Manchester United could have three new signings that will genuinely improve crucial parts of the squad by the time the whole squad is back in training following delayed summer holidays.
Completion of Jadon Sancho’s arrival will be announced soon, with the 21-year-old undergoing a medical in recent days and posing for official photographs. Serious progress is being made to sign Raphael Varane from Real Madrid, while a deal for Kieran Trippier also looks increasingly likely.
As a specialist winger, Sancho fills a void on the right flank that has persisted since at least 2015 when Antonio Valencia was repurposed as a full-back. Varane, meanwhile, is the long-term partner for Harry Maguire that United have been craving, and Trippier would offer something different at right-back, as well as much needed depth and competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
United fans aren’t used to a competent and efficient recruitment department after the transfer fiascos of recent years, so in many ways this has come as a refreshing surprise.
The post-Sir Alex Ferguson has seen United stumble and labour in the transfer market. It is eight years since Ed Woodward left the pre-season tour of Australia to attend to ‘urgent transfer business’ and supporters are still waiting for an update on that deal eight years later.
Jokes aside, United officials have badly struggled to get deals over the line, seemingly every year.
There were failed attempts to land Cesc Fabregas and Gareth Bale in 2013, while much time was wasted barking up the wrong tree by pursuing Sergio Ramos in 2015. On deals that did happen, the club badly overpaid for Marouane Fellaini after approaching the situation all wrong, and not enough due diligence was done on how the likes of Angel Di Maria or Alexis Sanchez would fit in.
Successive managers, each with their own ideas and transfer preferences, and the lack of an overarching policy also proved counterproductive and unnecessarily expensive for years.
Things have changed significantly since 2019, coinciding with the permanent appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The scouting process was revamped and the recruitment department restructured, with ongoing improvement leading to the more recent promotions of Darren Fletcher and John Murtough to the roles of technical director and football director respectively.
Actual negotiations still proved tricky. United wasted months prevaricating when it came to meeting Leicester’s asking price for Harry Maguire, costing time to pursue other necessary targets and setting back the squad’s development. There were similar issues when it came to trying to buy Jadon Sancho last summer, although the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the club’s finances at least offered some mitigation in that sense.
United were able to wrap up early deals for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James in 2019, but the former was never expected to be complicated and the latter was only intended to be a fringe player.
This year, however, feels different. United will have Sancho at the earliest opportunity as he will be a United player by the time he finishes his holiday that was delayed by his participation at Euro 2020. The same could soon also be true for Trippier and Varane, who is rumoured to want his future sorted soon so he doesn’t have to go through the motions of reporting for duty in Madrid.
With the framework of a good squad already in place, which makes this summer different from 2016 and 2017, and up to three new signings potentially in training by the end of the first week in August, ahead of the Premier League season, United will be better prepared to mount a title challenge than they have been in close to a decade. There is even still time for extra business before the deadline.
Fans can’t help to get excited by it all.