Sit back and relax – Analysing Manchester United’s transfer window

A quiet deadline day for Ed Woodward meant United fans sat back and watched the annual pandemonium unfold.

The last day of the summer transfer window didn’t disappoint, with some surprise deals such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s move from Arsenal to Liverpool and Danny Drinkwater leaving Leicester City to join Chelsea.

Arguably the most surprising moments of D-day were ones which didn’t actually involve a player changing club. Ross Barkley decided he didn’t want to leave Everton, which doesn’t sound particularly enthralling, but it does when we’re told he made his decision mid-medical.

Despite these events, the Everton player confirmed that these rumours were false. Another U-turn, although not as bizarre, was Thomas Lemar’s decision to stay in Monaco.

Arsenal allegedly had a bid accepted, but Lemar wanted to be in a team playing Champions league football.

As well as these remarkable events, Manchester City made attempts to strengthen their attack by re-uniting Alexis Sanchez with Pep Guardiola, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, United supporters were kicking back and relaxing. There were some rumours that Old Trafford was a possible destination for Riyad Mahrez, but these claims were never properly solidified.

With the transfer window shut and all the clubs completing their squads, it’s clear that Manchester United have had a successful summer.

Nemanja Matic was the only signing who wasn’t made when Jose Mourinho’s squad were in America for pre-season, but he still made an appearance in a friendly against Sampdoria.

The Portuguese manager is almost unrivalled when it comes to identifying the players that are needed to fit to his playing style.

Out of the eight players Mourinho has wanted during his time at United, seven have made the move to the Theatre of Dreams.

Being at a club like Manchester United, one which has sponsorship deals left, right and centre, Mourinho is blessed with a seemingly blank cheque, meaning that most players who are deemed ‘world class’ could have Ed Woodward knocking on their door.

The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will certainly feel like a new signing and although he won’t be back on a United team sheet for at least a couple of months, his presence in the dressing room will only strengthen the already prevalent camaraderie amongst the players.

The new signings are all good enough to feature regularly in the starting line-up, the only doubt being Victor Lindelöf.

Although Mourinho knows better than us, surely the Swedish centre half needs minutes on the pitch if he’s to adapt to the English game?

Although it’s always good to see new signings hit the ground running, the team always comes first and Phil Jones has put in a strong claim for being the defender to partner Eric Bailly.

While most would rather see the £30 million Swedish centre back alongside Bailly, his current disappearance shows the depth of the squad in that position, especially when you remember Marcos Rojo is yet to recover from his injury.

Romelu Lukaku was the most expensive acquisition and could turn out to be the most valuable. The Belgian has hit the ground running, with three goals in three games for his new club.

At the age of 24, he is a proven Premier League goalscorer who will most likely be in contention for the league’s golden boot.

The criticism he faced in the immediate aftermath of his transfer regarding his ‘poor first touch’ shows how much bigger the spotlight is for the £75 million man and by hitting the back of the net against Real Madrid and twice on his Old Trafford debut, those ‘first touch critics’ have turned their attentions elsewhere.

The new number nine offers a new dynamic to the side, one which we haven’t seen for a while.

Despite Zlatan doing his job and scoring key goals, United didn’t have a great counter attacking threat due to his relatively low top speed.

The former Paris Saint-Germain man played well with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard running off of him, but now with Lukaku leading the line, the front three or four looks a lot quicker, one example being the first goal against West Ham.

Would Ibrahimovic make that run or would he hold his position to play a one-two with Rashford? Lukaku and Zlatan can both hold the ball up, bully defenders and finish chances, but the Belgian is more mobile and doesn’t drop deep to receive the ball as much, something which the previous number nine was more than happy to do.

When Lukaku stays close to defenders, he always gives the option for a through ball, whereas Zlatan slowed the tempo down at times. But with both in the squad, Mourinho has the option to play one or the other, depending on the opposition.

A close contender for signing of the season will be Nemanja Matic. Bought from Chelsea, much to Antonio Conte’s confusion, the Serbian put pen to paper on a deal which is proving to be worth every penny.

