Jose Mourinho will remember a forgettable transfer deadline day after Manchester United failed to listen to his public cry for help, writes Desmond Kane.
Deadline day is more Alan Partridge than Alan Pardew, but at least the most dog-tired made-for-television torture since Miranda is over until next year. For Manchester United’s increasingly morose manager Jose Mourinho, that might be no good thing.
At the end of such a cliché-ridden day, you only get what you pay for. Or if you are United, you don’t. A reddening and resigned Mourinho looked like he had been invited to share a Thursday morning cuppa with Doctor Eva Carneiro as he assessed what the final day of the summer window might bring for his club.
“I am not confident, and the market closes today, so it’s time, at least for me, to stop thinking about the market because the market will be closed,” said Mourinho.
United are one of the richest clubs in the world, yet seem to have a problem purchasing trustworthy centre-halves, according to Mourinho. Which makes you wonder why, because their list of targets did not appear to be unearthed from a rich scouting network, but rather your local Wetherspoons.
If you do not succeed in landing Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld, Yerry Mina or Jerome Boateng, why not turn to Diego Godin at the last minute? You know, the seasoned Uruguayan stopper from Atletico Madrid who enjoyed a decent World Cup? It is the sort of wish list that someone would blurt out when you are five pints of Punk IPA down.
It is also the sort of self-indulgent notion that is destined to fail because it is ill conceived at such late notice, reeking of desperation when other clubs know you have money to burn and are searching for a saviour. No Premier League club is in any rush to be bullied into selling the family jewels these days when they themselves are pumped with financial steroids.
Unless you are prepared to pay well above the going rate, you are likely to fail. And even then, you still might fail.
United came up short with a £60m bid for Maguire earlier in the window, but resisted rising to an outlandish £80m to land the strapping former Hull player after his stoic World Cup with England. They endured a lamentable day, even being poked fun at by the Leicester manager Claude Puel, whose side visit Old Trafford for the Premier League opener on Friday evening.
“I can confirm he is going to Manchester but only for a couple of hours,” said Puel. “I am happy to keep Harry. He is our best player. I am a football manager and I want to keep our best players for the squad and for our season.”
How times have changed. The club that built the foundations of this televised gold rush are now mugged off by clubs like Leicester. Imagine Muzzy Izzet being happy to snub Sir Alex Ferguson.
United will face Leicester and Maguire without a fresh central defender they craved and a set of veteran wing-backs who enjoyed their peak years under Fergie five years ago.
It has been a weird wild goose chase for United, whose signing of the £50m midfielder Fred and £19m Porto right-back Diego Dalot seem to be forgotten about in their quest to shore up a defence that was good enough to reach second place last season.
Mourinho made his plight known publicly to United chief executive Ed Woodward, but it fell on deaf ears.
United have spent around £60m on Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof over the past two years. Perhaps the board do not want to be burned badly again by the whim of a manager who would continue to spend like a gambler chasing his losses to break even.
Mourinho has been humoured to the tune of over £280m in 2016 and 2017, but this year spent around £73m. It was United’s most restrained spending since 2013. It represents a decline in blind faith.
“My CEO knows what I want and I still have a few days to wait and see what happens,” said Mourinho on Sunday.
“The other clubs who compete with us are really strong and already have fantastic teams. Or they are investing massively like Liverpool, who are buying everything and everybody. If we don’t make our team better, it will be a difficult season for us.”
Leicester themselves paid £13m for the 21-year-old Croatian centre-half Filip Benkovic from Dinamo Zagreb, the sort of target it could be argued was more accessible to United, a player who had been craving a move to an elite league for some time.
Tottenham never bought a soul so were not in the market to flog Alderweireld to United for £50m. “It’s not about adding because it’s fashionable,” opined Mauricio Pochettino. “I have no doubt we are going to be competitive, with or without signings.”
Boateng apparently made it clear he was not leaving Bayern Munich for United when he is still very much at home with the Bundesliga champions.
Which left the name of Godin hanging hopefully at the bottom of the Sky Sports ticker for a brief period of a few hours around lunchtime before it emerged that Godin had penned a new deal with Atletico Madrid.
Astonishingly enough, tales emerged that United had been stitched up by an agent of Godin’s who apparently initiated their interest in the player to ensure his client would receive a better contract offer from Atletico. So United are naïve as well as negligent. “Never trust an agent,” proclaimed D-Day specialist Sam Allardyce, a man who knows more than most about trust in football.
Adding insult to injury, Everton announced the signing of the Colombian defender Mina from Barcelona for £28.5m alongside Brazilian winger Bernard from Shakhtar Donetsk only seconds before the 5pm deadline to go with the earlier landings of Lucas Digne, Joao Virginia and Richarlison.
Liverpool had already emerged from the window as the true winners by doing their business early, and with purpose following their run to the Champions League final. They spent £170m on goalkeeper Alisson. Naby Keita from RB Leipzig, Fabinho from Monaco and the Stoke forward Xherdan Shaqiri.
Manchester City added Riyad Mahrez for £60m, but having won the league by 19 points last season, it is difficult to see how they can improve upon near perfection.
Chelsea lost Thibault Courtois to Real Madrid, but brought in a goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for a world-record free of £70m. Midfielder Mateo Kovacic joined on loan from Real Madrid with Joginho already secured in a £50m transfer from Napoli.
Arsenal coach Unai Emery did not need the final day having signed the Bayern Levekusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner from Juventus, £16m centre-back Sokratis from Borussia Dortmund, Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria and Matteo Guendouzi of Lorient.
A rash of acquisitions were announced in the final hour after closing time as paperwork was finalised.
Fulham snaffled the Marseille defensive midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa, Atletico Madrid striker Luciano Vietto and left-back Joe Bryan from Bristol City while West Ham picked up Carlos Sanchez from Fiorentina to go with the earlier announcement of the Arsenal striker Lucas Perez.
Which made you wonder, with all this going on, how did United failed so miserably when Mourinho made a public cry for help last week? Clearly there is a structural concern because the board either did not manage to heed Mourinho’s warnings. Or chose to ignore him.
If Mourinho’s portents of doom are correct, United died a slow death on deadline day. And so perhaps did his future as United manager.
For the Special One, such insouciance means no news is bad news.