It’s quite telling that even with only a week left until the World Cup begins in Russia, much of the talk still very much is centred around club football and the transfer window that is capturing the interest of the wider public.
Premier League is the ultimate money-making machine in this global sport and English clubs have once again been seen flexing their financial muscles across Europe – bringing in players of top quality from outside England to make them superstars by giving them the platform with an unrivalled viewership. Liverpool and Manchester United, the country’s two most successful clubs have, in particular – been quite active in the market whose combined total spending has already crossed the £100-million mark.
United, often accused in the past of not making a head start in the Summer window, look to have finally listened to the fans. Being one of the very few clubs in world football in the top-tier – to be run without a Director of Football to act as the glue between the manager and the Board – overseeing the recruitment strategy at the club from top to bottom, United are instead fully reliant on their scouting team and the judgement of the manager when it comes to bringing in new players and weeding out the unwanted.
This has generally turned out well under Jose Mourinho but the consequences of not having a senior footballing figure guiding the whole process which has proved successful for a bulk of the European elite, have been felt at Old Trafford under managers whose ideas were not in line with the culture of Manchester United. Under the Portuguese, United have signed a mix of world-class footballers at the peak of their powers and players with the potential to be world-class in the next few years, should their development continue.
Paul Pogba, at 25 is entering an important period in his career on a personal level and for United – his third season will be the most pivotal of all. Alexis Sanchez is expected to shake off the cobwebs and rediscover his best form from the get go in August while defender Eric Bailly, comfortably United’s best centre-half, who missed a big chunk of last season to injuries, will be keenly watched as his stock promises to go up with time and experience.
With the spine well established now at United, composed of players signed by the current boss, this window is all about supplementing them with players who could now propel them to greater heights. In that sense, the signing of Brazilian midfielder Fred has all the makings of a successful move in the transfer market for the Portuguese.
United may lose two central midfielders this season – after the retirement of Michael Carrick and the likely departure of Marouane Fellaini, meaning the addition of £52-million Fred, now looks like a signing made for the first team rather than an option to strengthen the bench. Fred is at his most comfortable deeper in midfield – averaging over 85% pass success rate in 2017/18 across all competitions and Brazilian to the core, at home with the ball on his feet which has been lacking at United a bit since the retirement of Scholes and now Michael Carrick.
In another low-key purchase, United have also made the acquisition of Portuguese left-back Diogo Dalot, the 19-year old full-back from the famous academy of FC Porto. There are very few managers who could claim maximum knowledge of football in Portugal and the country that is renowned for its impressive academies and the talent that they produce, so it is no wonder that Mourinho has made his move ahead of any other to complete the signing of the ‘youngster that has everything’.
Mourinho later described him as one of the finest full-backs of his age group in Europe, who could play on either flank – and Dalot certainly looks the part in the way he carries himself on camera. The youngster looked unperturbed by the challenge that awaits him at Old Trafford, the prospect of playing in front of 75,000 every other week, but that is one that he may relish come August, by the looks of him.
While all of that remains to be seen, for the first time in a few years Manchester United have kicked the ball rolling in this transfer window quite early, by adding two names to their squad before June in a surprisingly positive start.