There are less than three weeks to go for Manchester United as they scrambled to save their summer after a saga-ridden embarrassment of a window has left Erik ten Hag desperately short on options in his maiden season.
But it didn’t have to be this way.
The big-ticket players who have already made moves to strengthen rival clubs has been covered elsewhere but with the Red Devils seemingly incapable of getting that type of deal over the line, perhaps the club could have set its sights on a different profile of player – hungry players eager to impress who ended up moving for knock-down fees.
According to James Horcastle of The Athletic, there having been many this summer.
United arguable started the window shopping in this market by signing Feyenoord left back Tyrell Malacia, who has impressed in preseason. In the same price bracket, Enzo Fernandez completed a €10m move from River Plate to Benfica.
The Argentine is a livewire box-to-box midfielder, tenacious in the tackle and with an eye for goal. Well versed at receiving the ball on the half turn and finding a pass, Enzo was voted the best player active in Argentina prior to becoming another Benfica bargain buy. It is not difficult to imagine him joining the likes of Joao Felix, Darwin Nunez and Ruben Dias in becoming another mega-money asset to the Portuguese giants.
But Benfica were not the only club willing to scour South America for the next big thing as their arch-rivals FC Porto snapping up Gabriel Veron from Palmeiras for €12m. The 19-year-old impressed in the Copa Libertadores and has been likened to Gabriel Jesus for his skill and ability to get into good goalscoring positions. He is another who will likely step up to the European elite in the next few years.
For a midfield lacking in technical ability and an attacking line in dire need of reinforcements, either of those players would have represented fantastic value for a team forced to play without a centre forward due to fitness issues and stuck with Scott McTominay as the only natural defensive eight in the squad.
While the pair were reportedly scouted by United and heavily linked with the club, nothing materialised before the pair moved to Portugal this window.
Some may point to the difficulty in getting players straight from South America to adapt to Premier League football, although the performance of Moises Caicedo against United last Sunday really ought to dispel such notions. He is another player the Red Devils tracked but didn’t see fit the follow up on.
With United having spent 14 weeks negotiating and holding out for Frenkie de Jong, perhaps Ten Hag would have more chance of success this season if United had moved for undervalued high potential players early on in the window to supplement to superstar signings that mat or may not happen?
The deals were there to be done and, having lost eight first team players this summer, United may have missed a golden opportunity to gamble on talent.
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