There are less than three weeks until Manchester United battled to save their summer after a saga of window embarrassment left Erik ten Hag desperately short of options in his first season.
But it didn’t have to be that way.
The big-ticket players who have already made moves to bolster rival clubs have been covered elsewhere, but with the Red Devils seemingly unable to get that type of deal over the line, perhaps the club could have targeted a different player profile – hungry players eager to impress who ended up moving for equalization fees.
According to James Horcastle of The Athletic, there have been many this summer.
United arguably started the window shopping in this market by signing Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia, who has impressed in preseason. In the same price range, Enzo Fernandez made a move of €10m. from River Plate to Benfica.
The Argentine is a direct box-to-box midfielder, tenacious in the tackle and with an eye for goal. Adept at receiving the ball on the half and finding a pass, Enzo was named the best player active in Argentina before becoming another Benfica signing. It’s not hard to imagine him joining the likes of Joao Felix, Darwin Nunez and Ruben Dias to become another mega-money asset for the Portuguese giants.
But Benfica weren’t the only club willing to scour South America for the next big thing, as arch-rivals FC Porto signed Gabriel Veron from Palmeiras for €12m. The 19-year-old impressed in the Copa Libertadores and has been compared to Gabriel Jesus for his skill and ability to get into good goalscoring positions. He is another who is likely to step up to the European elite in the next few years.
For a midfield that lacks technical ability and a forward line in dire need of reinforcements, each of these players would have represented fantastic value for a team forced to play without a center forward due to fitness issues and stuck with Scott McTominay as the only natural defensive eight in the squad.
While the pair were reportedly scouted by United and heavily linked with the club, nothing happened before the pair moved to Portugal this window.
Some might point to the difficulty of getting players straight from South America to adapt to Premier League football, although Moises Caicedo’s performance against United last Sunday should really dispel such ideas. He is another player the Red Devils tracked but didn’t see fit to follow up on.
With United having spent 14 weeks negotiating and holding out for Frenkie de Jong, Ten Hag might have a better chance of success this season if United had moved for underrated high-potential players early in the window to complement any superstar signings that may be or not happening?
The deals were there to be done and after losing eight first-team players this summer, United may have missed a golden opportunity to play on talent.
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