Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson decided to jump from the sinking ship like a rat to retire in a blaze of glory in 2013, Manchester United's approach to the transfer market has shifted considerably. In the latter years of Fergie's reign, United were all about "value in the market," which mostly translated to signing middling players soon found to be out of their depth and second-tier promising youngsters, with the odd stroke of brilliance like Robin van Persie or David De Gea.
Without the wizardry of Sir Alex to turn water into wine, though, the Glazers have reluctantly opened their checkbooks in order to bolster what was a shamefully imbalanced squad. One of the results of the club owners' newfound profligacy is that everyone and their mother is now fully aware that United are after Big Name Players from Big Clubs, and are willing to pay Big Wages. How much of the interest is genuine makes little difference. Agents can now knock on the door of chairmen, wave today's newspapers with "Manchester United Preparing Shock Bid For..." plastered across the back, and use the threat of United to secure a fat new contract for their clients. Here are a few of the biggest transfer charlatans that have used United to get what they want.
Ah, Fàbregas - David Moyes' and Ed Woodward's signature cock-up. In the summer 2013, Fàbregas was unhappy with his role at Barcelona. Despite winning trophies, his homecoming didn't quite the go the way he had planned. His role in the team wasn't nearly as prominent as it was at Arsenal, and he wasn't even always first choice in the big games, the poor dear. In order to send a message to Barcelona about his unhappiness, Fàbregas flirted with United all summer long. He "let it be known" that he might be interested in a move (but only if Barça wanted to sell him) no doubt batting his eyelashes and giggling coyly the whole time. Barcelona got the hint, Fàbregas got the reassurance that he wanted, and United got Marouane Fellaini.
In May, Dani Alves was mad as hell at Barcelona. He was angry with the club for not showing him enough re$p€ct, and went public with his grievances. "I may have two feet in the team but I've also got one foot, my body and nearly my head out of the club. I would like to stay here but not at any price. Not only in terms of money but in terms of respect. If I'm not shown that respect, I'll go to another club." United sprung into action, and Alves was quickly identified as the number one target to replace the shambles that is Antonio Valencia. United were clearly given encouragement by those close to the player, and with the relationship with his current club irrevocably damaged, it should have simply been a matter of agreeing a knock-down fee. Two weeks later, Alves signed a new contract.
In June, Sergio Ramos was mad as hell at Real Madrid. He was angry with the club for not showing him enough re$p€ct, and...you see where this is going. Ramos isn't currently seeing eye-to-eye with Madrid president Florentino Pérez, and has apparently told the club that he wants to join United. Bridges appear to have been burned on both sides, but new bridges can be built with a handshake and an extra €4 million or so in wages. The only thing that may save United from being embarrassed yet again is the fact that they have cleverly hinged this deal on the one for David De Gea to move in the opposite direction. But don't bet against Madrid somehow ending up with both, either this summer or the next.
Schweinsteiger has been at Bayern Munich since he was 13. He's won 8 Bundesliga titles, 7 DFB-Pokal titles, a UEFA Champions League title, a FIFA Club World Cup title, and he's also the club's vice-captain. Pull the other one, Bastian.