Why did Manchester United not hijack Chelsea’s great move?

Date published: Wednesday 1st September 2021 9:55 - Editor F365

Saul Niguez

It is ‘astonishing’ that Manchester United let Chelsea have a free run at Saul Niguez. This Cristiano Ronaldo move is going to haunt them.

Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com.


The best transfer window ever?
Sidestepping the “Who won the transfer window” nonsense, and getting straight to the not-at-all-made-up-and-certainly-not-nonsense  “Which year won the competition for best transfer window ever” competition. The correct answer is of course Summer 2021.

Ronaldo back home

Aguero leaves City

Grealish gets a big move

Chelsea sign a top 5 striker in the world

Manchester United somehow poach a top 5 CB in the world for 40m

Sancho finally done

Nobody signing Kane

Liverpool doing sod all

Barca signing players but not actually signing players

Real being broke then suddenly finding 180mil for a player they can have next year for nothing but it’s still not enough but it might actually be enough yet.

PSG doing their best impression of Football Manager and filtering down to “players in last year of contract” despite having a bottomless pit of crude cash out the back.

Even if you have no skin in the game for any of the aforementioned players or clubs, everyone can get giddy at the fact that Arsenal are the biggest spenders in the world, and are still sh*te.

Oh and Messi…Messi…has moved to PSG.

What a time to be alive.
Ryan, Coillte


Dan James cost Leeds a Cristiano Ronaldo plus 10 million…..
– Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi 


Welcome home?
45 year old Manchester United supporter here. I say that for context in the opinion I’m about to give. All this “welcome home” nonsense about Ronaldo doesn’t wash with me. It’s like your wife left 12 years ago to “have a good time travelling”, comes back 12 years later, and gets welcomed home with open arms. Ronaldo is arguably one of the two best players of all time, yes, but also do we need him more than a cdm from a footballing point of view?

With Cavani, Rashford, Sancho, Greenwood, Bruno, quality attacking players aren’t the thing that’s missing. Yes, it’s Ronaldo. He’ll likely score 20+ this season, and at 36 he’s still a specimen of an athlete, but longer term, will his arrival affect the development of Greenwood? who was already most likely looking at sharing minutes with Cavani sancho and Rashford, who were the most likely first choice front 3 when match fit before Ronaldo signed.

It sounds a real first World problem I know. Having to accommodate so many quality attacking players, but wouldnt Manchester United have been better off spending the 70m package to bring Ronaldo “home” for two years, on a cdm instead?

I know I sound ungrateful. Spoilt even. It’s not that. I simply think getting the balance of the team right gives Man United the best chance of success, or at least being competitive. Yes, again, I know it’s Ronaldo. He’s special. If you have the opportunity to sign a player of that quality it’s hard to say no. Especially when your city rivals are sniffing after him and he could bring them the success they crave in Europe.

I’m not saying he’s anything but a great, great player. I loved what he brought to Manchester United from age 18 to 24, but sometimes it’s the least glamorous jigsaw piece that solves the puzzle. A neves, a Saul, an Ndidi, a Declan Rice. They’re not players who will set the heart a flutter like Ronaldo, or shoot share prices up by 150m in a day, but they are players who would actually improve an area of the team that really needs improving.

When Ronaldo chose to leave a Manchester United who had reached two champions league finals in a row, he made it quite clear that if Manchester United was his home, that he was happy to pack a suitcase and run away from it. Leaving his loving family to fend for themselves. Bottom line here is that the Glazers made a business decision. Getting him for 70m in fee and wages. They knew they would increase the value of the club, share price, get bigger sponsorship deals, merch sales etc. Also that it’d get fans onside and pour cold water on the Glazers out campaign. It’s a great piece of off the field business. A bargain at 480k per week.

But I don’t buy into the lovely warm fuzzy nostalgic and romantic notion that he was “brought home” as some sort of family reunion, goodwill gesture to fans, or to satisfy a symmetry and a yearning that he had to return. That’s how it’ll be played out as the PR machines trundle on, but it’s nonsense. He left to play his prime years at Madrid. It was his childhood dream, fair enough, he owed Manchester United nothing, but he still left. Scholes didn’t leave. To hear Ronaldo speak now you would think he had been kidnapped in 2009. So Scholes stayed, as did Giggs. As did Keane. Robson. Cantona could have walked away after the incident at Palace. They stayed. That’s what separates a great player for a club, from a club legend. They stay.

