Manchester United have not learnt from the mistakes they have made over the past nine months -- despite unanimous agreement that last summer’s transfer window was an abject failure, the club are shaping up to repeat the blunders that landed them in their current predicament.
The relative secrecy of the previous regime has been replaced by United conducting their transfer business in a very public manner. It could be suggested that the club’s hierarchy are leaking these stories directly to certain journalists, which would be a grand shame. It is self-defeating for the club for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it alerts rivals to the players United wish to recruit and allows them to make counter-bids and block the transfers. This tactic was most openly used after Chelsea poached Peter Kenyon as chief executive in 2003 and subsequently gazumped United for a long list of targets.
Secondly, it simply encourages the selling clubs to drive up the price of their personnel. Juan Mata is a wonderful player, but he was surplus to requirements at Chelsea and United could certainly have negotiated a better price had they been more subtle. Clubs reading that United have a 200 million-pound transfer kitty for the summer will certainly be tempted to see how much they are willing to pay for those they desire.
And thirdly, it makes United easy pickings for those wishing to improve their terms at their current employers. Those speculating this week about the mega-contract the English champions have offered to Bayern Munich’s Tony Kroos ought not to be fooled. There is little chance he will come to Old Trafford.
These things might be less of a concern if the club were being marshalled by someone with an experienced hand at elite level. They are managed by David Moyes. It seems that United’s board are determined to stick with their man and give the former Everton manager backing this summer. His first signing, Marouane Fellaini, has fallen a long way short of expectation.
It almost makes one weep to consider that Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti were available last summer, while Pep Guardiola could have been persuaded to take on the job before he opted for Bayern Munich. In that group are the men who claimed five of the past 10 Champions League trophies.
Another way to look at it is that Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich all changed managers last summer. Only one of those teams has failed to reach the Champions League semifinals and it was the one that espoused stability as the reins were passed.
United of course won’t make any stage at all in next season’s Champions League. The refusal to recruit a top-level coach last year has backfired. There will be plenty of them available after the World Cup again this year but United look likely to ensure that lightning strikes twice -- in all the wrong ways.
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