The summer transfer window is in full swing and social media and fan forums are abuzz with the latest gossip, rumours and tittle-tattle.
Manchester United fans have been impatiently waiting for some action on the Reds’ front, and they’re finally getting it this week with the imminent arrival of Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek in a deal worth around £40m.
The pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho rumbles on, while other names such as Jack Grealish, Dayot Upamecano and Thiago Alcantara continue to be linked with moves to Old Trafford.
The MEN’s Manchester United editor Samuel Luckhurst hosted a live Q&A session on Tuesday, where he answered fans’ questions on all the burning transfer topics, bursting some of the myths and bringing them closer to what’s really happening.
Here’s the transcript:
Q: Why are United refusing to meet Sancho valuation if he is so important to their success in a market that is known to be well inflated?
SL: United’s preference is to do big deals that consist of add-ons (eg. Lukaku and Fernandes). It allows for the investment to be more staggered and, to be frank, gives a more flattering look for the financial figures that are released each quarter. However, United have not even broached the fee yet on Sancho; the dialogue has been about his wages and agents’ fees.
Q: Two-part question. Of those players rumoured to be available for sale this summer who, in your opinion, are the most to likely to be leaving the club? Secondly, will any of the transfer fees received be then used to bolster a bid for Sancho that is closer to Dortmund’s asking price?
SL: United have a de facto budget of £150m each summer. The club will never confirm this but it’s common knowledge and I think I first wrote about it in 2017 (you’re welcome to check!). £40m is going on Van de Beek, so there’s enough for the £108m-rated Sancho. Only United don’t want to pay all of that up front as there are other areas of the squad that need reinforcing.
Q: Surely a bid of £90m plus add-ons would be within reach of United if the sales of the likes of Smalling, Lingard and Pereira were to bring in the region of £40m+?
SL: Your point on possible outgoings is a relevant one but United are pretty poor at selling players. January 2017 was the anomaly when they fetched reasonable fees for Schneiderlin and Depay, and in summer 2018 with Blind and Sam Johnstone. United aren’t proactive enough, though, and have made bad decisions with contracts that has left them saddled with certain players.
Q: How confident are you about a Sancho deal?
SL: Part of me thinks United are keeping up appearances to give the impression they are still trying. They warned they would walk away from a deal four weeks ago and they still haven’t done so – and they are not even dealing directly with Dortmund. That said, maybe they are persevering as they are confident of doing a deal. The player definitely wants to join United but hasn’t kicked off. Yet.
Q: Realistically speaking, will the Sancho deal happen? Journalist Fabrizio Romano has stated that personal terms have been agreed and ‘all’ that remains is the agreement between the clubs. Will Dortmund have to budge from their £108 million valuation and accept a payment in rates or will United have to pay up front like with the Maguire deal?
SL: On Sancho, told personal terms haven’t been agreed and a journalist was contacted by the club because they were getting ahead of themselves/fobbing off fans by suggesting a deal was imminent/all but done when it really wasn’t. United do keep an eye out for things like that. United want it to be an add-ons deal.
Q: Should Lingard stay at the club?
SL: No. He’s been out of form for the best part of two years, entered the last year of his contract and there is no room for him in the squad, It’s in his best interests to leave.
Q: Are we looking for a backup striker this window or that would be in January?
SL: I’d be staggered if United signed one this window when they already have one. It’s a far more relevant question to be asked in the New Year when Ighalo returns to China. They actually have four strikers to choose from presently but could be in the market for one next year. United went for Haaland as the fee was so cheap, the player soo good and Solskjaer so familiar with how good he is.
Q: Any updates on Thiago?
SL: It seems to be a case of Bayern using their mouthpieces to mention United so Liverpool will cough up the money.
Q: Which defenders are on the shortlist for Ole?
SL: There are 804 of them. No, in all seriousness, it was a bit rich of United to tot up all the players they were linked with in January when they have opened the floodgates by bragging about a mile-long list of right-backs they scouted before settling on the obvious one. Chances are if you play at an elite level you are of some interest to United.
