Just as we thought Manchester United were going to pull off a simple and painless transfer, fans were given a big wake-up call last night.
News broke via the normally reliable Fabrizio Romano yesterday afternoon that the Red Devils were very close to a deal for Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, with a transfer fee amounting to £90 million plus £18 million in add-ons more-or-less agreed and wages also agreed with the player .
Both sides were reportedly confident of closing a deal by the end of this week.
But then the other shoe dropped. The English press came out virtually en masse at around 9pm yesterday evening to blast these reports out of the water and claim that United are far from a deal and in fact very close to walking away from negotiations.
So what has happened?
One thing we can probably assume is that the 9pm news avalanche last night was a result of some sort of press briefing by the Red Devils. The fact that so many reporters produced the same story at the same time, whilst not absolute proof, is strong evidence of that.
This then begs the question: why would United brief the press at this stage of a delicate negotiation and feed them such negative, pessimistic information about the deal?
This is what one journalist, The Telegraph’s James Ducker, had to say:
‘Manchester United have warned Borussia Dortmund that they are willing to walk away from a move for Jadon Sancho unless the German club lower their exorbitant £108 million demands.
‘The Covid-19 crisis has cost United more than £150m in lost income and expenditure and the club feel Dortmund’s €120m valuation of Sancho is completely unrealistic in the current climate.
‘United are prepared to pursue alternative targets unless a reasonable compromise can be reached with Dortmund.
‘United have seen some of the prices paid for players this summer – such as Timo Werner’s £47.5m move from RB Leipzig to Chelsea and Bayern Munich’s £55m capture of Leroy Sane from Manchester City – and believe the pricetag being put on Sancho is entirely unreflective of a much changed market.
‘The club remain hopeful of being able to reach an agreement.
‘But they are adamant they will not be held to ransom, with Dortmund so far refusing to budge from their asking price during the clubs’ early discussions.’
You can almost hear Ed Woodward’s voice can’t you? Our interpretation: tit-for-tat. Romano and German outlets such as Bild have perhaps been fed false information by Dortmund that the deal is closer than is the case in order to put pressure on United’s negotiators to push up and push along.
Why? The news generates hysteria among United fans and all Ed Woodward and chief negotiator Matt Judge can then do is fulfil that expectation or be ripped apart and ridiculed on social media for cocking it up again.
Such tactics would anger Woodward and Judge, who would then use the British media in similar fashion to put the pressure back on Dortmund, shaming them by implying that they have not been willing to negotiate at all.
Last night’s ‘briefing’ (let’s call it that) did not stop there, though. It also ripped the rug from under German feet by trashing their deadline of next Monday – the date that they go to a training camp – as ‘artificial’.
‘With the transfer window open until October 5, United … will also not be bound by any artificial deadlines’ Ducker writes.
There is also a shot across the bow of Sancho’s representatives as well. It has long been reported that personal terms had been agreed, with wages believed to be in the region of £250,000 per week, but the figures Woodward – sorry, The Telegraph – reported last night suggest that the 20-year-old’s agent has been up to some last-minute skulduggery to get a bigger chunk of the pie.
‘Personal terms have yet to be agreed with Sancho and talk of a £340,000-a-week contract is outlandish. Agents’ fees are also potentially a complicating factor,’ Ducker writes.
Almost identical stories were sent out by other highly reputable journalists, including The Athletic’s David Ornstein, Goal’s Charlotte Duncker, BBC’s Simon Stone and The Independent’s Simon Peach.
Where does this all leave us?
Normally, you would say it leaves us where we usually are as Man United fans – set for a long drawn out transfer window. However, there is a different element to this particular case, which is Dortmund’s deadline. The fact that the press were briefed about it yesterday, apparently, means that Woodward and Judge are concerned that the Germans really will stick to their guns and walk away from negotiations if nothing has happened by Monday.
Will United risk that happening and not be rushed, or will they act quickly? That is the $64,000 – or in this case, €120,000,000 question.
Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have scored over 60 goals between them so far this season. But how much do you know about other strikers who played for the Red Devils over the years? Take our quiz below to find out.