United has ‘supposedly’ lost its transfer aura – but when was it ever present?

Blog by: Asad

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United - Premier League

What ‘aura’? United never had it.

One of the foremost reactions that came from the media post Sir Alex’s retirement was that henceforth, United would lack the aura needed to bring in big players. A couple of days later when David Moyes was handed the charges of the club, the majority of the fans felt the same.

The failure of the club to land its transfer targets till the start of the season added testament to the speculation that indeed – the club has lost its allure needed to attract the top players from the top clubs.

But then again, besides Robin Van Persie, when was the last time United bought a true superstar from another mega club? On a closer observation of the transfers made by Sir Alex and United in the past, one begins to wonder was the so called ‘aura/allure’ ever present?

Owen was a star name but the Michael Owen United bought was nowhere close to the form from his Liverpool or Real Madrid days. Berbatov might have been prolific for Spurs, but, no disrespect intended, he was never a Van Persie and Spurs back in 2008 were just a middle tier team with high ambitions. The other Owen, the Hargreaves one, although brought in from Bayern, was by no means was a headline grabbing, glamorous star.

Evra was signed after the Monaco FC side started to decline from their Champions League heights. Rio Ferdinand, a top quality defender could be purchased only because Leeds was in financial turmoil. Likewise, Blanc was past his heyday when he was signed on a free transfer. Home-sickness worked in United’s favour in Mark Hughes’ case. The other two signings from Barcelona – Jordi Cryuff, was a fringe player and Gerard Pique, as a youngster, had many defenders ahead of him in the picking order.

The transfer philosophy employed by the club was simple. 1st route: Scout for young players with potential and develop them. That is what the club did/is doing with the likes of Macheda, Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson, Da Silva twins, Powell, Jones. Wayne Rooney, although, already a star at Everton, brought in for huge money also fits in the same category.

2nd route: Bring the big fish from the small ponds. Ashley Young, Tevez, Kuszczak, Evra, Vidic, Van Der Sar, Park Ji Sung, Saha, van Nistelrooy, Keane, Barthez, Yorke, Stam- all of them, although big guns at their respective clubs, a move to United was always a step higher for these individuals and thus presented a challenge – which naturally motivated them to join United.

The 3rd route which regularly combined the first two was to raid the clubs from distant foreign lands. Bosnich, Kanchelskis, Forlan, Howard, Kleberson, Fangzou Dong, Possebon, Da Silva twins, Tosic, Chicharito, Henríquez all found the lure of playing for a mega European club too attractive to ignore.

United seldom tried to bring in a player for whom it won’t necessarily be a step up. And almost every time they have tried, they have failed. Kluivert, Gattuso, Sneijder all rejected Old Trafford for other destinations. De Gea was signed as Neuer publically preferred Munich. Even a young Ronaldinho didn’t find United attractive enough and went on to sign for Barcelona. On the contrary, mega superstars left United to join Real Madrid.

Swansea City v Manchester United - Premier League

The only ‘big’ signing that paid off!

Thus, even when United had the presence of Sir Alex to lure top talents, the club never actually broke the bank to bring in a marquee signing from a club which could equal or better United’s standard. Possibly the biggest, the most glamorous star signing, eventually turned out to be Sir Alex’s biggest transfer dud.

Juan Sebastian Veron (£28 million) could never replicate his form for Lazio and Parma. Leaving aside Robin Van Persie, a couple of fringe players and free transfers, United have neither signed true superstars from the likes of the Milan teams, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern and neither have they tried to lure genuinely good players from domestic rivals Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester City.

Even while choosing Sir Alex’s successor, United followed the same transfer policy. Instead of splashing the money and bringing in a true managerial superstar like Jose Mourinho, United raided the domestic market to bring in David Moyes. The reason being it goes hand in hand with the club philosophies of stability and longevity, which to be entirely true, does make sense.

But then the transfer activities that the club has made post Moyes appointment do baffle the mind a little. The public pursuit of Fabregas, Alcantara doesn’t quite fit in the long running transfer ways of the club. Okay, given Alcantara’s age maybe he fits, but still, like many others he chose not to make Old Trafford his home.

But if United’s choice was Moyes with a view of continuing to the traditions and philosophies, wouldn’t it have made more sense if United had triggered the release clause when the opportunity was there – now an irate Everton have the upper hand on Fellaini.

With about 11 days left for the transfer window to close, it will be interesting to see whom Moyes brings in – if indeed, he does bring in any new blood. A marquee signing like Fabregas will of course be welcomed by the club and the fans alike, but the fans sure take a certain pride in the club philosophy of ‘not signing, but making superstars’.


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