By Liam Twomey
After a farcical summer, David Moyes is determined not to be embarrassed in a transfer market ever again as Manchester United manager.
The failure to acquire an inspiring solution to his new team’s long-standing midfield problems damaged his standing in the eyes of some before United had even kicked a ball this season. The public rebuttals of Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas, combined with the deadline day farce of Ander Herrera and the belated, over-priced and underwhelming arrival of Marouane Fellaini only made things worse.
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Gill’s de facto replacement, the accountant-turned-J.P. Morgan investment banker Ed Woodward, swiftly proved himself less adept at negotiating the purchases of top-level footballers than he was at adding to the club’s lengthy list of lucrative commercial partnerships.
Moyes, a man so ‘hands-on’ by nature that he used to personally lead the pre-match warm-up exercises while manager of Preston North End, regrets agreeing to delegate so much of the recruitment process on his arrival at Old Trafford. Working from his office in Mayfair, Woodward has agreed that from now on his remit will once again be primarily financial.
Knowing he will be judged more readily than ever in the January window with United – and Fellaini in particular – struggling, Moyes’ instinct is to fall back on who and what he knows best.
Robbie Cooke, his former chief scout at Everton, will work alongside United old head Jim Lawlor at the top of the recruitment pyramid, while the manager is taking it upon himself to personally run the rule over top transfer targets, travelling to Spain to watch Atletico Madrid starlet Koke in action against Porto on Wednesday.
The Scot is also deploying the network of scouts which served him so well at Everton to analyse potential signings. Inter midfielder Fredy Guarin was subjected to such scrutiny before rising to near the top of the list of names Moyes considers desirable and attainable in January.
It is a novel recruitment structure for United and one which, at present, remains a slightly dysfunctional one. The club already possessed a global scouting network when Ferguson left, largely consisting of people the new manager has not yet got to know or trust. At times in recent weeks they have even found themselves on the same assignments as the men who truly have Moyes’ ear.
But Moyes’ priority is to act fast. Having – some would argue unwisely – given everyone in his inherited squad the chance to prove their worth, he has come to the same conclusion as many outside observers: Major surgery is required if United are to be a dominant force again.
Many would say January is not the time to begin such an overhaul, when the required level of talent is vastly more difficult and expensive to acquire. Moyes, though, has proven to be a shrewd manipulator of the winter window before, as the signings of Seamus Coleman, Tim Howard, Nikica Jelavic and Darron Gibson would attest.
Of course, improving Everton and improving Manchester United are vastly different tasks. But unlike in the summer, Moyes will at least feel confident he has the right tools.
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