It’s that time of year again: the summer transfer window. A time when everyone seems to go giddy and obsess over the latest transfer rumours being circulated in the press and online.
A time when many of us dedicate hours trying to differentiate between the "ITK" and "WUM" Twitter accounts, trauling for a shred of a hint at who our team might be "in for" this summer.
And Manchester United, more than any club in the world, seems to be embroiled in drawn-out, exhausting, and ultimately frustrating transfer sagas.
So far this summer, with José Mourinho at the helm, United have moved quickly and efficiently to tie up deals for Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
And the Portuguese coach has vowed that his quest for "the fourth" signing — which is universally understood to be a potentially world record breaking move to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford — will not drag on and become the latest in a long line of United transfer sagas.
But, with history as our guide, we won’t be holding our breath. After all, would it really be a summer without one of our traditional ill-fated pursuits of a continental star?
So, while we’re all in the transfer window spirit, here are five of the most frustrating transfer sagas in recent times.
5. Thomas Müller - Bayern Munich
With this one in particular, it felt as though everyone except executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward knew it was doomed to failure from the beginning. Thomas Müller is a wonderful footballer with the uncanny ability to appear not very good, when he is actually superb. He’s not especially quick, not especially strong or skillful, but his timing and intelligence are unparalleled. Müller always seems to be in the right place at the right time; deflected shots and rebounds seem magnetically drawn to his boot. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just good luck — it’s not, Müller’s anticipation and positioning is a skill more valuable than being able to do stepovers and rabonas.
Müller is also a very Bavarian man who is the embodiment of his club. Bayern will not sell him, and he will not move. No matter how many £80 million bids Woodward supposedly makes.
4. Arturo Vidal - Juventus
Combative Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal joined Bayern Munich from Juventus last summer for around €30 million. But a year earler, the player was constantly linked with a potential €60 million move to Old Trafford, with the English press reporting that United’s interest was real, and that Vidal was open to the move.
The type of box-to-box drive that Vidal could’ve added to the United midfield would have been the perfect antidote to the turgid displays of the David Moyes era, while staving off the pointless possession-is-king appraoch that Louis van Gaal was about to introduce. But after months of speculation, nothing happened. Vidal stayed at Juventus and guided the Bianconeri the Champions League final.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid
Throughout the 2007-08 season, Cristiano Ronaldo was untouchable for United. His 42 goals in all competitions helped win a Premier League title as well as the third European Cup in the club’s history.
But once the season was over, the talented Portuguese made clear his desire to join Real Madrid. Then-United boss Sir Alex Ferguson pleaded with Ronaldo to stay in Manchester and continue to achieve great things with the club, and, in the end, the two settled on a compromise that would see Ronaldo give Ferguson one more season before making the switch to the Spanish capital.
Real Madrid came back with a world record breaking £80 million bid for the player who was signed for £12.24 million from Sporting CP as an 18-year-old.
It was a great financial return for the player, but the club’s failure to reinvest that money in squad improvements was a source of frustration for years to come.
2. Wesley Sneijder - Internazionale
This is one that feels like a perpetual rumour that will only really go away when Wesley Sneijder retires. Sneijder has been linked with a move to United so often that it has become a running joke within the football community. And even at 32 years old, the Dutch midfielder was rumoured to be a target for José Mourinho this summer.
But the peak of the Sneijder saga came in 2011, when it seemed like United were actually pretty close to pulling the move off. Sneijder was at the peak of his powers, just one year removed from guiding Mourinho’s Inter to Treble glory before carrying the Netherlands to the World Cup final in South Africa.
Rumour has it that United were deep in negotiations with Inter and the player’s representatives, only for the move to be scuppered by Sneijder’s wage demands.
1. Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid
It’s the hope that kills. And last summer, United were given hope that they could genuinely pull off a transfer for Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. The World Cup winner was believed to be unhappy at Madrid, and the word coming out of his camp was that he liked the idea of a switch to United — if the money was right, of course.
As we know now, Ramos was fishing, and United bit. Talk began to turn to Woodward placing a bid for the experienced centre-back, with Los Blancos allegedly holding out for £60 million for the player.
The story ran and ran, with indication given from the player’s camp that his will to leave the Bernabéu was legitimate. But, alas, it was not. Ramos had been angling for an improved contract with the eleven-time European champions, and United were a naïve pawn in the game he was playing.