Manchester United's bungled transfer activity borders on incompetence

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Manchester United are now less than four days away from beginning their new Premier League campaign under the leadership of Louis van Gaal, but have somehow still not managed to sign direct replacements for experienced trio Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs.

That is the stark reality facing Red Devils fans ahead of their Old Trafford opener against Swansea City on Saturday afternoon, with relative unknowns outside United circles in Reese James and Tyler Blackett quite outrageously in contention for a starting spot.

United may have two starlets on their hands but at this moment in time the duo should nowhere near the starting XI, with failed attempts to sign the likes of Mats Hummels, Thomas Vermaelen and thus far Arturo Vidal and Angel di Maria proof that that Ed Woodward and co. have failed to learn lessons from last summer and quite simply aren't justifying their salaries.

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Inherent lack of planning

Let's take United's bungled pursuit of a top central defender as a prime example of the way their transfer business continues to be conducted.

Red Devils chiefs knew Vidic and Ferdinand were off in January once Louis van Gaal was appointed just before the World Cup should have been aware of his preference for a 3-5-2 formation, so it's bordering on negligence that adequate strength has not been bolstered in that area.

United spent last summer chasing after targets in Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Wesley Sniejder and ultimately all three were unattainable, and it's the same story this summer.

Van Gaal identified Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen as an experienced, competent option, but United refused to match Barcelona's £15m valuation of the Belgian defender.

Borussia Dortmund's new captain Mats Hummels was also never likely to leave the Bundesliga, but that didn't stop United courting the World Cup winner like a prize fighter punching well above their weight.

Now I'm not suggesting for a moment that United aren't still a very attractive option for a player looking to prove their worth at the highest level, but United's transfer policy needs a dose of realism and nowhere is that more prevalent than their drawn-out efforts to land Vidal.

Top players come at a premium

Juve are stubborn negotiators, but with Vidal aged 27 and coming off the back of a hugely impressive World Cup surely the Old Lady would be forced to reluctantly accept an offer of €50m if United were really that desperate to sign a proven box-to-box midfielder.

Vidal has all the attributes to slot straight in at Old Trafford and become one of the Premier League's best players overnight, but for some unknown reason United seem prepared to wrangle over his price tag and are now run the risk of missing altogether.

Real Madrid maestro Angel di Maria is another example of a star player clearly available, but only at a monster price tag.

It's about time United made their stance crystal clear and stopped leaving Red Devils fans dangling on a string with the hope of seeing marquee arrivals at the Theatre of Dreams before the transfer window slams shut.

Are United prepared to pay a premium for proven commodities, or are they all mouth and no trousers in the biggest transfer tussles?

The next two and a half weeks should come very close to answering that question, but regardless Van Gaal has been left to put square pegs in round holes in an entirely avoidable situation that should be a source of embarrassment at boardroom level.

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