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As the dust settled on a frantic ending to a bitterly unsuccessful transfer window for Manchester United, the focus was very much on those who David Moyes and co. failed to bring in through the door rather than the one they actually did sign.
Not even the distinctive afro-hair and enthusiastic smile alongside Moyes as they posed for photographs could dissuade attention from an overriding air of failure that vented through the corridors of Old Trafford.
Bids for Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas fell by the wayside earlier in the summer, setting up United for a fall long before they embarked on a desperate deadline day in which they suffered the embarrassment of the failed exploration of Ander Herrera as the clocked ticked down.
Fellaini did arrive, but only at a desperate eleventh hour as he waived his loyalty bonus with Everton by launching a transfer request to drive the move to fruition. After that, there was even time for one last debacle as a loan move for Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao fell through hours after the deadline passed.
Moyes’ first summer in charge of United will be looked back at with discomfort as he and Ed Woodward, embarking on his first transfer window as heir to David Gill’s position of Chief Executive, found little but frustration as they pursued a number of targets.
The axis of Gill alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and Maurice Watkins, the latter held in regard as one of the best sports lawyers in the country, has suddenly been replaced and the immediate results have bred confusion and accusations of arrogance as they have approached negotiations with the assumption that the title of “biggest club in the world” would see them through.
The hesitation that Moyes and Woodward showed in bids for Alcantara and then Fabregas ultimately formed their Achilles heel and led eventually to the scattergun approach that took hold on the final day.
However, it will be worth remembering that Moyes and Woodward were operating under the watch of the Glazer family, owners that have not subscribed to the same free-spending that have engulfed rivals Manchester City and Chelsea and have instead spent sensibly during their time in charge at Old Trafford.
The Americans oversaw the £80 million sale of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 but have green-lighted just one marquee signing since the departure of the Portuguese, the £24 million capture of Robin Van Persie after the Dutch striker’s contract talks broke down with Arsenal.
The Glazers have shown previously they understand the constant need to refresh and rebuild squads in signing the likes of Phil Jones, Ashley Young and Chris Smalling but they have always maintained a cautious business model.
United’s business in recent years has been more towards indigenous Premier League talent rather than big-money overseas targets that involve huge financial risk, hence the reluctance of Moyes to fully install his faith in Alcantara’s physique and the unwillingness to meet Herrera’s €36 million release clause to the full distance.
So they were left with Fellaini, signed for £27.5 million after five years under Moyes at Everton. In the Belgian they will get a fierce competitor who will fit into a midfield that has been notably lacking that kind of combative influence in recent years, especially against the highest quality of opposition in the Champions League.
Possessing a powerful, rangy 6ft 4 inch frame, his strength will bolster a midfield that requires protection for Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick as well as offering a source of goals, he has just come off his most prolific year at Everton in which he chipped in with 11 league goals as he indicated his ability to play as an attacking midfielder as well as lying deeper.
Moyes will also get the services of a player who he knows in detail having worked with the Belgian for 5 years and scouted him meticulously to the extent he made him Everton’s record signing for £15 million from Standard Liege back in 2008.
After disciplinary issues that saw him pick up 10 bookings in his first 17 games in England, he has mellowed down to the extent he has attracted 21 cautions and 1 red in the four subsequent years. Vitally for Moyes, Fellaini still harbours the rugged, brute style that makes him so difficult to play against and is likely to prove its full worth to United as the dynamic, physical box-to-box force Ferguson failed to attract in his latter years at the club.
It would require disillusion to perceive Fellaini as Moyes’s first choice in this window, the refusal to meet his £23 million release clause would put pay to that argument, as would the lunacy of the £28 million dual bid together with Leighton Baines which Everton classed as insulting. They were just two more instances of a transfer window that has been trawled in humiliation for the Manchester United hierarchy, but the acquisition of Fellaini represents a positive.
The fall-out into the failure of Moyes and Woodward over the summer is likely long and rigorous, ensuring that no such transfer market ineptitude will befall a club of such stature again, but Fellaini will be held in regard as a successful consolation.
The priority of the summer was a player able to bolster the midfield and they got one, regardless of the disaster they got themselves into in the process.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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