From a football fan’s perspective, the summer months are usually dominated by transfer gossip. Rumours fly around on a daily basis, stories that are mostly untrue, often outrageous, and sometimes illogical. But they are impossible to resist, too, offering the tantalising possibility of a certain player joining the club, and generating excitement for the season ahead.
During a World Cup summer though, the interest in transfer speculation falls away. This World Cup in particular has been such a spectacle, so enjoyable and entertaining, that domestic football has, for a while at least, taken a back seat. Transfer rumours have been more muted, and stories about Premiership clubs rare – with the majority of players involved and focused on the World Cup, transfer business often has to wait until after it has finished.
Not for much longer, though. In less than a week’s time, the tournament’s final whistle will have been blown, and the transfer speculation will become frantic and frenzied once more. Particularly so this year, as all transfers must be completed by Thursday 9th August, after the Premier League clubs voted to shorten the transfer window. It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense, with clubs having to start the season with their squad finalised and established, but the fact the rest of Europe is not doing the same has put our clubs onto an uneven playing field of our own making. In addition, bringing the rule into force in a World Cup year was badly misjudged.
It will, however, sharpen minds. Just how in the last week or so of August, clubs frantically try to close deals that have dragged on for months, that desperation has been brought forward to July. There is just one month left to sign players.
For United, it feels like there is a lot that still needs to happen. Fred and Diego Dalot are good signings, but they are not enough. United resigning Fellaini suggests another midfielder won’t be sought, but the club still need 3 more signings if they intend to genuinely compete with Manchester City.
Ashley Young has been solid and dependable for England at left-wing, continuing the impressive performances he produced for United last season. The way he has adapted and embraced his new role has been fantastic, a testament to his character, attitude and ability. However, few fans will feel he is an acceptable option in the long-term. It still feels like a stop-gap solution, and surely Mourinho has to prioritise a new left-back in the coming weeks. The rumours about Sandro continue to linger; hopefully there is some truth to them.
Lindelof’s form in this World Cup, a culmination of his continual improvement last season after a shaky start, may make Mourinho think twice about recruiting a centre-half. It would certainly be interesting to see Bailly and Lindelof afforded an extended opportunity to establish a partnership. They have the credentials to make it work, and with Fosu-Mensah returning after a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace, it doesn’t feel like United desperately need to strengthen in that area. It has long been reported that Mourinho wants a new defender, though, and it will be interesting to see if Lindelof’s recent form has changed his mind.
One area United have to strengthen in is the right wing. There is no-one in the squad who naturally suits the position, and it’s clear Mourinho has to recruit someone to fill the role. He just hasn’t got long to do it.
Taking all that account, plus the doubts about certain players’ futures – Martial, Mata, Shaw, Rojo, Darmian, and Blind – it’s clear that United have a lot to do in the next few weeks. The clock is ticking.