Man United are the punching bag but most others are culpable. Why can football clubs not work on two transfers at the same time?
The rumours started in mid-April. The arrival of Erik ten Hag would make it ‘impossible’ for Barcelona to refuse Manchester United’s offer for Frenkie de Jong, as the Dutch boss would want his new club to ‘pay whatever is necessary’ for the midfielder. In the two-and-a-half months since, we at F365 have written six features, 11 gossip columns and 50 news stories about De Jong, the latest of which claims United have finally ‘agreed a fee’. If you’re bored reading about it, imagine how we feel.
There have been ‘green lights’, ‘priorities’, talks have been ‘initiated’, before becoming ‘direct’, then ‘advanced’, in a transfer saga that’s played all the hits. Ten Hag has been ‘frustrated’, United have been ‘bullish’. It was ‘imminent’ two weeks ago and ‘close’ a week after that. De Jong didn’t want to leave Barcelona, but if he’s anything like us, he has been ground down to a state where he wants to join Manchester United simply to end the transfer rumour bullsh*t. From all of us, thank you Frenkie.
A big feature of United’s chase of De Jong has been their inability to do anything else in the transfer market. It was a similar case with Jadon Sancho last summer. They ‘focus’ on one signing then move onto the next. They will ‘turn their attention to’ other players having tied up a deal for De Jong, as though their business has to be conducted in a linear fashion, like one move always affects the next, as though they’re episodes of Stranger Things, or new homeowners awaiting unseen moving costs before they go sofa shopping.
And it’s not just United that work in this way. Chelsea felt the need to see the back of Romelu Lukaku before they started their transfer business, and reports suggest they want Raheem Sterling and Raphinha before sorting out the defence. In fact, those that operate a scattergun approach like Fabio Paratici at Tottenham – spinning plates with fingers in varying and multiple pies – are for some reason viewed as genius oddballs, as though they have some monopoly over a zoom call or the mobile phone hold function.
It seems that John Murtough actually means it when he says De Jong, his agents and Barcelona have his undivided attention. “Errrm, John, we’ve got Antony’s agents on the line and they’ve actually drawn their own contract up and signed it.’ *Fingers in ears* ‘blah, blah, blah, I can’t possibly do two deals at the same time.” They have only got close to another signing because they were already in talks with his agent over De Jong.
Even if that were true, and Murtough was so terrible at his job that his brain would melt were he to consider more than one thing at once, This Is Manchester United FFS, they pay their players £200m a year, they’ve got 50 scouts presumably currently doing sweet f*** all, bung someone else a few quid to negotiate other contracts.
Because although we may never know, they may currently be missing out on other targets – some of whom may actually want to move to Old Trafford – as they drag De Jong kicking and screaming through the door. Yes, he’s the priority, fine, but it’s not as though United are in a position to bide their time and if other deals don’t materialise, hey ho, there’s always January.
Last season was Manchester United’s worst in Premier League history; they may never have needed so many additions in one window and so far have none. That doesn’t particularly matter as long as they do sign them, but why not speed that process along by having different people working on different deals? It would certainly help Ten Hag to have those players at pre-season sooner rather than later. Those potential new recruits are already missing ‘assertive’ looks and ‘warm smiles’.
Again, this is far from an issue limited to United, who are currently the perfect punching bag for an easily fixed eccentricity in football compared to the rest of society: the inability to multitask. De Jong FIRST? But why?