Manchester United have been linked with over sixty players this summer. That sounds like a lot – and it is – but it’s really par for the course as far as the Reds are concerned.
It’s not really anymore or less than what United fans normally experience, despite the fact that Louis van Gaal has a big bank balance and is not afraid to use it.
Normally we can just dust ourselves off and laugh off the rumours. But a curious thing happened. With United being a lot more watertight with leaks, it was left to foreign press to lead with stories. The moves of Matteo Darmian and Bastian Schweinsteiger began as stories in their home press, as did that of Memphis Depay, if you can remember back as far as May.
So, with Marca and AS really pushing the Sergio Ramos and Pedro stories, we’ve all been left to believe that these moves will actually happen. But will they?
After all, let us not forget that there are very many links that United have had this summer. Wasn’t Roberto Dourado set to sign? Roberto Firmino set for a medical? Gregory van der Wiel part of the move to persuade United to part with Angel Di Maria?
Let’s first separate the fact from the fiction. It is commonly reported that United are interested in Sergio Ramos. Louis van Gaal name-dropped Ramos himself. The club’s position was public and clear – give us Ramos, you get De Gea. But that hasn’t happened.
Madrid were reluctant and Ramos has been happy to travel and play. He is content with his lot. There are some in the press happy to drag it out now but the constant contradictions make it clear that nobody really knows what’s happening, or, that they are inventing developments to justify air time or column inches. No news is not new news – United’s interest is and was real, but the player will not be signing at Old Trafford. We wrote the other day that only fools write in absolutes in football but you get the impression that had Ramos really wanted to move, it could have been cleared up before the clubs went on their pre-season tours.
There has been enough credibility in the Ramos story to have pencilled it in as a maybe, but now, expect rumours to continue about Otamendi.
Which brings us to Pedro. It seems a logical move doesn’t it – fairly reasonably priced, the club publicly saying they will be sad to see him go while understanding that he should. The player himself has to make this call and it will be with a heavy heart he leaves Barcelona. Crucially it should be said that this is a story that has essentially stayed within the Spanish press and hasn’t had any reports of real credibility since the story broke – that’s not to say that there is no truth in the story, but that the developments are not quite as often as we have been led to believe.
Quite like the De Gea story, you get the impression that the move depends on other players. At £22m, Pedro really should be signed anyway considering United’s scarcity of options up front, but when you think of it in those terms, it’s too logical a move to actually go through that way. Do we expect Pedro to sign? We are 50/50 on this one.
Finally there are stories – continued stories – of United being desperate to land a ‘marquee’ name. The Mirror today say that we would use the Di Maria money to really push the boat out for Thomas Muller but there is simply no way that Bayern would sell him.
Where else do you look? Well, you cast your eyes at two obvious names at Real Madrid. But Cristiano Ronaldo will not be going anywhere with Raul’s goal record so close (and, yet, frustratingly for those in the ‘Bring Ronaldo Home’ camp, not so close that it could be broken within two games).
Gareth Bale is one for the conspiracy theorists to adore, with his family living in England after failing to settle in Spain, and those stories of criticism. But Florentino Perez is so fond of Bale that the concept of selling him is one he will not entertain.
The Manchester Evening News reports that Ed Woodward is ‘craving’ for a marquee signing in the form of one of those previous two players. He may be, but Louis van Gaal isn’t, necessarily.
Woodward’s dreams may be realised long term. The changing face of Spanish football with the restructuring of their television deals will mean that Barcelona and Real Madrid may not enjoy the monopoly that they’ve been able to ruthlessly exploit for over 15 years and that may well have ramifications for them on the continent, too.
But not in the short term. And as fabulously as Woodward and Van Gaal have done this summer by refusing to kowtow to Madrid, it doesn’t put United in a position where they can ride roughshod over the Spanish giants and cherry pick their best stars.
Anything can happen in football (the last few days of last summer’s transfer window should teach us that) but it would take a series of unusual events to transpire between now and September for Reds to have their wish-list of stellar names.
That’s not to say that United won’t sign anyone. Those two areas Van Gaal identified as being short in have not been strengthened and almost certainly will be. And they may well be players from La Liga. But for this summer at least, – and let’s hope that these are famous last words – United supporters should probably stop dreaming of Bale or Muller and Ramos.