Representatives of Manchester United (update: they were in fact Bilbao-based lawyers) walked into Spanish league headquarters on Monday evening prepared to pay Ander Herrera's release clause -- then walked out without paying, because of course.
The photograph of three suited-up, weary-looking men on their way to the building followed by reports of them having to leave because of contractual complications seemed like something out of a sketch show: except nothing was funny about this. And then -- then! -- it emerged that these men might have been impostors (since denied). Scratch the sketch: this was like something out of The Real Hustle. Indeed, this is all a perfect summation of the summer transfer window for United: a farce of the highest order.
Gary Neville had it right in 2012 when he tweeted: "What the transfer deadline gives you is a clear indication of which are the badly run football clubs!!!" United, at least where transfers are concerned, have given the impression of a 'badly run' club, despite their late-save with Marouane Fellaini (and that wasn't exactly convincing, either).
A string of journalists close to United revealed that the club were unsure of the Athletic Bilbao player's value, but planned an announcement anyway. It would be difficult, and unfair, to pick out individuals just like that without knowing everything, but it's a damning indictment on all involved. Ed Woodward, perhaps rightly, will not get off as lightly as David Moyes, but both should feel embarrassment.
What will be comforting to many United fans is the arrival of Fellaini, but even that has become a little contentious. They have apparently paid £27.5million for a player they could have got for £4million less had they activated his release clause in July. Values ultimately mean little especially if the signing is a necessary one, but it's all a little frustrating given what's happened -- or hasn't -- with Herrera, who was simply passed up. Nevertheless, folks, there's an addition in midfield to savour. Fellaini will succeed. Or should, anyway. For someone's sake.
Elsewhere, Nick Powell's gone on loan to Wigan Athletic. This had to go through so United could get Fellaini (and Everton get James McCarthy) but Powell could perhaps have played a role in a side desperate for a second midfield man. Many have also claimed that Fabio Coentrao was loaned out, but it seems now that the deal for the Real Madrid left-back has fallen through. Further disappointment! United aren't exactly short of left-backs but Coentrao is such a terrific player that it almost doesn't matter. The Portuguese is an option at left midfield and even in the position United need to fill most. Fellaini, because he was not accompanied by another midfielder, will now be seen as the 'answer'. It's not fair, and it's definitely not his fault.
Zach is a new writer on The Busby Babe. We hope you wish him well, and that we might have introduced him to you in a happier place.