There’s been plenty of big money moves involving the most exciting attacking talents but Matic is a player that personifies control.

Although many would see him as a marauding destroyer who ‘wows’ people with his tackle success rate, the traits that the midfielder has are incredibly underrated, his press resistance being one.

I clearly haven’t been watching Chelsea closely enough, because I didn’t realise how assured the Serbian’s passing was.

He broke up play and switched the ball with ease on a consistent basis. This will greatly benefit the wide playmakers as they can now be in more advanced positions, secure in the knowledge that Matic will find them.

Another positive that Matic brings is that his positioning allows Paul Pogba to play further up the pitch. The Frenchman was quite deep in the build-up phase for United last year, but with Matic taking that responsibility, the former Juventus man can exude his skill closer to the opposition goal.

A great player is one who makes other players around him perform to their best.

These three signings have definitely strengthened those positions, but there are gaps that could be filled in a perfect world.

The left hand side is probably the least accomplished, with Darmian, Blind and Shaw competing for the left back spot. While Darmian is a consistent performer, he’s right footed and would be better off being Antonio Valencia’s backup.

Daley Blind has been superb so far, but isn’t quick for a fullback. After all, he was used as a centre back for most of the World Cup, the last competiton he played in before signing for Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal.

Luke Shaw certainly has the attributes that are necessary for being the first choice left back for club and country, but this isn’t like playing FIFA on a PlayStation.

There was clearly something wrong with him for Jose Mourinho to publicly criticise him. The Englishman is injured at the moment, but if he isn’t in the right frame of mind, he could be gone this time next year.

A move for Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Rose could have solved this conundrum. If he joined United, almost all the pieces in the jigsaw would be in place.

He knows the Premier League, he isn’t starting matches anymore and United would obviously be able to afford him. One can only assume that Rose was content in London and he wasn’t a target for Mourinho anyway.

The left wing position is a potentially vacant spot. When you see Rashford playing there, this position doesn’t let him show all his qualities.

With a striker playing out wide instead of a more comfortable winger in Anthony Martial, it makes you wonder whether a winger was needed.

Mourinho hasn’t allowed the former Monaco man to show what he can do. Whenever he does play, he always tries to create chances, but the number 11 needs to play consecutive games in order for people to properly judge him.

Under Louis van Gaal, Martial flourished, but under Mourinho, a manager who gives freedom to his forwards in the attacking phase, he hasn’t put in the kind of performances that made fans see him as the next big thing.

The other side of the pitch is also an area in question. Mkhitaryan is a suitable right midfielder, but he can also play centrally and when he does play through the middle, it’s Lingard or Rashford who fills the spot on the right hand side of the pitch.

In games against weaker opposition, the Armenian can easily play behind the striker. But when we say ‘weaker’ sides, we’re talking about at least 14 of the Premier League teams.

So if Mkhitaryan was found playing in the number ten role with greater frequency, a right midfielder should be the next target.

There are rumours that Bale has a return on his mind, but he’s playing regular football in a side who are favourites to retain the Champions League trophy for the second time. It doesn’t seem likely but it would take United from title challengers to favourites.

Although it seems like there are gaping holes in the team which require urgent attention, there is no doubt that this team has the requisite talent to achieve a top three finish.

They’re already looking better than every team in the land, except Liverpool who have already thrashed a top four contender and Chelsea who, despite an opening day calamity, managed to beat Tottenham and Everton with a threadbare squad.

The other title contenders are all going through difficulty. Manchester City are still experimenting with formations during the season, Arsenal are in turmoil with their best player wanting to leave and Tottenham’s ‘home’ record already isn’t as good as last year.

Currently, there is nothing to worry about if you’re a United fan.

The team is playing well, two out of the three new signings have played a key role in a perfect start, other players have kicked on from last year and the ball is actually going between the two posts and under the crossbar quite frequently, an occurrence not seen regularly enough for the last five years.

Overall, it’s best if United fans view the season as if it’s deadline day. Just sit back and watch.

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