Summer woes for Manchester United

by Omar Soliman

June. That agonising time of year when the league season seems so far away and we have to make do with the placid attraction of internationals and, heaven forbid, tennis.

If you thought it was difficult enough as a fan imagine life as a football journalist with nothing but innocent tweets and tedious rumours to help fill back pages. How do they manage it? More importantly, why do so many buy into it?

Silly season is upon us yet this summer must have appeared to be a godsend to Fleet Street with managerial upheaval and the faint sound of imaginary treasure chests being teased open. The top three will all be tempted to treat their new manager to mould their all-new conquering side by throwing money at the latest and greatest on the world market.

This gives tabloids ample opportunity to go into transfer frenzy overload, even if it means harming their integrity with the most spurious of links. In this murky world of rumours and shady agents what can you really believe anymore?

What exactly did Cristiano Ronaldo mean when he tweeted that Real Madrid were fibbing? Is Wayne Rooney‘s newly shaved head signalling a new beginning? David Gill’s wink and a smile? What does it all mean?

For United, the talk has been of filling a gaping hole in midfield for a couple of years now but certain names seem to be confirmed targets simply by being mentioned often enough. Kevin Strootman, Thiago and Cesc Fabregas are the latest batch to be reportedly heading straight to M16 depending on which rag you pick up.

The Thiago transfer seems less a guessing game and more a process of elimination. According to Spanish journalist Pepe Gutierrez: “Due to conflict of interests and pacts, Thiago will not be joining FC Bayern, Real Madrid or Manchester City.” So he’s nailed on to join United then.

There are also the more optimistic/cluelessly hopeful names of Robert Lewandowski (who was seemingly a Bayern Munich player only a few weeks ago) and the holy grail himself, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Reports for CR7 seem to be covering all bases with snippets exclusively revealing that he is edging towards a move back to Old Trafford and others that he’ll become the highest paid footballer on the planet. If you are convinced of something then head to the bookies but do it quick as they always seem one step ahead of the game. For instance, the odds of Ronaldo returning have been slashed from 11/8 to 5/6 over the past week so surely he’s coming.

Then again, that transfer may depend on whether Madrid get Gareth Bale. With the media happy to lap up any nods and winks the rumour mill quickly turns into a well oiled tapping up machine. Zinedine Zidane has already manipulated the system by publicly stating his personal wish for Gareth Bale to swap the lilywhite of Spurs for the blinding white of Real Madrid.

He said: “If Gareth feels now is the time to move then he has to have a private discussion with his club and express that he wants to leave.” Only, it cannot exactly be called personal when he is employed by Real as a sporting director.

Amidst the madness are the increasingly sensible/predictable/clueless links due to Moyes’ already assumed raiding of his former club with Marouane Fellaini being the final piece of the jigsaw, which is odd as he was barely mentioned this time last year. Then of course there is Leighton Baines as if Patrice Evra’s sparkling form was merely a figment of many an imagination.

Gone are the days when the first you would know of a transfer is a photo of the player in the new home shirt, holding aloft a scarf with the North Stand behind him. Gone are the days when confirmation of a transfer was not a tweet beginning with that palpitation inducing phrase ‘breaking news’. Sigh, I still remember learning of Teddy Sheringham’s transfer when rain-delayed coverage of Wimbledon was briefly halted for Des Lynam to casually confirm it. Halcyon days they were.

Social media and the insatiable need to report anything first has put paid to that. Where there is no margin for error occasionally news slips out, or so it seems. Gremlins at Sky Sports News teasingly operating the giddy rolling news bar to report that United had signed Jagielka, only that they hadn’t. Maybe the work experience boy was checking that the bar was working properly. Or an apparently leaked news story on including quotes of Lewandowski signing.

Thanks to Twitter we now have the rapid evolution of the ITK, or ‘In The Know’ which in most cases is probably some teenage boy armed with a sticker album making wild guesses. Tabloids have also coined the term ‘transfer kitty’ which is another hit and miss method of working out roughly how much each manager has to spunk on the transfer market.

According to some ‘exclusive’ reports Moyes has £60m at his disposal which happily equates to Fellaini + Baines + Lewandowski. According to other reports he can happily splurge it all on the return of the chosen one at between £70m – £85m because, as well all know, £15m is really just loose change.

Few journalists seem to be in any sort of agreement over what plans Moyes may want to bring to his team. What personnel to fit what choice of formation, in short no-one really has a clue. The only people who do know are working behind the scenes on identified targets, not those that have been plucked out of a fantasy football aficionado’s wet dream. Expect signings but do not believe everything you read, it is easier to bear that way.

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