United’s capture of Colombian striker Falcao on loan from Monaco with a view to a permanent cut-price €54m deal next year, dominated headlines on a frantic deadline day which saw Premier League clubs take spending in the entire summer window beyond €1 billion.
United, who suffered so badly last season when David Moyes failed in bids for Cesc Fabregas, Wesley Sneijder, Leighton Baines, Ander Herrera and Sami Khedira, were clearly determined not to make the same mistakes a year on, even if at times their transfer policy has appeared to lack structure or a consistent vision.
Certainly Louis van Gaal cannot be accused of falling into the same trap as his predecessor, having now spent close to €200m in the transfer window — a figure reached when United also brought Ajax utility player Daley Blind for €18m on deadline day.
But United fans may still wonder if throwing money at big-name players, despite generating excitement, is the best way to solve they myriad problems that dogged the club last year. Falcao’s arrival is likely to see him partner Robin van Persie up front with Wayne Rooney behind — potentially one of the best triangular strike forces in the world — but having allowed Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra to leave, things don’t look so rosy in the defensive half of the team.
Reports at Old Trafford suggest Blind, who has played primarily at left-back, is more likely to be handed a defensive midfield role, and has been brought to the club because he understands the philosophies of van Gaal, who also managed him at international level.
Van Gaal said: “Daley is a great reader of the game, he has played under my philosophy over a number of years and he will be a great addition.”
Falcao’s arrival — a player who has scored 20 goals in 51 appearances for Colombia and 52 goals in 68 games for Atletico Madrid — was dramatic, with United needing an extension to the 11pm deadline to finish paperwork.
But the signing also meant United had to offload other strikers, Javier Hernandez going on loan to Real Madrid and, controversially, Danny Welbeck heading to London for talks with Arsenal about a permanent €20m deal. Again, this transfer wasn’t completed by the 11pm but an application for an extension was granted by the Premier League.
“If it goes through I think it’s a great move for Danny and clever from Wenger,” said former United coach Rene Meulensteen who coached Welbeck in the youth team at United. “He’s that sort of player who could strengthen Arsenal. I’ve known Danny since he was eight or nine and he’s excellent to work with. People say he’s not an out and out goalscorer, but he’s a link player, he’s a creator, he’s unpredictable. He’s still young and I think if he’s in the right team and given the right run of games he will score more goals. I’m surprised he’s been allowed to move on.”
From Arsenal’s point of view, Welbeck’s arrival would be a huge positive just a week after injury ruled Olivier Giroud out until December.
It was all quiet at champions Manchester City who, nervous of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules having already been found guilty by Uefa’s of overspending in recent seasons, were more interested in offloading striker Alvaro Negredo to Valencia and Micah Richards to Fiorentina on loan deals.
Perhaps that is a sign that, Financial Fair Play will eventually catch up with the market.
Lawyer Faye Bargery, Partner at Thomas Eggar LLP, has been following FFP and the transfer window closely and said: “The summer has seen Premier League spending records being broken yet again. Clubs have continued to spend despite the impact of Uefa’s financial fair play rules, bringing into question how effective they are at reducing the huge sums spent by clubs over the last few years. However with increasing TV monies to be distributed amongst the Premier League it seems that clubs are ever more willing to spend on new arrivals to try and improve their squads.
“One club who have had to carefully limit their spending are Manchester City who, having breached the financial fair play rules, are now subject to restrictions, which has limited their spending to a net £49m. We have seen Manchester City acting early on in the transfer window to make targeted acquisitions and off-loading some of the players who were surplus to requirements to help meet these restrictions. The restrictions may mean Manchester City miss out on players they would otherwise have acquired and can be contrasted with United, who have spent nearly £150m so far.”
That, of course, is another boost for United. The only question is whether van Gaal’s gambles pay dividends.