Manchester United’s summer transfer window is a difficult one to weigh up.
On one hand it was utterly farcical the way the club approached trying to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, focusing so much time on being ‘confident’, only to then fail in their efforts because club officials seemingly didn’t take the firm asking price seriously enough. That failure in turn knocked everything back, turning deadline day into something of a desperate scramble.
On the other hand, the five players that United did sign this summer all individually look as though they have the potential to be successes at Old Trafford. The shame is that most of them didn’t have the benefit of a pre-season with their new teammates and will now have to adapt on the job. The potential knock-on is that results remain poor and the board considers a change of manager.
In terms of outgoings, some deadwood was shifted, not necessarily very efficiently. But then plenty still remains and will now just rot until January at the earliest.
Here’s a review of all United’s major ins and outs in the summer of 2020 (academy players who were released or refused a new contract are not included).
Signed From: Ajax (£35m + £5m add-ons)
For what seemed like an eternity, Donny van de Beek was United’s only signing of the summer. The club had other priorities, but the opportunity to sign the Dutchman arose and United took it.
Van de Beek was previously close to joining Real Madrid as an alternative target to Paul Pogba – both are now in the same team – and cost just half of what Aston Villa were asking for Jack Grealish.
To land a player with such a promising future for an initial £35m seems like an example of unusually shrewd and efficient business for United. It all happened very quickly, with no drawn out saga that dominated the pursuits of Harry Maguire last summer and Jadon Sancho this summer.
Van de Beek is still awaiting his first Premier League start but has already shown United fans that he can bring something a little different to the squad.
Signed From: Porto (£13.6m + £1.8m add-ons)
United were able to sign Alex Telles for as little as £13.6m because he had entered the final year of his Porto contract. The move will strengthen a position that had been identified by Solskjaer and the coaching staff as in need of attention and he is potentially already an improvement on Luke Shaw.
The reason this signing isn’t being hailed as a major success is because of timing. The contract situation meant the deal was there to be done all summer, yet it was only late in the window that United actually turned their attention to Telles.
The 27-year-old Brazilian fills a hole in the squad, will give United something they don’t already have thanks to his fine attacking output and was signed relatively cheaply. If it had been done early on, perfect, but waiting until the very end made it come across as desperate.
Signed From: Atalanta (£19m + £18.5m add-ons)
United have paid a lot for Amad Diallo when you consider he has played just three first-team games in his career to date. The deal, stacked heavily with add-ons rather like when Anthony Martial joined from Monaco aged 19 in 2015, could be worth close to £40m in total.
At least Martial had a full season of first-team games under his belt. But Atalanta are recognised as having the best academy in Italy and Diallo was the jewel of that academy. What’s more, United were believed to have been watching him since he was at Under-15 level.
The 18-year-old won’t actually arrive until January because he couldn’t secure the necessary work permit in time to move before the summer deadline. Given his age, that doesn’t matter too much, even though he is expected to go straight into the first-team squad.
It is a risk, but a calculated one.
Signed From: Unattached (free)
United could have signed Edinson Cavani any time after the end of June if he was a serious target because that was when he became a free agent upon leaving Paris Saint-Germain. Yet for the second transfer window in a row, the club was scrambling for an emergency striker on deadline day.
With it being a free transfer, the budgetary constraints weren’t quite as tight as with other deals that were delayed while the Sancho saga was still up in the air.
On the pitch, there is every chance that Cavani will be an asset to United – perhaps not as much as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but almost certainly better than Radamel Falcao. Yet it is frustrating he was sat for three months, completely available, before the club made their move. Now, he’s missed pre-season and it could take weeks for him to catch up in terms of fitness.
Signed From: Penarol (£7.8m)
Along with Diallo, Uruguayan talent Facundo Pellistri was the other teenage winger United brought in on deadline day. Unlike Diallo, however, he arrives straight away and will immediately be part of the first-team squad.
Given his age, it would be unreasonable to expect Pellistri to make an instant impact, or even play more than occasionally, but is a sound investment for the future. The fee just under £8m is relatively nominal for a club of United’s wealth and he has been praised by former Penarol coach and-ex United cult favourite Diego Forlan, as well as Argentine legend Juan Roman Riquelme.
The deadline day nature of Pellistri’s arrival is less important because he won’t initially be a regular.
Transferred To: Inter (free)
United managed to permanently sever ties with Alexis Sanchez in August, finally putting to bed the biggest mistake in the club’s recent history – there are a number to choose from.
That was good because it gets rid of his enormous wages, which United were still contributing to last season when he was on loan at Inter.
What was bad about the situation is that it is thought to have cost the club between £5m and £10m to cancel his contract by way of a pay-off. Getting a transfer fee would have been the ideal, but Inter would never have been able to offer similar wages and Sanchez was within his rights to ensure that moving clubs wouldn’t see him lose out financially.
United did benefit from this, but still got the raw end of the deal.
Transferred To: Werder Bremen (loan)
United agreed a new contract with Tahith Chong last season amid rumoured interest from Juventus and Inter – the same could not be said for his former youth team colleague Angel Gomes.
The Dutch winger was never going to get the game time he sorely needed had he stayed at Old Trafford and a loan to Werder Bremen benefits all parties. Chong has already made four appearances for Bremen, while he would have been lucky to make the United bench.
Even if Chong doesn’t have a long-term future at United, this loan could help sell him.
Transferred To: Watford (loan)
James Garner was in a similar situation to Chong in that he was on the fringes of the United first-team but needed regular games to aid his development.
Garner, who is well liked by Solskjaer and has been likened to Michael Carrick, has started three all three games Watford have played since he made his debut as a substitute.
Transferred To: Lazio (loan)
It was clear from the moment that Bruno Fernandes arrived in January that Andreas Pereira’s time at United was over. But the club struggled to find a buyer in the restricted market and had to settle for a loan to Lazio, including an option to buy next summer.
Pereira may well be a success for the Rome club, but that option is set at £27m and offers no guarantees that United won’t be stuck with him again next summer if he doesn’t impress.
On the flipside, having no fixed price means United could potentially get more if he has a stunning season and the market suitably recovers by 2021. That is much less likely.
It’s not the best deal, but at United still got rid of a player they don’t want, at least temporarily, which is more than can be said for some of those who stayed put.
Transferred To: AC Milan (loan)
Diogo Dalot’s downfall was rather perplexing when the Portuguese appeared to have a very bright future when he first arrived at United. Even just 18 months ago he was on the pitch and played a decisive role in that Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain.
But then he dropped completely out of favour last season, to the point where Timothy Fosu-Mensah was chosen ahead of him in for a first United appearance in three years.
It would have been better to sell permanently, but United’s negotiators couldn’t make it happen.
Transferred To: Roma (£13.6m + £4.5m add-ons)
United ultimately got a good deal for Smalling, selling for a potential £18.1m on top of the £3m loan fee that Roma paid last summer. The issue, like with several other sets of negotiations this summer, was again timing – the move wasn’t confirmed until deadline day.
United wanted to sell, Smalling wanted to go and Roma wanted to buy. So why on earth did it need to take months to finally happen?
Manchester United’s Overall Transfer Grade – Summer 2020: D
It is possible to make a case for all five United signings this summer as positive and beneficial. What ruined the transfer window was the manner in which it happened, the embarrassing negotiations, the one that got away and the late desperation.
Regardless of the individual deals that were done, there is no getting away from that.