The £21 million signing of Pedro from Barcelona is a very clear indication that Jose Mourinho is unhappy with the attacking forces at his disposal and his purchase of the 28 year old Spaniard surely indicates the end of Juan Cuadrado’s short Chelsea career.
However, the name of Pedro is also one to be chalked up on a worryingly growing list of Manchester United targets that have failed to acquire.
It is quite clear that United are not the force or temptation in the transfer market that they were under Alex Ferguson. What’s more, the fact some United affiliations are labelling them as still the biggest club in the world is more of a hopeful declaration than one of means and of evidence.
Cesc Fabregas, Fabio Coentrao, Gareth Bale, Ilkay Gundogan, Nicholas Otamendi. They are all names on a lengthy list to have been linked with an arrival at Old Trafford, yet they have opted against the move. In cases such as that of Fabregas and Otamendi, the moves were realistic. The funds were available, the players were wantaway, and the need for them in the squad was there.
Yet the pair joined Chelsea and Manchester City respectively. While those who continually speak of the two clubs wealth of riches at their disposal being a primary motive for players to sign for them, they cannot ignore the fact that the Chelsea, under Roman Abramovich’s ownership, and the Abu Dhabi-backed City can offer players domestic success and European challenges. Whilst they are slowly getting back on their feet to reconstruct their challenging force, it is plainly obvious United cannot offer this with as much certainty as they would have been able to two years ago.
The David Moyes’ debacle tells much of the story. The team finished 7th, while domestic cups fizzled out in the early stages. Their long Champions League run finally ended at the hands of Bayern Munich, and whilst it was an admirable defeat, the reality was that European challenges was ending.
Furthermore, during the months that Moyes was in charge, he failed to acquire Fabregas and Leighton Baines in deals which could have stopped the United ship sinking to the depths at which it found itself upon Moyes termination. Moyes and Ed Woodward, try as they might, were simply not building a case of sufficient confidence in themselves. The prerogative was money – look no further than Marouane Fellaini’s transfer – but the players didn’t buy into it. Their targets were far too ambitious for a club so obviously in a state of decline.
This makes a huge case that the capabilities of Sir Alex Ferguson lay beyond the football pitch. Backed up by chief executive David Gill, he was able to sell Manchester United to players with a philosophy, a history and a serious challenge for future successes. Furthermore, he made the case that big money was not necessary. Whilst Chelsea produced cheque after cheque of astronomical fees to sign players, Ferguson did so with a rarity, and in cases where he knew the investment would be fruitful.
That leaves Louis van Gaal in a situation where money is not a motive for players for whom success is an achievement or a close call – the case for Sergio Ramos, effectively. While he can talk a better negotiation than Moyes, he does not match up to what Ferguson brought to the table time after time. At a time when United’s transfer targets are far-fetched indeed, van Gaal may be standing alone in a belief that he can snare whoever he wants with an unsecured ambition plan, and a heap of money. This is proving more and more the case as United’s season, whilst unbeaten, is far from convincing prospective world-class targets that they are a club who can challenge the elite domestically and overseas.
Ultimately – it proves United’s powers are fading, and the temptations of playing for the Old Trafford outfit are going with it.