After a summer of being linked with trying to sign just about every top player on the planet, Manchester United’s final day of the transfer market ended with almost everyone labeling it a disaster. Their day consisted of creating a very big mess in a the failed transfer of goalkeeper David de Gea, and spending £36 million on an unheard of French teenager.
Naturally everybody was quick to look at how United’s deadline day unfolded and labeled it an embarrassment. It was embarrassing that after an entire summer of knowing that de Gea wanted to join Real Madrid, United couldn’t get a deal done and were going to lose him for free. It was embarrassing that despite everyone screaming from the mountain tops that United needed another striker, the club was forced to spend £36 million on a teenager, a move that screamed “panic buy.”
But now that we’ve had a few weeks and games to think about it, maybe we were a little too quick to judge them. Did we ever stop and think, maybe United had known what they were doing all along?
Let’s start with de Gea. Throughout last season the rumors of mutual interest between Real Madrid and de Gea would not go away. To his credit, de Gea never actually publicly admitted that he wanted to leave United, he just didn’t sign a new contract. United however made it clear that they would not be bullied by Real Madrid and wouldn’t sell the goalkeeper unless they got exactly the price they were seeking. United even went as far to say that if Real Madrid didn’t meet their price they were prepared to lose de Gea for free when his contract expired next summer.
The immediate reaction from deadline day was United were now retaining a goalkeeper who was unsettled and was certainly going to leave for free next summer. That’s what many thought… except for Manchester United.
The story changed a week later when de Gea signed a new four-year contract, a contract United knew he would sign. How? All along United had an ace up their sleeve, the 2016 Euro’s. De Gea certainly wants to be Spain’s No. 1 for that tournament but was told he’d need to be playing regular first team football to be considered.
Prior to the transfer deadline, United had dropped de Gea for six matches, sending a message to the goalkeeper — if you want to play you need to sign a new contract. As soon as de Gea returned from international duty a new contract was signed and the next day he was back in the goal making great saves against Liverpool.
Anthony Martial, on the other hand, is a case of Manchester United returning to their roots and going back to what made them so successful in the 90’s and 00’s. Despite throwing about every big name like Gareth Bale and Thomas Mueller out there, players like that are not typically the players United sign.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s bread and butter was buying young players with great upside who had good value. Players like Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick and Javier Hernandez were brought in on the cheap and became the backbone of a very successful squad. They were complemented by high-priced, but young, teenagers Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Recently United broke away from that strategy and began buying expensive and already established players which had mixed results. Robin van Persie had a great first year with the club, but never recaptured that form. Dimitar Berbatov won the Golden Boot one season, but never really looked like he fit in. Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria? United fans would rather forget about those two.
United want to be viewed as a top team in the world. The top teams in the world have the best players. If you’re United, why buy a player like Christian Benteke, who had a good season in the Premier League but isn’t world-class, when you can afford to take a chance on a teenager who very well could turn in to a world-class player?
The price for Martial, which could raise to £58 million if he wins the Ballon d’Or, suggests that both United and Monaco see him as a player who very well could become world-class. At this point United may as well pay Monaco that money now since it’s inevitable (just kidding, but not really).
It’s still too early to do a complete 180 and call United’s deadline day a resounding success, but Martial’s three goals in two Premier League games suggest United very well may have stumbled into a star.