Goal runs down the lay of the land after the Old Trafford club brought in superstar signings including Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria in an unprecedented summer.By Greg Stobart
The noises started long before the end of the disastrous David Moyes reign that this was going to be a huge summer for Manchester United.
After finishing seventh last season, the most decorated club in the country was prepared to spend more than 150 million pounds to build a squad that could put it back at the top table.
Louis van Gaal was appointed as the club’s new manager before the World Cup and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward quickly went to work on addressing the glaring issues in United’s unbalanced squad.
Without the lure of Champions League football, Woodward was well aware that the club would need to flex its considerable financial muscle to attract players to Old Trafford.
With the sponsorship deal with Chevrolet kicking in and a £750 million 10-year kit deal agreed with Adidas, United had the cash to splash.
While many would question whether Van Gaal has ended the summer with the defense and midfield to support his glittering attack, there is no doubt that United has emerged a much-improved side thanks to spending £149 million on new players.
This is the era of the Old Trafford Galacticos and four players are likely to make their United debuts in the next Premier League fixture against QPR next Saturday.
The deal that truly highlighted United’s pulling power was the deadline-day move for Radamel Falcao. After weeks of conversations over a loan move with a view to a permanent transfer, United blew rivals Arsenal and Manchester City out of the water with its offer for the Colombian.
Falcao will earn around £300,000 a week at United and will lead the line in a star-studded attack alongside Angel Di Maria, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata. Quite how Van Gaal will fit them all in to his 3-5-2 system remains to be seen.
United made its mark early on in the window as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic left on free transfers while Ryan Giggs retired to become a full-time assistant to the club’s new Dutch manager.
Woodward, criticized for his poor negotiating a year ago, appeared to decide that his tactic this summer would be to say ‘yes’ to everything demanded by potential targets.
United started the summer by beating Chelsea to the signing of teenage left back Luke Shaw for £27 million on wages of around £180,000-a-week. Even Jose Mourinho admitted the Blues had been blown out of the water by the offer, which set the tone for United’s approach to the whole summer.
Shaw was quickly followed by Ander Herrera in a £28 million move from Athletic Bilbao after United decided to trigger his release clause, nine months after a bungled attempt to bring him to the club under Moyes.
Van Gaal, understandably, wanted time to assess the merits of the squad and so followed a quiet period as the 63-year-old settled in after the World Cup, with United impressing in preseason.
The Dutchman sees himself as a coach who can improve players but recognized the need for significant adjustments to the makeup of the squad.
His priority was to sign a center back, central midfielder and a winger.
United spent much of the summer trying and failing to convince Borussia Dortmund to part with World Cup-winning defender Mats Hummels and Van Gaal is expected to urge the club to return for the Germany star.
The team also explored a deal for Arturo Vidal but it was clear, according to sources, that a deal for the Juventus man would be ‘virtually impossible’ while there are concerns over the long-term impact of the knee injury sustained by the Chilean at the end of last season.
Indeed, the central midfielder that Van Gaal most wants to sign is Kevin Strootman, himself returning from a serious knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup. If the 24-year-old returns to his best with Roma, he will be United’s No.1 target in the New Year.
It seemed that life under Van Gaal was going well until United was stunned by Swansea with a 2-1 home defeat in its Premier League opener.
It sparked a mad scramble in the transfer market for new players. Without Ferdinand, Vidic and Patrice Evra - sold to Juventus - United was lacking leadership, experience and quality at the back. United’s attempts to sign Thomas Vermaelen had failed, much to Van Gaal’s anger, after Arsenal sold its captain to Barcelona.
So Woodward rushed through a £17 million deal for Marcos Rojo from Sporting, with the Argentina international expected to play on the left side of United’s back three this season. The deal saw Nani finally depart Old Trafford to return to his former club, although the Red Devils will continue to pay most of his wages.
A swoop for Daley Blind followed and was eventually formally completed on deadline day. The Netherlands international can play in multiple positions but is likely to start as a defensive midfielder for United.
By then, United had broken the British transfer record to sign Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid in a £59.7 million deal.
United had opened talks with the Argentine attacker’s camp earlier in the summer only to be told that he had agreed a deal with Paris Saint-Germain should Real Madrid decide to cash in.
Following the collapse of Di Maria’s move to France - Financial Fair Play considerations were a key factor - and the arrival of James Rodriguez at the Santiago Bernabeu, United decided to make another move.
Di Maria arrived at the end of August on a salary of £280,000-a-week and will add much-needed speed and creativity to a United attack that had struggled in the early part of the season, picking up just two points from a possible nine.
As the huge names rolled in, United had to clear up squad spaces and wages.
Wilfried Zaha could not leave quick enough for his loan deal to Crystal Palace while Tom Cleverley had to be virtually pushed out of the door to agree a switch to Aston Villa on loan.
After failing to ever settle in two years in the north west, Shinji Kagawa returned to Dortmund in a £6.3 million deal, £10 million less than he was signed for from the German club.
On deadline day came the sale that has upset many United fans. Danny Welbeck was a classic United player: a talented academy product, incredibly hard-working and an England international.
But there was simply no room for him in the squad. United would have preferred to let Welbeck move to Tottenham on loan but the 23-year-old decided that he had no long-term future at Old Trafford.
Welbeck and his representatives made it clear to United that he wanted to move to Arsenal in a permanent transfer. The Gunners agreed to match his £90,000-a-week wage demands before agreeing a £16 million fee late on Monday night.
So a new era starts for Manchester United. Crammed with world-class attacking talent, Van Gaal will be expected to achieve at least a top-four finish this season following an unprecedented summer of spending.
The scary part for United’s rivals is that the spending spree is likely to continue in January.