Window Watch: Uncertainty surrounds Manchester United

The Red Devils are struggling without the formidable duo of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill, with Ed Woodward now in a race against time to save his reputation
By Wayne Veysey

With little over two weeks of the window to go, considerable uncertainty surrounds Manchester United's squad reinforcement.

The club's fans can be forgiven for feeling distinctly underwhelmed by a summer that has so far resulted in just two senior recruits, a teenage left-back and a 25-year-old Spanish midfielder yet to earn full international honours.

It felt like a huge statement of intent to Europe's elite when a near-£60 million outlay was spent on Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera within a 24-hour spell in late June.

The month of July and half of August later, that initial surge now looks completely inadequate.

All eyes are on Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman who has spoken publicly and frequently of United's intention to make full use of their vast resources this summer.

Supporters are starting to get agitated. Criticism is rife of Woodward and whether he has the contacts, experience and negotiating skills needed to haul big-name deals over the line.

The question persists: why are a club who finished a disastrous seventh last season and with a kitty of at least £150m available leaving it so late?

The inability to offer blue-chip targets Champions League football is one credible explanation, as is the fact that Louis van Gaal did not march into his office at the club's Carrington HQ until the second week of July.

Yet glaring holes have been apparent in the team's central defence, central midfield and wide attacker positions since the end of Sir Alex Ferguson's reign.

Something appears deficient in United's recruitment process, and, for once, blame cannot be laid entirely here at David Moyes' door.

It is understandable, for instance, that Toni Kroos chose Real Madrid ahead of Old Trafford and South America's latest star James Rodriguez was also lured to the Spanish giants.

More perplexing is the failure so far to secure deals for less stellar targets such as Thomas Vermaelen, Arturo Vidal, William Carvalho, Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo, Mats Hummels, Juan Cuadrado and Kostas Manolas.

Huge wages are on offer from the 20-times Premier League champions, as Luke Shaw's staggering £160,000-a-week pay packet testifies.

Would United have lost their grip on Vermaelen, who this column understands was 'hell-bent' on a move to Old Trafford rather than Camp Nou, had Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill been handling the transfer? Would they be experiencing such obstacles in competing the undoubtedly complicated third-party signing of Rojo if that long-established duo had been in command?

Every transfer is different and those hard at work behind the scenes insist there is no such thing as a simple deal.

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Yet United appear to be suffering far more than the Glazer family could have imagined from the absence of the security blanket once provided by Ferguson and Gill.

For all of Van Gaal's charisma and pedigree, a second consecutive summer of managerial upheaval has surely contributed to what seems a scattergun approach to targets.

The recruitment team working with Woodward and the new manager , from the established scouting network to experienced club secretary John Anderson, will all be getting used to the new regime and how everyone operates.

There have clearly been teething problems, as there were at Arsenal when transfer negotiator David Dein was ousted from the board in 2007.

Yet the likelihood is that United will dip into their vast resources over the next fortnight and secure a couple of late deals, possibly even a marquee one.

Necessity, and supporter demand, dictates that they do or the spotlight on Woodward will start to get very uncomfortable for the former commercial chief.
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