Manchester United Transfer Window Review

Manchester United Transfer Window Review
Sep 7, 2016

Manchester United

José Mourinho came in with the intention of building a spine in his Manchester United side, aiming to emulate his great teams at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid before. Four core targets were given to Ed Woodward, and the often maligned executive vice-chairman seems to have delivered the goods.

“I get pointed in the direction of a target that the manager wants and there is an assessment of what that might cost and I’ll negotiate hard to do the best I can on the trade.”

Of course, big promises have been made before; David Moyes was supposed to walk into Old Trafford with one of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas or Thiago Alcantara by his side – none were delivered, and Marouane Fellaini was given the sort of welcome normally reserved for the least favourite in-laws.

A year later, Louis Van Gaal was admittedly given Angel Di Maria, though there were failed bids again to bring in more established stars. Even last summer, there were whispers of an audacious bid for Neymar at Barcelona, whilst Sergio Ramos fleetingly fluttered his eyelashes in the Red Devil’s direction. Yes, a world record fee for a teenager was paid for the services of Antony Martial, but even the most ardent supporter had to check Wikipedia for a full lowdown on the new man.

Manchester United then had therefore become something of a tool perhaps for agents seeking new deals – you name them, and any of the established elite have been sounded out by the Old Trafford hierarchy.

United fans could thus have been forgiven for feeling a certain sense of pessimism at the beginning of Mourinho’s first transfer window. Yes, there was finally a manager in place who had both the ego and the reputation to attract the bigger names, but the lack of Champions League football was the major elephant in the room.

How wrong the fanbase were. One by one, the four core targets outlined initially were presented in the famous red shirt, and though by no means perfect, the Summer of 2016 will go down as the time that Woodward did indeed make the rest of Europe stand and take notice.

Eric Bailly (A)

The Ivory Coast international has quickly made the heart of the centre defence at Old Trafford his own. Loved by the fans for his passion and willingness to embrace the physicality of the Premier League, Jose Mourinho seems to have found a gem in a player who was largely known outside of Spain last year, where he was the bedrock of a defence that lifted Villarreal to the Champions League Qualification Stage. 

Equally adept at either passing the ball or bringing the ball out of defence himself, the raw potential does indeed seem to be their for a player who is still only 22 years old. Bearing the age in mind, there do exist flaws to his game, and goalkeeper David De Gea in particular would have had strong words following an overhit backpass late on in the win over Southampton.

Bittersweet though is the fact that Ivory Coast over the weekend secured qualification for the African Cup of Nations, and Mourinho will be loathed to lose his new charge for potentially up to five weeks.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (B+)

Many fans would look at the rating and be shouting out for it not being the highest mark as given to Bailly. Prior to the Hull game, the big Swede undoubtedly had been flawless in the start to his Manchester United career. His double against Southampton won a tricky game for his side, whilst he also netted in his first two competitive games against both Leicester and Bournemouth, with the latter in particular calming the nerves as the Cherries began to make their way back into the tie. 

The season however is long, and had it not been for Marcus Rashford, Ibra would have been at the forefront of an attack that looked bereft of ideas at times against a makeshift central defence. For a player who relies on the subtlety of his first touch to bamboozle the opposition defence, far too many got away from him, and it should serve as a warning that at times the physicality, as well as the conditions, within the Premier League could take their toll on him. 

What is in no doubt however is the positive impact he is having on the rest of the squad, in particular the youngster. Mourinho has commented how the likes of Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford seek out the 34 year old at every possible occasion, and should he aid their development during his stay in Manchester, he will go down as a success for many concerned. 

Paul Pogba (B)

Paul Pogba will need the whole width of his broad shoulders if he is to carry the burden of expectation placed upon him the moment Manchester United agreed to pay a world record fee for the player, and although the initial signs are of course positive, fans must remember the Frenchman is only 23 years old, and is still yet to reach the peak of his powers. 

This is of course not to say he cannot make an immediate impact on the side. In fact, he already has in the short space of 180 minutes of action. Gone are the days where the Red Devil’s midfield is simply a platform for short, simple passes, curtailed of any dynamism thanks to the ‘philosophy’ of Louis Van Gaal. Pogba is a player who demands the ball, possessing the ability to both play pinpoint passes around the ground or drive past players with a force perhaps unmatched in world football. We have already seen glimpses of this, and an assist to teammate Antony Martial over the international break has produced further evidence of this. 

The one point of criticism so far has been the inaccuracy of his shooting; he was victim of a stern reminder by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the final moments of the victory over Southampton, whilst the less said about his free kick against Hull City the better. Yes, this is probably being slightly harsh, but having witnessed some of his strikes in the shirt of Juventus, we can expect to see much improvement in this area. 

The start has certainly been promising, and the scary thing for opposition fans is that the Stretford End can expect to see much improvement going forward.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (B)

The Armenian international is extremely hard to judge at this point of the season, being reduced to appearances from the bench in the opening three games of the season. The signs are promising however, and had it not been for an injury on international duty, there is a feeling he may have started the big derby against Manchester City this coming Saturday. 

The problem for Jose Mourinho remains how best to fit the attacking midfielder into the side, with both Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney undeniably the players with comparable attributes. Marcus Rashford is the other name in the equation, and his hat-trick over the international break will no doubt have caught the attention of his manager. Mkhi though continues to offer a slightly unique skill set, arguably combining the technicality of the former two, and the pace of the latter. A driving run in the defeat of Hull City pays testimony to this, and the Manchester United faithful will be desperate to see more of a player voted Bundesliga Player of the Year by his peers in the last campaign. Difficult to give a higher grade at this point, although you feel this may be different come the end of the season.

Outgoings (C)

This remains the area in which Ed Woodward continues to suffer from past mistakes. A glance at various United social sites over the summer would leave you in little doubt of a desire to see the back of the likes of Jones, Rojo, or Young. The truth of the matter however is that the Old Trafford hierarchy committed far too much money in wages to players who are perhaps not deserving, making it very difficult to get them off their books. 

Fortunately, for the time being this seems to be causing no problem other then a slightly inflated wage bill, though the time could come when a player feels he is not getting the game time he deserves. Mourinho likes working with a small squad, and will not carry passengers, as Woodward will no doubt be about to learn

Overall (B)

Were it not for the situation with the outgoings, this would be higher. Mourinho though will be delighted with the players he has in, and will be safe in the knowledge he will be backed in the windows to come. 

Article was written by @johnkent1991

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