Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is increasingly frustrated with a lack of transfer activity at Old Trafford this summer, echoing complaints of predecessor Jose Mourinho in 2018 when the club failed to build on a second place Premier League finish and fell away.
United have completed the £40m capture of Donny van de Beek from Ajax, an addition that will strengthen an already very promising midfield unit. But the pursuit of primary target Jadon Sancho is dragging on and on with no obvious sign of an imminent breakthrough.
With the transfer window closing on 5 October and Borussia Dortmund firmly sticking to their €120m asking price, time is fast running for United, who also still have a left-back, centre-back and striker on their wish-list as part of the wider ongoing squad rebuild.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward warned earlier this year that, despite United’s commercial prowess and intention to be competitive in the transfer market, no club will be immune from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
United’s own downturn was quickly reflected in financial results for January, February and March, capturing only the very beginning of the crisis, which revealed a drop in revenue and a loss.
But fans have since grown frustrated by business being conducted at other clubs. Chelsea’s £200m transfer spree is largely funded by unspent player sales from the last 18 months, but clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool have also invested despite limitations.
Fan ire further increased earlier this week when figures widely shared on social media highlighted that the club paid out £89m to the Glazer family between 2014 and 2019. Another £120m was spent on servicing interest on the debt the club took on as a result of the controversial leveraged buyout in 2005, meaning £209m has been taken out of the club since 2014 alone.
According to ESPN, Solskjaer has been ‘largely accepting’ of the unprecedented limitations on finances brought on by the coronavirus crisis. However, it is also said there is now a ‘growing annoyance’ that deals he would have expected to be completed anyway haven’t been.
Privately, it is claimed Solskjaer has made clear to Woodward how crucial it is the squad is improved.
On a similar note, players earmarked for the exit have not been successfully moved on. That includes the like of Chris Smalling, in whom there is genuinely strong interest from at least one club.
United rescued a potentially disastrous season in 2019/20 to finish third in the final Premier League table, returning to the Champions League as a result, and reach three cup semi-finals. But with others around them improving, they cannot afford not to keep building.
There is an air of déjà vu, with Mourinho presented with only Fred as a first-team signing in the summer of 2018 when it was clear United needed more investment to realise their aims. The manager made his feelings clear during that pre-season – almost inevitably the 2018/19 campaign started terribly and within a few months Mourinho was sacked.
ESPN notes that while United are refusing to give up on Sancho – Solskjaer is alleged to have even personally phoned the winger to inform him he expects a deal to be done – a list of alternatives has been readied, featuring Ivan Perisic, Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa.
The Independent has also reported that 22-year-old Watford talent Ismaila Sarr is also now one of the options if United decide they are willing to walk away from the Sancho saga. But Sarr is already wanted by Liverpool, who are said to have now made contact with Watford.