anyone yet

Five of Van Gaal’s 13 signings were players he had already managed and the incumbent manager of Dutch United prefers fame. Frenkie de Jong, Jurrien Timber and Antony all played under Erik ten Hag at Ajax and it was at the legendary Dutch club that Christian Eriksen attracted attention before leaving for Tottenham at the age of 21. Eriksen trained with Ajax last season before joining Brentford.

For the time being, the goodwill lies with Ten Hag. He spends weeks in one of the most researched management positions in the sport and the target of United supporters in transfer windows is always the board and never the manager. Ten Hag is tucked away in the remote and rural Mere, rather than the selfie magnet Lowry Hotel, which has a championship golf course and a nearby National Trust to preserve its main space.

Numbers at United estimate they have been linked to more than 90 players this summer. It’s been such a silly season that an Italian website erroneously reported Alejandro Garnacho’s two-year contract length. Murtough receives messages from agents that he never responds to and it is quickly reported as “United make contact” by a reporter.

The aforementioned quartet are fine players who would bolster a team that contributed to United’s worst season in decades. In a summer when United’s appeal is nearly as low as it was in 2019, 25-year-old Barcelona supporter De Jong could easily be presented as a coup d’état.

United insist they prefer the title of ‘manager’ to ‘coach’ and Ten Hag has quickly become autonomous. John Murtough, the football director, does not block moves for Eredivisie players or Ajax alumni.

Maybe he should. United can’t bury their heads in the sand about the standard of the Dutch league, where six Premier League rejects were regular starters ahead of Ajax and one, Daley Blind, was dismissed as a non-United signing by Ed Woodward.

Antony and Timber are interesting for Ten Hag
Antony and Timber are interesting for Ten Hag

Woodward was not a good judge and his assessment of Blind, actually one of a handful of decent buys over the past nine years, was extreme. Yet Memphis Depay and Donny van de Beek have secured transfers from United after 18 months, a combined investment of £66.3million each. The gloomy Depay had more impact than Van de Beek.

Perhaps Ten Hag, a more modern coach than Van Gaal and more decisive than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, can counter the trend. Antony, a left-footed attacker, would balance an even lopsided attack, Timber could keep Harry Maguire sharp, De Jong would modernize the midfield and Eriksen is four years younger than Juan Mata.

Solskjaer hit base with Eriksen three years ago, a summer when United were reeling from a miserable run-in, finishing in sixth place, and he gave them short shrift. Three beautiful months at Brentford and Eriksen are apparently essential for Ten Hag. Another football director could withdraw the rankings, or the scouts would have made a better offer.

Nobody should mourn Timber if he gives United a swerve, as Ryan Gravenberch has already done. Pau Torres has more experience and pedigree, while Liverpool prepared a private jet for fellow centre-back David Carmo last year; the transfer only collapsed after the Braga coach threatened to resign.

United are advancing on a deal for De Jong, but however they dress up the signing of a tech-savvy Dutch midfielder from Barcelona, ​​it’s a risk. De Jong would rather stay at Barcelona, ​​he is not the steel shield to keep the United fortress and he has already played in England once.

Barcelona and Ajax – the former and current clubs of De Jong – as well as the Dutch national team are culturally attuned to each other through Johan Cruijff and Rinus Michels. Barca has hired nine players from Ajax since Cruijff in 1973 and 13 Dutchmen have played for both clubs.

Ten Hag wants Eriksen and De Jong
Ten Hag wants Eriksen and De Jong

United? Their identity is not so much a crisis as it is outdated. De Jong has had it easy in the Eredivisie and the staid La Liga; better players than De Jong have been swept away by the Premier League vortex.

Murtough had been with United for eight months when Angel di Maria was wheeled into Carrington when United had a walk on a world-class midfielder who was looking to sell Real Madrid. Di Maria wanted to join Paris Saint-Germain as he was out of the running due to Financial Fair Play restrictions. Eight years on, United is making progress in negotiations with one of the Classic clubs for a player who joined them.

De Jong appears to be a healthier professional than the cowardly Di Maria, who skipped a scheduled flight to Seattle in 2015 for United’s pre-season tour, leading supporters to hope he avoids the nickname Frenkie de Maria. De Jong has the skills to be a transformative transfer.

There are endless solutions to United’s inactivity this month, but it’s not washing it with supporters. Clubs ranging from the elite (Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid), to the also-rans (Borussia Dortmund) to the mediocre (Aston Villa) have done business. Roma, like everyone else, was only told on April 14 that Nemanja Matic’s contract expires this year rather than next year (as United had mistakenly communicated in 2020). It took them less than two months to welcome the Serb to the Eternal City.

Early last month, an industry source often associated with United described them as “a total mess” despite the cheery noises coming from the club. The mass exodus leaves United behind; their negotiator has left, and so have the scouts with the top titles, so they’re starting all over again, looking for leads closer to home, in an effort to ease the June gloom.


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