By Monday night, Manchester United fans knew the deal for Athletic's Ander Herrera was off but not much else. Were United not willing to pay the full €36million required of them? Were those 'representatives' actually impostors? The Hows and Whys would only become clear the next morning.
It has since emerged that the three men seen pictured on their way to the league headquarters in Spain were sports lawyers -- not impostors -- with the intention of seeing the transfer through. They were a part of Laffer, a Spanish legal firm. The Guardian's Jamie Jackson (who is close to United) wrote that the club themselves thought the men to not be working on their behalf, when it turned out they were.
When the lawyers eventually left the building with the clause still to be met, many journalists in Spain cited "bureaucratic problems" stalling the move. It is said that there was not sufficient understanding on United's part as to what was required of them, and the risks that clauses of this nature could later bring out. So they pulled out.
If the Reds go in for the player in January, you would think and hope they have learned their lesson.
Laffer had previously helped Bayern Munich with the signing of Javi Martinez in 2012, another player of the Bilbao club whose buyout clause bought about more complications than could be envisaged. That saga drew out for a month: no wonder United struggled so with the clock ticking. If only they had acted earlier.