The sun has finally made its belated appearance, the nation has applied its tan lotion and readied its St George’s flags; the European Championship starts this Friday night and the excitement is palpable.
Yet far away from the tournament opener in Rome, in the dark corridors of Old Trafford, Manchester United’s decision-makers may not be so focussed on the international glitz and glamour.
Tough calls will have to be made at United in a vital summer and there shouldn’t be much time for galivanting in the sun and enjoying the Euros — even if Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire lead England to glory.
Today marks the official opening of the transfer window. And while few expect many deals to get done while a major tournament is ongoing with players and their agents with their focus elsewhere, United have to do what they seldom have done in recent years … put some firm plans in place.
Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Jadon Sancho, Declan Rice and Raphael Varane are all on United’s list of targets and can all be expected to shine at this summer’s Euros. Signing them all won’t be possible, of course, but the dozens of players on the club’s radar must be monitored carefully.
A stand-out performance from any one of United’s targets could see their valuation sky-rocket; and any selling club worth its salt will know, even in the modern age of data-driven recruitment, a tournament superstar often means a pricey transfer in the following weeks.
The MEN understands United and Sancho have renewed talks in recent weeks, following the club’s stand-off with Borussia Dortmund in 2020’s prolonged and failed negotiations. The feeling around Old Trafford is now one of cautious optimism.
That deal can be done, and United should work on getting it agreed in principle before the Euros start.
Where Haaland and Kane are concerned, even the most ambitious and optimistic United supporter would not predict that either will be signed the summer. Each come with a price tag in excess of £100million, probably closer to the £150m mark.
Former United man Gary Pallister recently claimed that Kane should secure his future, either at Tottenham or elsewhere (with United and Man City at the front of the queue for his signature) before the tournament begins.
He said: “I’m sure Kane would like it sorted out and Southgate would like it sorted out because there’s nothing worse than when you’re away and you’re concentrating on a big tournament and you’re not sure what is happening as your agent is trying to sort things out.
“Kane will have an idea of where he wants to go and he will want it sorted out as soon as possible because it can linger and it can affect a player’s concentration so hopefully for England’s sake, for Harry’s sake and for Tottenham’s sake, it does get sorted.
“If Daniel Levy doesn’t want him to go or he plays hardball this has to be dealt with before the Euros kick-off.”
Unfortunately for United or any club interested in Kane, that is simply not going to happen. In any case, it would be foolish for United to prioritise a striker signing after tying Edinson Cavani down to an extra year’s contract. Sancho is the cheaper and smarter target this time around; his signing would allow Mason Greenwood to operate in both right-wing and centre-forward roles.
Getting Sancho agreed and a deal for a centre-back in place in the space of a few days may seem improbable, but this is the week for United to act — now the window is open and just before the Euros have clicked into gear. There is said to be some appetite at Madrid for a Varane sale and the Frenchman, despite recently turning 28, would be a nigh-on perfect target as a defensive partner for Maguire.
If United can’t get close to completion with Sancho and Varane by the end of the week, they must press on with their work throughout the Euros.
Otherwise, there are more doable deals out there, albeit in less important positions — in the shape of Kieran Trippier and Tom Heaton — for United to garner more competition at right-back and in goal.
United will only have six weeks from the end of the summer’s showpiece tournament to the closure of the transfer window on August 31. With the next Premier League season beginning on August 14, that’s just a single month for the club to provide Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a squad to compete for titles, and to build on the current upward trajectory of the Norwegian’s team.
Otherwise, United will be leaving it dangerously late. There can be no room for a sloppy summer and a sluggish start to the season this time around.
They must start ticking off items on the transfer to-do list from today. The clock has already started ticking.