T.S. Eliot famously said April was the cruellest month, but for many around the United Kingdom and the world right now, each month is now virtually indistinguishable. Virtually every month since April last year has been full of hardship and difficulty.
And while the plush and lavish footballing world is a far cry from the issues affecting many people day-to-day, even the Premier League and its fellow mega-leagues around Europe have been hit by the covid-19 pandemic. Light at the end of the tunnel, there may be, but the summer transfer window’s inactivity and an eve more stilted January show how finances have taken a hit.
Manchester United’s only incoming signing of the January window is almost certain to be a player on whom they spent less than £20million up front in the summer.
Okay, Amad Diallo’s fee could rise beyond the £37million mark, but United never really intended to add to him as a January signing, which reflects the state of the market. Sky Sports News might struggle to live up to their yellow-ticker-taped hype in the small hours of Monday and Jim White’s tie might be the most eye-catching thing on display.
Liverpool might sign a centre-back, Tottenham might ship out a player or two; the clubs battling relegation might make a panic move or two, but otherwise it will surely be slim pickings for the Sky producers.
United may well provide some newsworthy content by confirming an exit for Marcos Rojo to Boca Juniors. Sunday afternoon saw the confirmation of Facundo Pellistri’s move to Deportivo Alaves (on loan), but these are moves that have been heavily trailed. Unlike in the past two windows, United won’t provide late excitement by swooping for a veteran striker. Josh King can turn off his United notifications.
Sergio Romero may well be stuck in limbo until his contract expires in the summer, despite interest being shown in the Argentine goalkeeper both in the summer window and this winter one. His wife Eliana Guercio took to social media in October to vent fury at United for not allowing her husband the move he clearly deserves; one shudders to think what she might say on this deadline day.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s permanent move to Bayer Leverkusen earlier this month, and Ethan Laird’s loan to MK Dons, has put pay to Williams’ hopes of securing a Premier League loan move.
“He’s been working really hard and we don’t have any other players that we think will be going,” Solskjaer said on Williams. “We need a strong squad.
“It’s a relentless season and we go again on Tuesday. It’s like the NBA: we’re on the road again all the time, we need everyone and the group is tight and Brandon has been really good in the last few months, working really hard and he’s ready when the chance comes.
“Likely that Marcos goes back to Argentina, a little bit of paperwork left to be done, I think. Sergio, I’ve not heard anything there apart from that he’ll be with us for the rest of his contract.”
Solskjaer expressed a desire to see Jesse Lingard, another of this month’s departures, prove himself while on loan at West Ham. There has been goodwill from United fans towards the Warrington-born homegrown product, though it’s likely that he has played his last game for United whatever happens for him at the London Stadium. His contract expires in the summer.
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Manchester United missed multiple chances to beat Arsenal on Saturday evening, drawing 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford were culpable of squandering opportunities, as United now sit three points off league leaders Man City having played a game more.
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With Pellistri and a number of Under-23 players, United will hope the loans serve a very different purpose.
The club have been very active in ensuring each youngster gets the right opportunity for their development, hence the decisions to recall Dylan Levitt, James Garner and Tahith Chong from their initial loan moves this season.
Garner and Chong have been found new loan clubs, while Levitt is among a group of four young players who could seal a deadline day loan if it is deemed appropriate. Teden Mengi, Ethan Galbraith and Matej Kovar — who had a productive spell at Swindon between October and January — are the others. MEN Sport understands a maximum of two of those four youngsters could go on loan.
It is likely that, after confirmation of Rojo’s move and perhaps one for Romero,the spotlight will be on the movements or youngsters on loan.
It has not been a vintage January in any sense. And although United deserve credit for ‘shifting the deadwood’, as many would term it — which was their main priority before the window opened — attention is already turning to the summer.
The warmer weather and clearer skies cannot come soon enough for most around the world and it’s no different for Manchester United, or football in general.