'Outmanoeuvred': Leading agents lift lid on Man United's botched negotiations – report

Manchester United’s players and leading European agents think the club’s recruitment system is inadequate, according to inside sources.

The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell has had ‘conversations with numerous intermediaries in recent days’ and found that there was ‘an overwhelming consensus that United would perform better if they hired a best-in-class sporting director.’

Whitwell quotes a leading European agent as saying ‘the problem of United is they do not have a clear sport strategy.

‘When you talk to United, you are not talking to football people. This is a pity because they are such a big club, such a historical club.’

Meanwhile, the same reporter claims to have been told by a United dressing room source that ‘several players feel the club “did not fight to the death” to enhance the squad for Solskjaer this summer and that the “sporting direction” at the top of the club has too often been inconsistent in recent years.’

‘A United dressing room source said this week that players feel an “opportunity has been lost” during this latest window to build on the team and coaching staff’s work during lockdown,’ Whitwell adds.

‘United’s reluctance to complete deals for [Alex] Telles and [Edinson] Cavani earlier mean both have been unavailable for the start of the campaign and some feel that has affected the mood around the club and sense of competitive spirit.’

Whitwell also claims that Telles had been identified as a target 18 months ago, but due to Brandon Williams’ emergence, a move was not made. That interest was only reignited late in this transfer window – presumably after the loss of Sergio Reguilon to Spurs – and that rather chaotically led to Brandon Williams looking for a last minute loan move to Southampton on deadline day.

The report goes on to claim that the Red Devils were ‘outmanoeuvred’ by Liverpool in the pursuit of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich.

Edinson Cavani had been available for months, says Whitwell, but because United left the transfer until deadline day, he now needs to self-isolate for 14 days and will potentially miss the next two games. The reporter quotes a source at a rival club as saying ‘It is mad. Poor planning.’

What is particularly disturbing about the recruitment fiasco is that it is not the first time it has happened.

In January, Odion Ighalo was reported to be the 11th attacking player the club attempted to sign during the winter window, with Cavani, Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Willian José, Danny Ings, Dries Mertens, Teemu Pukki, Joshua King and Salomon Rondon having all been pursued before the Nigerian’s loan deal was struck with minutes to spare.

As with Cavani, Bruno Fernandes’ capture came six months later than planned and Harry Maguire’s came a year later, with no reduction to the original asking price in either case.

It is the fact that these botch-ups continue to happen over and over again, yet United’s negotiators Ed Woodward and Matt Judge keep their jobs, that lead United fans to conclude that the owners do not care about the club. In what other world would such incompetence go unpunished?

And yet under Woodward, three managers have been sacked and rumour has it that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s head is not far from the next chopping block.

Sevilla’s hugely successful sporting director Monchi recently said in an interview with The Telegraph that he cannot understand why United do not have a director of football.

‘All clubs should have this position,’ he said.
‘Where 60-70 per cent of the budget is allocated to the first team, if you don’t have a specialist who deals with that, it is very difficult to understand.
‘Manchester United … do not have that specific position – but I think that clubs more and more are aware that they really need this position.
‘I can’t believe a club does not have this particular position.
‘I do think it’s essential.’
Why the Manchester United board does not remains a mystery to everyone.

This summer’s transfer window was one of the strangest in living memory. So cast your mind back to less stressful days and test your knowledge of past United arrivals and departures in our quiz below.