Manchester United fans worldwide are experiencing deja-vu with regard to the hierarchy's pursuit of the world-class stars and the assurances that the club can still attract the very best.
The feeling of 'having been here already' began when Ed Woodward, after an upbeat interview with MUTV, suddenly left the US tour for "business reasons."
History repeating itself
Shades of the club's tour to Asia and Australia last year, when the Mr Woodward left for what was described as "urgent transfer business." Once again, the king of United's phenomenal commercial success, has not been heard of since.
Last season David Moyes, like a young boy given the keys to a sweet shop, beamed as he told the world's press of the club's interest in Cesc Fabregas. We all know what happened in the end; a desperate final day scramble, culminating in a farcical incident involving unknown agents in Spain and Everton 'laughing behind their hands' as United paid a vastly over-inflated transfer fee for Marouane Fellaini. The rest, of course, is history.
This year, the new manager, who has always shown himself to be wary of the promises of those who run football's super clubs, has distanced himself from Woodward's stated confidence in attracting the world's top players. It started just after his appointment, by emphasising that he had only "approved" the purchases of Luke Shaw and Herrera, implying they were not players he had personally chosen.
Van Gaal keen to give youth a chance
As the summer has gone on Van Gaal has emphasised his commitment to giving the current crop of players the chance to prove themselves. A laudable sentiment, but a manager of his knowledge and experience must have known the loss of three experienced defenders and the dearth of depth, and quality, in central midfield would require major surgery.
When questioned about progress on transfer targets, intriguingly, he told journalists on tour to " ask Manchester United." This gave the impression of someone trying to distance himself from Ed Woodward's efforts. This was followed by his assertion in a recent Daily Mail interview that, " We don't have wingers at the highest level of Ronaldo or Di Maria. It's the strategy of Manchester United to buy players on the way up and getting better, but I only buy when I think we need to."
What do we make from these remarks? Is there a difference in transfer strategy? Does Woodward actually want to pull off the big marque signing he has promised, but Van Gaal is not ready to sanction a move that doesn't fit into his strategy for the team? Or is Van Gaal frustrated with Woodward's seeming inability to attract a true world class signing rather than potential? What assurances were given to him when he joined the club?
Time running out
The truth is that only the two men know and it could be there is actually a meeting of minds with regards to targets. Nevertheless, with only just over two weeks left in the current window much seems unresolved and there is a sense among the fans that the club cannot get the top deals over the line in the way that their rivals seem to manage.
One thing that has changed since last year is the policy with regard to the leaking out of upbeat information on the progress of pending transfer deals. The problem with this, though, is that it allows widespread speculation to proliferate in the press and on social media.
The Arturo Vidal saga, for example, which has now almost gone beyond the frenzy of last year's Fabregas affair, shows how a mixture of silence from United and press speculation (with the inevitable " sources close to the player") has led to confusion. Indeed, nearly all the stories have emanated from Chile or Italy and, subsequently, re-reported in the British press.
The interesting thing, however, is that those journalists closest to the club, such as the Guardian's, Jamie Jackson and Mark Ogden from the Daily Telegraph, have said the club are telling them that United are not interested in the player.
United must communicate better with fans
United need to communicate better with their fans, as their silence is leading to a level of expectation that may well be unfounded or unrealistic. The view of many United fans is that Ed Woodward may be either unwilling to pay the fee required or unable to persuade a world class player to join a team in seeming decline. If the club have never been interested in the player, then such assertions are clearly unfair.
The only transfer, according to widespread reports today, that looks like it might go through, is that for Argentinian defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon. Significantly, this somewhat underwhelming deal was spotted by very few and may indicate deals for Di Maria, Vidal and Hummels are just a mixture of wild speculation and wishful thinking. United fans and their executive vice-chairman may have to set their sights lower.
In the long term, however, it may be what the plain speaking Dutchman thinks about it all that really matters. Ed Woodward and the Glazers beware, because he is no David Moyes and failure will not be down to him.
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