Manchester United face make or break transfer window

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With all the wild and contradictory rumours surrounding Manchester United's transfer activity, and now the death of Malcolm Glazer, can we be certain that anyone will arrive at Old Trafford this summer?

There is also no shortage of suggestions as to who might leave, so at this rate United could end up with a squad of 17, facing a relegation battle next season.

What are the reasons for this potential disaster?

Frankly, some of the stories swirling in the universe of mass media are ridiculous, if not at times challenging the credibility of so-called journalists feeding off speculation and hyperbole often generated elsewhere. We have always known that some journos fabricate stories because they simply have to sell papers. And there will always be agents willing to feed a false rumour into the media in order to get their client a better deal.

One could be forgiven, for example, in believing that the whole Cesc Fabregas circus last summer and this year was solely aimed at securing his future and a better deal at Barcelona. And cynics would believe that the unreasonable expectations created around Toni Kroos' supposed imminent arrival at Old Trafford had a similar purpose.

As each transfer window arrives, there is a veritable snowstorm of false rumours as one tabloid or another sports website competes with the rest to a growing army of readers desperate for some good news at last about United.

Inevitably, after last summer's embarrassing disaster, whereby United ended up failing in the transfer market, both Ed Woodward and United fans are desperate for some real substance to stop the rot of the alarming collapse that started last season.

There is no smoke without fire they say, and it matters naught whether it was the man who became known as dithering Dave, or the deal-maker with no previous experience in the football transfer market. The hard truth is that last summer was pure farce.

One of the reasons why was because David Moyes did not take up his post until July 1. And yet this time around they face the prospect that Van Gaal may not arrive until mid-July, depending on how Holland perform at the World Cup. He seems to be more decisive than Moyes and he certainly carries more 'clout' in the global world of football; but now it also seems that he may have vetoed some of the deals that Woodward must surely have been working on.

There can surely be no doubt that both United officials and fans would have wanted some deals completed before the World Cup, but even Luke Shaw's transfer has been thrown into doubt in some quarters. And yes, there is a pressing need for renewal at left back, despite Patrice Evra's heroic decision to stay, but there is a desperate need to completely rebuild midfield, as there has been since Roy Keane left, let alone since Paul Scholes retired.

Frankly, Fabregas is an irritating sideshow and it now appears that Kroos was the same. United want players who come for the shirt, not just the money, and will want to pledge the rest of their career, as Robin van Persie may and Ryan Giggs did.

What's worrying is that Woodward seems to have been completely hoodwinked by Fabregas' agent and United looked utterly amateur in the way they clumsily messed up the attempted Ander Herrera transfer. So Moyes gave Woodward a list very early this year; scouts had been sent countless times to view the likes of Kroos and William Carvalho.

But then Van Gaal arrived and we all had to start again, with the possible exception of Shaw.

So who do United really want to sign?

One of the big mistakes Woodward made last summer was to conduct United's transfer business in the public eye. That badly backfired and maybe he has learned his lesson.

Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill went to great lengths to keep prospective deals secret once they were free of the demands of the stock market. The result was that the likes of Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Javier Hernandez seemed to be produced like white rabbits out of a hat.

This year the plethora of rumours may be the unsurprising consequence of reverting to such a clandestine approach. Frankly, nobody in the media really knows who is coming to Old Trafford any time soon. The result is that Shaw's arrival was given some certainty simply because the 'usually reliable' Mark Ogden said so on MUTV.

But reverting to Moyes' plans, it seems entirely possible that Woodward was already working on transfer targets like Shaw, Ezequiel Garay, Kroos, Carvalho, Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Edison Cavani before Van Gaal was appointed.

Now, the only one we can assume to remain on that list is Shaw, who himself has been tweeting to United players.

Frankly, this is pure farce. The late signing of Van Gaal and his prospective late arrival have thrown United's desperate need for at least five or six new faces into jeopardy.

Perish the thought that Nani, Anderson, Tom Cleverly and Ashley Young is United's midfield next season. They couldn't do any worse with Jesse Lingard, Andreas Perreira, Charni Ekangamane and Saidi Janko instead.

The trouble is that we are now right on top of the World Cup. Players aren't available to do deals and both their agents and the clubs themselves will be wanting to hold off until after Jules Rimet has been eagerly grasped, to get a better deal for all concerned.

With an impending tour of the US in late July and the usual time off for those who have served in the World Cup, United could even end up sending a virtual Academy side across the Atlantic to the dismay of US fans, the media, the sponsors and the 'money men'.

And what about Van Gaal's holiday for himself?

The only thing which may work in United's favour is the prospective arrival of Dutch players. The Red Devils play attractive, attacking football. Van Gaal brought the Dutch school to Barcelona and even Bayern Munich.

The preoccupation with especially Spanish and Brazilian players because of those nations' success on the global stage may have overshadowed a burgeoning of talent coming out of Holland who would cost a great deal less than Koke's release clause, for example.

United will never play 'tiki-taka' football thank goodness, so Andres Iniesta and Fabregas may simply not fit. Better the blood and thunder of Atletico Madrid players like Arda Turan.

So it is to be hoped that sanity prevails in the end. Hummels would do very nicely and Martins Indi may also fit the bill. Shaw seems likely to come and Angel di Maria or Yevhen Konoplianka would be exciting signings.

Meanwhile, a midfield drawn from Carvalho, Strootman, Sneijder and Vidal would excite the fans.

Frankly Ed Woodward's career and reputation may be on the block with all the uncertainty that could be created in the aftermath of Malcolm Glazer's death. Joel and Avram are smart enough not to try and sell United until the squad has been significantly strengthened and performances on the pitch are on an upward curve.

The alternative would be for the market value of United to collapse dramatically. With a pending shirt sponsorship and a critically important US tour, Woodward and Van Gaal must get their act together right now.

The players to be shipped out can wait until July and even August, when lesser clubs are getting desperate for credible signings. But United's need to rebuild with world class players is urgent.

This could be the most exciting summer transfer window ever at Old Trafford, but even if Woodward fails again it will simply precipitate a sale by the Glazers and there will be no shortage of potentates with deep pockets queuing to own the 'biggest club in the world'.

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