Culture of overreaction underrates Fellaini

Posted by Mark Payne

The dust has settled. Manchester United suffered a beating during the transfer window, and for all intents and purposes, it looked like a failure. Without question, mistakes were made, but analysis of the cold facts shows that United's main failing was a lack of discretion.

To say that United's primary failing in the transfer window was one of public relations is an understatement. Not only were the club linked with a series of players they did not sign, but lofty proclamations about a big signing were made early in the summer. This had the obvious effect of raising the expectations of fans to a high level. Unfortunately, the higher your expectations, the more likely you are to be disappointed.

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Arsenal made a similar mistake this summer and only managed to save face at the very last minute. In fact, they were one Mesut Ozil away from having another dreadful transfer period. It should also be noted that they failed in attempts to sign their primary target Luis Suarez, and also Wayne Rooney. In terms of the acquisition of playing personnel, Manchester United have actually performed with a similar level of success to their rivals.

Chelsea, too, failed to sign their number one priority, that same Wayne Rooney. Therefore, by keeping him, United have already outmuscled two of their closest rivals. When you compare this to the psychological effect last year's signing of Robin van Persie had, United have again profited.

There are two clubs at the top of the Premier League who have spent decisively, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. City have employed some of Barcelona's ex-corporate staff, including Txiki Begiristain, who have overseen their spending. This has given them considerable edge in planning and contacts within Latin leagues. However, they have just changed their manager again and there remain question marks over squad cohesion and spirit.

On the other hand, Tottenham have spent so gloriously because they have known all summer they were losing Gareth Bale. As things stand, they have simply lost their best player from last season. They are in a good position with new recruits, but they were unimpressive against Arsenal at the weekend and will take time to find their feet.

If you speak to any Evertonians, they will tell you that United are just fine. As far as they are concerned, Marouane Fellaini is an excellent player who will play well in United's side. Unquestionably, he strengthens the first eleven and should add a dimension to United's play.

There is an argument that United overpaid for Fellaini. They probably did. But is Bale worth £85 million? Is Ozil worth £42.5 million? The answer to both questions is an emphatic "no."

So why this culture of overreaction? The obvious answer is that there is a surplus of press coverage. That is certainly true, but if there is demand for it, it will exist. On Monday evening, there were at least three live web-shows updating each transfer as it happened, which is slightly ridiculous.

Another reason is that United had just lost a close match against Liverpool. Derby time is always a sensitive period. Victory for Liverpool was celebrated as if they had just saved the human race from extinction.

Unfortunately, because Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill have gone, their replacements are bound to inspire a larger sense of unease. Ferguson had plenty of bad transfer windows, but fans will be more inclined to question the new men because they have not built up confidence and trust over a long period. They still have time to do that.

There is no question that United handled this period clumsily, but it was always going to be difficult. The main fault seems to be the number of leaks coming from the club to the press. In the days of Gill and Ferguson, signings weren't leaked until the very last. A return to that policy would be welcome. Fans do not wish to experience this kind of humiliation again.

The good news is that this unique cocktail of factors will not recur. David Moyes and United will know the course next time players are available and will have noted reactions this time out. Also, crucially, United actually have a decent football team. Fellaini may not be Bale or Ozil, but he is under far less pressure too. There is every chance he could turn out to be a gem.

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