Manchester United Transfer Window Verdict 2021/22 | THT Opinions

The Hard Tackle analyses Manchester United’s transfer business and gives its verdict of the Premier League giants’ performance in the summer window.

The summer transfer window of 2021, perhaps the craziest one in recent memory, or even all-time, came to an end earlier this week. A window that saw two of the greatest ever to play the game – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – trade clubs. There were some shock moves, spending records were broken in some cases, and there were quite a few shrewd free transfers as well.

The Premier League, as usual, was a hubbub of transfer activity, with the spending once again going beyond £1 billion. Indeed, as per Deloitte, clubs in the English top-flight spent a gross amount of £1.1 billion, less than what was spent in the last summer, but still a huge sum considering the pandemic-affected market.

Manchester United were again one of the top spenders – second-highest in the league – shelling out £126 million this summer on four new players. At the same time there were a few exits, mostly on loan, and The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the 20-time English champions’ business in the summer transfer window in 2021.

INS: Tom Heaton (free transfer), Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo.

OUTS: Daniel James, Sergio Romero (free transfer), Joel Pereira (free transfer), Tahith Chong (loan), Facundo Pellistri (loan), Axel Tuanzebe (loan), Andreas Pereira (loan), Brandon Williams (loan).

MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Cristiano Ronaldo

Tom Heaton comes in as a direct replacement for Sergio Romero as the third-choice goalkeeper and adds value with his vast experience. Jadon Sancho, given his exploits in his short career, has the potential to be an excellent addition in the immediate sense and for the long-term future, which would make the £76 million transfer fee worth every penny.

Raphael Varane is another top addition, a world-class defender in his prime, for a fee of just £36 million, solidifies the backline, brings in a winning mentality and experience as well. So, both him and Sancho were strong contenders for this section. However, Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock return to Old Trafford 12 years after he left takes the cake just for the sheer value he will add to the club, both on and off the field.

At 36, he still remains one of the best strikers in the game – one only need to look at his heroics for Portugal this week to realise what he brings to the table. An elite goalscorer, Ronaldo is coming on the back of a spectacular campaign with Juventus, on a personal level at least, as he finished as the top-scorer of Serie A, outscoring Chelsea’s record signing, Romelu Lukaku.

Ronaldo’s presence provides Manchester United with an infallible goalscorer in their midst, and with Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba & co. working their magic in behind him, it could spell trouble for opposition defences. Not to mention what his presence will do to the players within the squad. Youngsters like Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford can learn so much from just being around him on the training ground.

All this for a sum of €15 million, payable over five years, along with add-ons worth €8 million. While he may be on a bumper contract, his arrival has already seen Manchester United’s stock value rise by a massive £212 million hours after his arrival. Not to forget the income that he will rake in from merchandise sales and sponsorships. And the impact of his return on the fans cannot be overstated. Old Trafford will be buzzing each time he takes the field.

Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Daniel James

Daniel James, for all his potential, never looked like a good fit at Manchester United. Apart from the bright starting period upon arriving from Swansea City in 2019, the Welsh winger largely struggled to make an impact at Old Trafford on a consistent basis. There was no shortage of effort while his pace was always a threat, but the lack of end product had been a major gripe.

And, that eventually led to his stature at Manchester United reducing, with Mason Greenwood jumping ahead of James in the pecking order over the past eighteen months or so. Throw in the arrival of Sancho this summer and the return of Jesse Lingard after his loan spell at West Ham United, the 23-year-old was always going to struggle for game time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

So, his sale to Leeds United on the deadline day for a fee of £26 million comes as the right decision. Not only did Manchester United get rid of a player who was going to play a fringe role at best, but also managed to make a decent £10 million profit on him as well.

At the same time, James moves to a club where he is likely to feature much more regularly under Marcelo Bielsa, who had been wanting to sign him for two years now. A win-win for all parties involved.

The Big Miss (A Player Who Should Have Left): Phil Jones

While there remain a few fans and pundits who wanted to see Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek leave, it is perhaps, Phil Jones’ situation that would go down as the biggest miss for Manchester United this summer. The 29-year-old England defender, who is one of the longest-serving members of the current squad, has not played in over eighteen months for the Red Devils due to injury and fitness issues.

With the signing of Varane, he drops down a peg further in the pecking order behind the Frenchman, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly, essentially becoming the club’s fifth-choice centre-half and is unlikely to see any meaningful game-time, whatsoever. There had been some degree of interest from clubs in the Premier League as well as the Championship, but a move failed to materialise.

Considering his situation, playing time is important for the Englishman to get his career back on track, but staying put at Old Trafford does little to help him in that regard. From the club’s perspective, they will keep paying significant wages to a player that is unlikely to play much and is also potentially blocking a talented academy youngster’s path to the first-team.

Final Verdict: SUCCESS

A net spend of £100 million with three absolutely top-notch players in Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane coming in can only be seen as a roaring success for Manchester United in the transfer window. There will be some complaints from the fanbase that a new defensive midfielder was not signed, which could be an issue considering Fred’s misfiring displays.

But, in an overall sense, the depth in the squad across all positions, the quality within the ranks, has certainly made Manchester United a much stronger proposition in comparison to the last season, putting them firmly in contention for the title.

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