Yes he’ll score goals, yes he will bring a winning mentality that should rub off on the entire squad hopefully. Leadership, inspiration, feel good factor. Its all there. Its a good signing for many reasons. On and off the pitch. He could make a difference in big games. Do what others simply can’t do. But all this “coming home” stuff? Maybe for younger supporters who were kids, or not even born when he first signed from Sporting Lisbon, and he left when they were still kids, and they have this idea that he was always just waiting for the chance to come “home”. But for someone who was 33 when he skived off to Madrid? Welcome home? Please…

That said I know I’ll enjoy him walking out of the Old Trafford tunnel that first time. The rapturous applause. The nostalgia. The romance. The theatre of dreams. Like a scene from Kevin Costner’ Field Of Dreams. But in two yrs time I’ll be wondering why we didn’t buy a cdm in the summer of 2021 and then go all out to buy the best centre forward in Europe for the next ten years (Haaland) in the summer of 2022. The long term view. That’s what my old cynical head wants now. Not this youthful fantasy of Ronaldo “coming home” nonsense.

That said, I can’t wait…
Edwin Ambrose. 


Better call Saul
Manchester United desperately needed a midfield holding player who can boss a pitch.

Saul, one of the very best in the business,has been on the street corner in his lingerie waving at passing cars with Atleti waiting in the alley for his takings for months.

Manchester United let him go to Chelsea on loan and it’s astonishing.

I’m not a Manchester United fan beyond secondary childhood allegiance so possibly I’m immune to the Ronaldo nostalgia, but what the hell sort of club signs a 36 year old striker they don’t need on massive wages instead of the midfielder they absolutely do need?

Doesn’t Ronaldo also effectively block any move for Haalands signature when his clause becomes active in January? Even if Ronaldos massive wages didn’t eat the entire budget, the fact that Manchester United had a huge gaping hole for a star striker was one of the reasons why they actually had a chance of Haaland. Not now.

It doesn’t really matter as Manchester United will never win anything with Solskjaer, but none of it makes any sense to me.

As it stands at least one of Fred and Matic will play the majority of Uniteds games, and neither of them would be first choice at Brentford.
Tim Sutton (United will win nothing with Solskjaer)


It’s five-twenty-ish on deadline day and it doesn’t look like Manchester United are anywhere near signing a central midfielder, defensive or otherwise. Whilst I can’t disagree with any of United’s transfers – in or out – this summer, I can’t help but thinking this is an opportunity missed. Had we signed an upgrade on McSauce/Fred/Matic then we genuinely would have won the transfer window (it’s a thing) and would have been serious contenders for the title. Now it’s kind of a bit… meh.

There was a very “interesting” mail in the mailbox earlier claiming that Manchester United had 12 – TWELVE! – “world class” midfielders. I have absolutely no idea how they reached 12 but I’m assuming they were including wingers and attacking midfielders in that number. Aside from the positional specifics I’m struggling to think of a single world class outfield player for United in the post-Ferguson era. Statistically Bruno up to now is probably as close has we have got and I guess Luke Shaw has made his case in the last 12 months. But we certainly do not have 12 world class midfielders.

Regardless of how much has been spent or the warped view that everyone else has of the United squad, the complaint of United fans is very specific: we need a top class defensive midfielder, particularly one that at times can allow Bruno and Pogba (or even a second striker) to play together and give the ball away as much as they do. Neither McSauce or Fred are good enough alone and when one plays with Pogba in midfielder they are left isolated because Pogba does not track back (see Fred against Wolves). Our other options are Matic who is as mobile as the Titanic after it struck the iceberg (and possibly as old) and Van De Beek who has been given few opportunities  and has been a complete waste of space when he has played anyway.

We can complain about Fred all we want, but statistically he’s the best of this bunch – if that doesn’t explain our need for a DM then I don’t know what will. I suppose Pogba can play there but I don’t recommend it as he has the stats of a winger. He’s a liability when he’s anywhere near our box and looking at our stats when Fred or Pogba start, I’d rather have Fred. Pogba should stay on the left.

United should challenge for the title with the squad we have already but it will be made a lot harder without fixing a problem that we have had since at least Michael Carrick retired (or since Roy Keane left if you listen to my dad). Without that top notch DM, we won’t be able to control games against the best teams and we even seem to be struggling to do that against the not so good teams. It seems like a weird blind spot to have when you consider some of the players that are being touted for even loan moves.

