Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has conceded his disappointment that the club did not bring in more players this summer. It was the first window where Woodward assumed control of United’s transfer dealings, following David Gill’s decision to step down, while David Moyes had also just replaced Sir Alex Ferguson.
There was much criticism of both men’s aptitude, with moves being made public and then failing to come to fruition for the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Leighton Baines. Woodward, though, believes it was an especially difficult window, because of the changes in personnel and the fact that Moyes did not start in his role until July 1.
"It was disappointing that we didn't sign more players, but I always knew it was going to be a tough window,” he told United fanzine United We Stand. "We didn't want to impose a plan on the new manager that had come from the old manager... and we knew we had a truncated window.
“With Fabregas that was an approach specific to the selling club,” he added. “They have an ownership structure that means there has to be debate before a player is sold. The early view was that we needed a central midfielder and a left-back, but David also wanted to spend time with the squad. There wasn't a long list he wanted -- it was a unique window.”
While United ended up signing Marouane Fellaini to try and at least in part fill the void in central midfield, they were unable to bring in a left-back. Everton stubbornly refused to countenance United’s offers for Baines, while a loan move for Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao also failed on the final day of the transfer window.
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Reports of United’s interest in Baines remain, however. Indeed, the Daily Express has claimed that Everton are now resigned to losing the England international for £15 million in January and are already lining up his replacement. Given that they rejected similar offers in the summer, that seems a strange assertion.
While not confirmed, there were also strong suggestions that Manchester United made an attempt to lure Gareth Bale to Old Trafford before the Welsh attacker, as expected, eventually made a reported record transfer to Real Madrid. But, after a difficult start to life in the Spanish capital, Metro reports that United are monitoring the situation with a view to launching a bid for his services next year.
Bale has certainly yet to flourish since his transfer, mainly due to a succession of niggling injuries, but it is far too early to think of the relationship between him and Madrid coming to an extremely premature end.
Of course, United have also been strongly linked in recent months to a concerted attempt to bring Bale’s new teammate Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford. The Portuguese star’s recent signing of a new contract to make him the highest-paid player in the world would appear to have put an end to such talk for the time being. Woodward, though, did not rule out the possibility.
"Who knows?" he said. “I don't like the fact that, in the list of 25 players in the Ballon d'Or, we'll have Robin [van Persie] and Wayne [Rooney].
"I don't like the fact there are consistently more players from Spain on that list. We, as a club, should be aspiring to have the best players playing for us. We've had that in the past. We're in for players if the manager wants to be."
Another long-standing United target, Robert Lewandowski, is also back in the gossip pages. It is widely expected that the Polish striker will sign for Bayern Munich when his contract with Borussia Dortmund expires at the end of the season. Yet, the Daily Express makes the surprising claim that he will be offered to United, as well as Arsenal and Chelsea, for the knockdown price of £7 million in January.