Nobody really wants to talk, or even think, about the summer window just gone for Manchester United any more but, hey, they brought it up. According to the Daily Telegraph, the club are said to be "baffled" by critics of their transfer policy.
Now, of course, did we expect any different? United will probably rue the bad luck they've had in attracting players, curse the market's inflated values and point out the lack of viable targets. The club will perhaps feel they did all they could with all of this considered. These frustrations, however, may be different to those of the fans, whose opinions are sorta-kinda important, too, and worth taking note of for January and beyond.
In the report, Henry Winter writes of the reluctance to pay for "overpriced" players, like Ander Herrera, but, given all the talk of "no budget" (as in 'unlimited') and the suggestion by chief executive Ed Woodward of United's potential to buy big if necessary (think £60-70million), it all seems a little, well, underwhelming. There will almost certainly be more explanations to follow in the coming weeks from David Moyes and Woodward and they will have to do a lot more convincing. You can talk about the lack of value in the market, but how many £60million players are there? Fees paid must correspond with the selling club, so what constitutes 'fair' and 'reasonable' only comes later, and not even before what is deemed necessary.
With someone like Herrera, who we're sure you're tired of hearing about, United would be looking at a long-term signing who might not quite look a £31million player in his first year, but, as many believe, could in a season or two, which is a bit like Real Madrid's thinking with Asier Illaramendi. Herrera is seen as 'ready', anyway, and a player who will get better. He did only turn 24 in August.
The most interesting point to come out of the Telegraph's story is how Moyes likes his players: he wants to know what he's getting before signing them. This sounds pretty professional of him and something many would endorse. But United have had enough time this summer, no? When Moyes officially took over at the start of July, he spoke of the need for two midfielders.
On Wednesday, The Guardian's Daniel Taylor revealed that Moyes passed up Thiago Alcantara because he did not have enough background information on the player. He was not entirely confident the now-Bayern Munich man was what United needed. This is slightly grating, but fair enough. It is Moyes' team.
Still, it did look like United fell into the same trap with Herrera as they did with Thiago, putting themselves in a position where they were not confident enough to make an offer. This, then, makes the last-minute bid for Real Madrid's Sami Khedira all the more intriguing: he is an established central midfielder everyone already knows about and is not someone a club would have to wait on. But you could wonder why they left their approach so late. There were suggestions earlier in the window that Madrid would sell the player, as to make some money back from their incomings. But this late? Remember, Fabio Coentrao would be a United player (at least on loan) right now if Madrid had managed to sign Guilherme Siqueira from Granada before Benfica did. By 11pm on Monday, Khedira was a firm part of Madrid's plans. A lot of the criticism comes from the fact that United have not acted decisively, making the wrong bids, or bids at the wrong time, or no bids at all.
United might be "mystified" at the reaction to their dealings, but there's been no real sense of direction all summer. See the pursuit of Cesc Fabregas that everyone was clued-up on, simply because United had made their interest public. It did not reflect well on those behind-the-scenes at Old Trafford, and it was notable in a recent press-conference with Moyes that it had been dropped, as the Scot refused to specifically mention the players he wanted. Chelsea might have done something similar with Wayne Rooney, but unlike Fabregas, the striker genuinely looked like he wanted out.
It is, though, admittedly, easy to see where United are coming from. They managed to sign Marouane Fellaini from Everton and keep a hold of Rooney. That was the ultimate priority, even if it wasn't the fans', and United at least succeeded there. However, it was clear they wanted to do more business: and when they tried to do it, they did it poorly.