Q: Can you comment on the Dayot Upamecano links?
SL: United have scouted him and are open to signing a defender but, financially, cannot justify it with eight centre-backs on their books. They want to sell three of them, who are costing the club north of £300,000 in wages on a weekly basis.
Q: With a centre-back potentially incoming where does this leave Axel Tuanzebe in your opinion? Another loan to the likes of Villa or does he stay and fight for his place?
SL: Still wouldn’t be remotely surprised if United end the window without signing a centre half. If anything, it is to be expected. There’s some concern Tuanzebe has missed his chance since he pulled up in the warm-up against Liverpool but if – and it’s a big if – he stays fit then he’s capable of dislodging Lindelof. Bailly’s future is hardly secure, either.
Q: What do you think the hold up with Sancho is?
SL: Have written about it already: salary and agents’ fees. Dortmund are carrying on regardless as they are not dealing with United directlry. Marco Lichtsteiner is acting on their behalf.
Q: Considering United need to sell centre-backs before buying one, who apart from Smalling could be realistically sold and who are United trying to sign in that position?
SL: Rojo’s agent has already said he needs to be sold. And if he isn’t then he is getting released next year. Jones is a tough sell because he’s just had a horror year and some bright spark at United thought he deserved a four-and-a-half year contract at the start of 2019. United would gladly sell Smalling, Rojo and Jones but that’s a tall order in one window.
Q: In regards to selling, is it wrong to assume that it is equally important for United to get rid of rotationary players with monstrous wages than selling to accumulate funds for new transfers? That Alexis, Smalling, Jones, Rojo, and Lingard are all allegedly deemed sellable by the club would perhaps suggest so (because of their high wages and probably low sellable fees).
SL: Not at all. There are at least five players that need selling permanently, then you have to factor in the futures of players in uncertain positions (Romero and Dalot) but actually have merit in the squad. The longer United take to sell players that are surplus the longer it will take them to become credible title challengers again.
Q: With Henderson set to stay and De Gea currently occupying the number 1 jersey, is Sergio Romero set to leave?
SL: His representatives are whipping up interest in him and his Europa League demotion really did not go down well. Entirely possible he could be off, which would have an impact on Henderson’s role next season.
Q: How many signings do you think United will make?
Q: Who do you think will most likely be our next signing?
SL: Donny van de Beek, as it’s still not been formally announced! In all seriousness, plans are well underway for Ajax’s farewell to Van de Beek. It’s bound to be an emotional time but there’s immense goodwill between player and club. Van de Beek is effectively a United player now.
Q: Is there a chance of Fred, Pereira and Lingard leaving in the same season?
SL: I don’t know why so many have swallowed the Fred stuff just because he accidentally ‘liked’ an Instagram post he was tagged in.
Q: What youngsters do you see breaking into the squad this year? Hannibal Mejbri, Laird, Garner, Mengi?
SL: Garner will go on loan. Wouldn’t be surprised if Mejbri makes his first-team debut. Laird could get more exposure due to the full-back situation. Mengi will be in and out of the U23s until the New Year and then they’ll decide if he stays with the first-team or goes on loan.
Q: Do you think Chelsea announcing Havertz will force Man Utd to act on Sancho?
SL: Don’t see why it would have any bearing whatsoever. United don’t conduct transfers via Twitter. That said, they took five weeks to bid for a player they had a free run at and it’s getting done very quickly. So maybe Twitter is right sometimes.
Q: Is a swap deal involving Bailly for Upamecano realistic?
SL: Probably not, as one is worth way more than the other.
Q: What about Jack Grealish?
SL: United tried to set up the framework of a deal worth £65m in February but Villa rejected it. They were counting on Villa going down and taking Grealish’s resale value down with them but Villa stayed up, Grealish is valued at £80m and United found that too steep. So they’re signing someone for half as much and who is arguably a better player.