United transfer business requires future rethink

Posted by Musa Okwonga

This is all very strange.

Manchester United have bid a sum of only £28 million for both Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, an amount that Everton have publicly rejected out of hand. Until the end of last month, Fellaini was available for £23.5 million, but that release clause has now expired. Meanwhile, Manchester United made a bid earlier this summer for Baines of £12 million, a sum that was also summarily rejected. They have now returned with an offer that Everton manager Roberto Martinez has angrily described as "a waste of time".

What's going on?

- Report: Mou has 'Plan C' if Rooney pursuit fails
- Report: United plan new bid for Fellaini, Baines
- Payne: Fans hail Moyes as Rooney broods
- O'Farrell: Everton miss chance to end transfer saga

Well, the first thing we know is that United manager David Moyes, Martinez's predecessor at Everton, is unafraid to upset his old club by playing hardball with them. One inference is that Manchester United allowed Fellaini's release clause to expire because they fancied, on supposedly good information, that they could get him cheaper than that at the negotiating table. That still doesn't explain why they bid so low for Baines, and it's an implicit admission of the failure of their initial approach that they have now decided to submit separate offers for the two players.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this transfer policy is all a bit of a muddle. Baines, were he to arrive, would represent a direct threat to Patrice Evra, who has not only been one of Manchester United's most spirited performers but has started the season in excellent form. Meanwhile, the potential acquisition of Fellaini would fill an all-too evident gap in the team's squad, so there would be questions as to why it was not made sooner.

This scenario is all the more galling when contrasted with the relative ease of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs' summer-transfer business. If the Premier League title race is a relay, it feels as if these two clubs have eased smoothly into the back straight while Manchester United have fumbled the first baton change. Manchester United can currently field a first 11 that would beat any domestic rival on its day, but their squad is looking somewhat thin in comparison to that of the big summer spenders.

When this transfer window finally closes, there should probably be a rethink about transfer policy next time around. There are, after all, excellent players with international and Champions League pedigree out there who are more than willing to entertain a move to the Premier League, as Willian, Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic, Paulinho and more have shown. While others have been hitting the target with disconcerting regularity, Manchester United must wonder why they have struggled to find their aim.

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