Wednesday 1 September 2021

Manchester United: Transfer window round-up

Well, where to even begin when it comes to dissecting Manchester United's summer transfer activity of 2021?
United went into the window in need of a right-back, a right winger and a defensive midfield player and ended it with only player across those three positions. Usually, this would be cause for consternation but times they are a-changing and there was instead widespread euphoria as the deadline passed late on Tuesday.

Indeed, this was the best transfer window the Reds have had in years: it was as if we suddenly remembered who we were again. There have been some serious duds coming through the revolving door at Carrington over the past few seasons but, this time, United rediscovered their transfer magic, sprinkled the stardust and threw down the gauntlet. 

Granted, United will have to make do without the defensive midfield player so badly needed. Eduardo Camavinga ended up at Real Madrid and Saul Niguez joined Chelsea on loan. Yves Bissouma - Brighton's talented string-puller, stayed where he was and a move for Declan Rice did not materialise.

But United still ended up with a generational player and two further world class, genuine, 24-carat talents. The Reds (at last) got their man as Jadon Sancho - for so long the apple of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's eye - finally arrived from Borussia Dortmund for 73m. United had walked away from the deal as the German giants dug their heels in a year ago, but, twelve months on, the Reds long running pursuit of the 21-year-old came to an end as the generational talent came to Old Trafford to provide an immediate solution to our problematic right-wing position. 

Raphael Varane proved the yin to Sancho's yang - for as good a buy as Sancho was, United's defence needed improvement and, in the phenomenal Frenchman, there are few better to do so.  A serial winner, Varane - a four time Champions League winner and a World champion - is a man to bring an instant and immediate upgrade to any defence in world football. Varane's Reds career may only be 90 minutes old, but he's already shown his class with a simply colossal showing at Wolves as Solskjaer's side battled to an ugly, smash and grab 1-0 victory. Victor Lindelof may have rarely let his team or his manager down, but there can be no better fit for this side than a man with more silver than your local branch of Ernest Jones.

We thought that was it - all transfer business done and dusted, in terms of incomings at least, now on with the season. But the biggest bombshell was yet to come. Twelve years on from his departure - and in the same summer his long time rival Lionel Messi also moved clubs - Cristiano Ronaldo came home.

In a chain of events no one saw coming, the man still adored at Old Trafford - the king known simply as CR7 - played out a public dalliance with City until United, or more pertinently, Sir Alex Ferguson, intervened. 
It was a moment we had dreamed of for so long, no one believed it would ever actually happen, but on Friday 27 August 2021 Ronaldo rejoined the club that made him. If Varane was the icing to Sancho's cake, then Ronaldo was sweet the red cherry perched gloriously on the top. 

Even by Manchester United's standards, this was surely one of the most extraordinary summers in this club's proud and illustrious history. If you'd told me we'd sign these three remarkable players, I'd have said you're mad and should lay off the sauce. 

Tom Heaton joined from Aston Villa - a signing perhaps understandably under the radar, and ex-Red Paul McShane - by now a 35-year-old veteran arrived as player-coach with the view of coaching the Reds production line of talent on the Carrington conveyor belt.

Elsewhere, several Red youngsters went out on loan. Axel Tuanzebe, his game time further stunted by the arrival of Varane, went the opposite way to Heaton whilst Tahith Chong, Will Fish, Facundo Pellistri, Andreas Pereira, James Garner and Brandon Williams will all play their football away from Old Trafford during 2021-22. Good luck to everyone in their continuing education and development. 

There was a permanent farewell to Old Trafford, too. Dan James played 74 times for United across two seasons, and was just embarking on his third campaign in Red when the lure of Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds proved too great. 'DJ' almost joined the Elland Road club after he left Swansea only to sign for Solskjaer instead. James always gave 100%, had an unstinting attitude with a fantastic work rate and clearly loved playing for United. The emotional scenes after he scored on his debut against Chelsea just days after the death of his beloved father will live forever in our memories. Ultimately, James wasn't quite good enough but came across as a lovely young man and, of course, we wish him well in his new career across the Pennines (apart from when they play us, that is). Leeds paid £25m for the jet-heeled 23 year old - United's third biggest outgoing ever. 

United have started the season well and already sit four points ahead of last term's tally at the same stage. With the stellar signings and depth in abundance, there's no reason not to be confident of a serious tilt at the title in 2021-22. 

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