Any football fans waking up and missing the transfer window this morning will be heartened to hear that it’s only eight weeks until the next one opens.
That’s two weeks less than the summer window was open, so just short of the length of time it took Manchester United not to sign Jadon Sancho.
This summer’s will-he-won’t-he saga ended in the way it had appeared likely to for the final few weeks of the window. Sancho might have been in England this weekend but his destination was a COVID-protocol-breaching house party rather than Old Trafford.
In a way neither United or Borussia Dortmund will lose face here, although the criticism heading in the direction of Ed Woodward will be understandably fierce.
United were always adamant a fee of £100m+ wasn’t realistic in this pandemic affected window and they stuck to their guns on that. Even in the wake of Sunday’s humiliation to Tottenham they avoided the button titled panic. Borussia Dortmund can also claim that they were never going to sell Sancho after their artificial August 10 deadline passed, even if the feeling remains they would have done if United had met their €120million asking price.
This is likely to be a break for Sancho-to-United stories however, rather than the end of them. Dortmund have kept the England winger but they know it’s for one more year. He will depart Signal Iduna Park next summer.
With their attempts to sign an alternative, United have made it pretty clear they intend to be back in the conversation in 2021. They have an advantage in that they’ve laid the groundwork with Sancho and his camp, but they will be under no illusions that the competition for the 20-year-old is likely to be stronger next summer and they simply have to retain their Champions League place to stand a chance.
The level of competition may depend on how soon fans can return to stadia. United’s stance on Sancho was they wouldn’t pay £100m, not that they wouldn’t pay anything at all. No other club in world football has spent nine figures on a single transaction in this window, so they’re not alone there.
Every game United play without a crowd at Old Trafford is costing them £4million to £5million. That’s a major revenue source cut-off and at the moment there’s no sign of when the tap will be turned back on. How quickly fans are allowed back into grounds will have an impact on the budgets available to clubs next summer as well.
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But United’s approach to the end of this window highlighted their desire to remain in the discussion for Sancho, a generational talent across Europe, and one who is also English.
United’s recruitment team had a list of alternatives to Sancho throughout this window, but would only ever consider loan deals and wanted to pursue their top target for as long as possible.
By deadline day the options had thinned out to Ousmane Dembele and Ismaila Sarr. While United pushed to sign either on loan, Barcelona and Watford attempted to force through permanent deals.
That United resisted shows their desire to be in the conversation for Sancho when he does move and the faith they have in Facundo Pellestri and Amad Traore. The 18-year-olds from Penarol and Atalanta respectively might not be the big name right-wingers United fans expected to sign, but both are seen as such exciting talents that they will go straight into the first-team squad when they arrive.
As United were told to pay up for Dembele or Sarr, they would point to the teenagers Pellestri and Traore and question the wisdom of permanent moves for a 23-year-old and a 22-year-old, when both of those players were only ever considered as Plan B, at best, in this window.
Instead, United can return for Sancho in less than a year, when Pellestri or Traore might well have progressed to being on the fringes of the first-team. That would allow Mason Greenwood to move inside and play as a centre forward, competing with Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani.
Failing to sign Sancho will always be held against United in the window, but it doesn’t mean the chances of seeing him in action every week at Old Trafford are over. United’s attempts to sign an alternative and their commitment to youth highlight that.