What a difference a day makes, goes the old song by Dinah Washington.
And if ever one 24-hour period was going to turn the tide on Manchester United’s transfer fortunes, it could have been deadline day. United fans were grasping onto the hope that a last-gasp deal could pull United out of the mire following their 6-1 hammering by Tottenham Hotspur the day before.
Jadon Sancho was the hope, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani were the expectation. And this deadline day was not one for the dreamers, the ’90 per cent club’ as it was put by on social media. Sancho did not arrive, neither did Ousmane Dembele nor Ismaila Sarr amid United interest; in fact the only wing additions were a pair of 18-year-old youngsters, Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo.
It would be unfair to expect much of the two, which is not to criticise United for signing them. The club have, by and large, continued their policy of supplementing youth with the odd pragmatic, high-pedigree signing like Cavani.
The issues United have were magnified by the Tottenham defeat going into deadline day and the centre-back situation again reared its head among pundits.
Virtually every former United player you can think of, including Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov, had expressed their desire to see a new central defender signed but that was never in United’s primary thoughts. Even when Chris Smalling’s permanent deal to Roma finally went through, there was not enough space in United’s bloated squad to recruit someone like Dayot Upamecano or Kalidou Koulibaly.
Don’t forget United still have Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo on their books, with the former contracted to the club until 2023. Yes, you read that correctly. Rojo at least sees his deal expire at the end of this season, but United need a clearout in the position if they’re to strengthen, or else they are relying on Axel Tuanzebe or Teden Mengi to take a leap of faith into the first team. Deadline day was never going to see the centre-back issue resolved, it merely highlighted the mess of it all.
Sergio Romero might at least represent one issue United can address in the short term. Few expected the Argentinian’s wife to dominate the headlines on the final day of the transfer window, but her furious assessment of the club was withering and revealing in equal measure.
United did not wish to strengthen Everton by allowing Romero on loan to Goodison Park, but with the Portuguese and Russian transfer windows among those still open until mid-October and EFL clubs able to do business until October 16, perhaps a suitor can be found. Romero, who has never let United down as a fine No.2 goalkeeper, deserves better than to be discarded. He has not trained with the main squad since Dean Henderson returned from his Sheffield United loan. United need to help him out, treat him with respect, as his wife Eliana Guercio rightly said.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may still harbour frustrations about the Sancho saga and how it unfolded, despite United finding two wing acquisitions.
The club have no intention of forgetting about Sancho and may finally get their man in the future. That has become an issue for the future; United must make a big decision in summer 2021, deciding whether to bid for Sancho, put faith in Diallo and/or Pellistri, or sign a proper first team alternative like Dembele.
They have risked making the position a festering sore for the entire of the coming season, when it should have been so easy to solve.
No right-winger, no centre-back and still lots of ‘deadwood’ to shift — it’s a familiar set of problems facing United, even after the deadline has passed.
The day didn’t make the difference.
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