Facing a QPR outfit that had read the script and avidly stuck to it in their first game post-deadline day game allowed Manchester United to run riot in a 4-0 Premier League win, their first of any kind under Louis van Gaal, but the 13-time champions’ squad imbalance was apparent at Old Trafford.
United are 8/13 to regain the place in the top four they relinquished last term following a dream afternoon in the north west, but a club that slumped to such depths over the past 12 months has not become all that is good about football overnight.
After midfield had been neglected for much of the last decade of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign and beyond, new United signings Ander Herrera and Daley Blind showed no small amount of promise in their first outing together.
Forward talent worth more than £100m has been acquired in the form of Angel Di Maria, who already looks a Cesc Fabregas loss-of-form away from the PFA Player of the Year award, and Radamel Falcao, but Van Gaal is still having to ‘make do and mend’ at the back.
While it is true that the best part of £50m was laid out on Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw over the summer, the former’s presence at left-back against the Super Hoops, while the latter languished on the bench, suggests that the England teenager still has plenty of impressing to do.
Even if Rojo moves into the Dutchman’s seemingly preferred three-man backline as the season progresses, there are still only Jonny Evans and Phil Jones to field at centre-half ahead of perpetual disappointment Chris Smalling and young Tyler Blackett, who has made all four of his top-flight appearances in as many weeks.
Now the Glazer’s purse strings have been ripped off and cast aside, a new centre-half in January looks the likeliest United purchase, with links to Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels yet to leave the gossip columns, in spite of the transfer window closing for four months.
BVB coach Jurgen Klopp was absolutely right to deride a potential £16m move from an unnamed club for the best defender at the World Cup, who is still just 25 and has two-and-a-half years left on his contract at the Westfalenstadion.
At least twice as much will need to be sanctioned by Old Trafford money man Ed Woodward if Klopp and co are even to consider letting Hummels go, although one of United’s less significant pieces of summer business – on the face of it at least – may prove a trump card.
The Red Devils continued their dialogue with Klopp – who is rumoured to covet the Old Trafford hotseat when his current contract ends in 2018 – and Dortmund when selling Shinji Kagawa back to the Bundesliga side for around £6m, just two years after they signed him for £17m.
The whys and wherefores of this knockdown deal are not yet, and may never be, known but – as Chelsea proved after landing Diego Costa and Filipe Luis from Atletico Madrid this summer, after lending Los Colchoneros Thibaut Courtois for three successful seasons – it can pay to maintain good relations.
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