Manchester United were expected to be one of the most active Premier League clubs on transfer deadline day but when the transfer window closed on Thursday evening with Jose Mourinho’s prediction, made at a news conference earlier in the day, coming in to fruition: Manchester United failed to add any new signings to add to the trio of Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant, all of whom arrived in July.
Just a few weeks ago, it was unimaginable that United would not sign at least one new defender. Toby Alderweireld was the centre-back supporters were most eager to see and, with just a year remaining on his contract, there was the presumption that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy would cash in. Yet, despite rumours claiming United were interested, the move never happened.
Harry Maguire, who excelled for England at the World Cup, was another name heavily linked. He appeared to split supporters: Some were genuinely keen on the deal, while others tried to convince themselves they felt the same, as they got more desperate.
True, he was named Leicester’s player of the year last season, so it wasn’t as if his performances in Russia were a fluke. Moreover, he is arguably better than players United already have, he was picked ahead of Phil Jones for England, with Chris Smalling not even making the squad, but that shouldn’t have made Maguire a priority signing for Mourinho.
Jerome Boateng was a late candidate but reports from Germany suggested the player called Mourinho personally to thank him for the interest, before politely declining. United had apparently only been interested in a loan move, given that the defender has a dreadful injury record, but that just begs the question: Why did they want him at all?
Stories linking Yerry Mina with a move to Old Trafford left some fans scratching their heads. He had a torrid time at Barcelona after signing in January and made just six appearances in all competitions, from 30 games available. He redeemed himself slightly with solid performances during the World Cup for Colombia, although scoring three goals certainly added to the hype.
United aren’t in a position to turn their nose up at a goal scoring centre-half, given how few theirs contribute, but that can’t be the motivating factor when looking at which defenders to bring in. As it was, Mina eventually joined Everton for almost three times the €11.8 million Barca paid for his services just seven months earlier.
A last desperate act was to approach Atletico Madrid for Diego Godin one day before the window closed. United were prepared to pay the release clause for the 32-year-old, who is in the last year of his contract, but the Spaniards acted quickly and offered Godin, who has been with Atleti since 2010, an improved contract.
With no new faces, Mourinho should try Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, on whom he spent £30m apiece, as a partnership. The Jones-Smalling combination has not materialized into something worth sticking with; they have close to 500 United appearances between them but, with both, there is the feeling a major mistake or injury is always lurking.
However, the desperate search for a centre-back showed where Mourinho wanted to improve his squad. There is the chance that defenders, who failed to impress last season, will find form and play as if it’s their last chance at the club. Many will be hope that, for some of them, it is.