You’d like to think that Renato Sanches or Saul Niguez would’ve been good punts in the short term or that Lingard could have been used as a makeweight in Rice negotiations. (Or maybe those players just don’t want to play for United?). Maybe there’s a long term target that we’re waiting for on the cheap but having just signed a 36 year old Ronaldo, it feels like now is the time to make a fist of winning something. Or maybe we’re just here for the social media views?
Ash (farewell Dan James, your work rate will be missed. But not your final ball) Metcalfe


Dear Arsenal
Dear Shahzad, Pakistani Gooner in Dublin

I feel your pain. As a United supporter in London, over the past couple of decades, I have had the pleasure of visiting Highbury/ the Emirates stadium thanks to the kindness of my many Arsenal supporting pals. I too bemoan the fall from grace of Arsenal. Once everybody’s second favourite team in the days of Henry, Vieira, and Bergkamp, all of us have a sense of loss about the state of Arsenal. (Ok, all of us except the Spurs brigade who can’t stop laughing).

Your argument though, has 3 critical flaws. First your numbers are off. Thomas Partey’s 45 million is by no means Arsenal’s headline number. Lacazette, Auba, Ben White, and not least of all Pepe (for all of 70m), are all ahead of Partey in the honours list.

Second, the trophy argument can’t be used as universal trump card, else you’re going to be the next Wigan. I know of no Man United fan that would exchange places with Arsenal, even including the trophy. It’s better to be 4th in the league with a Trophy than 2nd without. But I no longer think an FA Cup trumps consistent CL presence, unless you’re a mid-table club. Both because of the financial impact as well as player-pulling power.

Here’s hoping Arsenal find their mojo again soon, although I don’t believe Arteta is the man to do it. Stay safe!
Ved Sen (MUFC). 


Fixture list coincidences
Have any other mailboxers spotted how often two of the top four are scheduled to play each other on the same weekend as the FA Cup QF or SF, meaning the fixture gets shunted forward to near the season’s end?.

This season it’s the turn of Liverpool and United on QF weekend. On current domestic cup form I suppose Liverpool will be out by then after playing the youth team in R3 while United will still be in, ready for their usual late exit and disappointment. Whichever way, it’ll likely mean a late – possibly very late – Anfield showdown between the two.

This should happen often but it seems to crop up almost every year.

I’m also struggling to recall any instances in the entire PL era when one of the top-tier clashes was scheduled for the last day of the season. Chelsea-Liverpool in about 2003 perhaps (the Gronkjaer one), maybe one involving Newcastle in about 1997. Liverpool-Blackburn in 1995 too but nothing since 2003 that I can remember, and definitely nothing for a good while regardless. That instinctively feels like a statistical anomaly – 29 seasons (including this) and virtually no last-day top-four clashes. Six top-four match-ups spread across 19 (or briefly 20 and 21) matchdays in any given second half of a season – and never anything on the last weekend. It’s almost as if someone’s engineering it.

For perspective, if you say that the chances of a big last-day clash are 30% in any given season, then for it not to happen in ten seasons would be 0.7 to the power of 10 = less than a 3% chance. Make it 19 years (i.e. now) and you’re almost down to 1 in 1,000. Incredible.

Conversely, there is always at least one of these big matches just before the end of the season.

Coincidence or no, fellow mailboxers? And if no, is that OK with you? I’ll be honest – it irks me (if Matrix was here, it would irk him too).

On an entirely unrelated note, I watched Reims-PSG at the weekend. As if the sight of Messi in a PSG shirt wasn’t strange enough, his first contribution for his new club was a tackle to regain possession (albeit followed by a dribble and slide pass). Strange days indeed. Whatever next? Ronaldo to say “Nah, you go for it mate” to Fernandes next time United get a penalty?
Bennett, Val Verde


Best ever transfers
This is a really great question
and should provide a welcome break from all the united and Liverpool emails.

For me this question is about one thing – how much did that player impact the club? You can’t talk money but ultimately it’s about whether they improved the team or not. So here’s my picks –

1. Ronaldo to Madrid – helped turn them from a team who couldn’t win a champs league to one which refused to let go of the trophy.

2. Roberto Baggio to Juventus – sparked the 90s success of Juve by helping them to scudetto, coppa Italia and uefa cup victory  all while constantly only being given limited playing time.

3. Ian Rush to Liverpool – the reds paid a then staggering 300k for an 18 year old Chester striker who then went on to be the spearhead of the most dominant English team in history by not just hanging goals in for fun but also being one of the first of a more modern type of defensive striker who bullied defences into giving up the ball further up the pitch.


Marco Van Basten – £1 million from Ajax to Milan
Neil, Dublin

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