Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would surely have also wanted a center back to plug a hole in a leaky defense but on Monday, the final day of the this year’s window, no player arrived who could play alongside either Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly, none of whom have been particularly convincing three matches into a new English Premier League season.
As it has done on a number of occasions, United’s hierarchy seemingly hit the panic button on deadline day. In came veteran striker Edinson Cavani, a 33-year-old who last played competitively seven months ago because of injury problems.
Do United, currently 16th in the Premier League after two defeats in three, need a striker? If he remains fit, Cavani will certainly provide competition for Anthony Martial.
Solskjaer was predictably upbeat about the free transfer of Cavani, a man who has won plenty in a glorious career and is Paris Saint-Germain’s record goalscorer.
“He’ll bring energy, power, leadership and a great mentality but most importantly he’ll bring goals,” said the Norwegian.
There were other deadline day signings for the club, too. Left-back Alex Telles arrived from Porto to bolster Solskjaer’s options in another problematic position, while teenager Facundo Pellistri was bought from Atletico Penarol and a deal was agreed to sign another teenage winger, Amand Traore, in January. These signings are in addition to Donny van de Beek, the Dutch midfielder who was purchased last month.
“And of course, I’m very happy working with the players I’ve got. But also, the part of the job is to improve the squad all the time, and so far I’ve been backed. We are working hard to be competitive again, amongst the best.”
But the flurry of deals on Monday have led many to ask why the signings weren’t completed weeks, or even months earlier, if they were indeed the players United wanted the most.
Rivals strengthen and improve
It is not only that United’s signings over the last seven years have failed to help secure an EPL title or a Champions League trophy, many have also been purchased at eye-watering prices, resulting in sometimes astronomical wages.
Maguire is the world’s most expensive defender, but is not regarded as the world’s best in his position. Romelu Lukaku was bought for around £75 million ($97 million) but is now playing for Inter Milan, as is Alexis Sanchez, a striker who arrived at Old Trafford to much fanfare but departed having scored five goals in 45 appearances.
The people at the center of most fans’ ire is executive vice chairman Ed Woodward and American owners, the Glazer family. “Glazers out Woodward out,” are familiar words written on banners by fans in the last year especially.
Responding to fan disgruntlement before the start of the season, Woodward defended the club’s transfer policy and pointed to the financial impact the global pandemic has had on clubs.
But following that 6-1 capitulation at home against Spurs, the pressure has increased even further on the hierarchy, Solskjaer and the players.
A number of rivals have strengthened and improved. The EPL is more fierce and unpredictable than ever.
Can United’s new signings help the club not only close the 30-point gap which was between Solskjaer’s men and last season’s EPL champion Liverpool, but also stave off the teams that were in their rearguard last term?
The early signs are ominous, but only time will tell whether the doomsters and the gloomsters are right.