Comment: David Moyes was playing catch-up in the transfer window at Manchester United – and it showed

The transfer window ended in farce for United, with deals for Ander Herrera and Fabio Coentrao collapsing

David Moyes must surely have thought he would not have to go through hell twice for Marouane Fellaini.

The full drama of how he and his Everton club secretary Dave Harrison engaged in an deadline night dash to Luton Airport in September 2008, where they literally sprinted down the runway to board Sir Philip Green's private jet and sign him in Brussels, “papers flying everywhere” while Fellaini's two agents argued in French, is told in the autobiography of Mick Rathbone, a long-standing member of his backroom team. Moyes must surely have expected things would be different with all the wealth and allure of Manchester United.

But the chaotic events of Monday night, when Fellaini's £27m  signing was not announced until 2am, scrambled that the notion of a smooth succession at the tiller of mighty Manchester United - Moyes and chief executive Ed Woodward effortlessly assuming the tiller from Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill. There was one element of pre-planning for this transfer window - Wilfried Zaha, the forgotten acquisition, signed in January and loaned back to Crystal Palace - but United's entire transfer market work was essentially packed into the 64 days between Moyes taking over at United, on July 1, and the deadline slamming shut. That spells disaster. Manchester City started planning in October.

In retrospect, you wonder why Moyes didn't quit Everton the day he was appointed and get six extra weeks of Old Trafford badly needed transfer work under his belt. The summer was half over when he arrived, not knowing his new scouts, so not knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the targets - and certainly not knowing about the new top level realm he was operating in rather than be plunged into. In the excellent section on Moyes' Everton set-up within Michael Calvin's book The Nowhere Men James Smith, Moyes' head of technical scouting, saying Everton targets had to be good, Smith says, “but at the same time not so good that they don't want to play for Everton.” Moyes himself admitted a few weeks back that it is a new kind of market he is operating in now.

If that were not challenging enough, United also find themselves with a new chief executive, Woodward, finding his way in a different deal-making environment to the mergers and acquisitions world where he made a name with JP Morgan. Gill was  making the necessary introductions for him for months before Woodward succeeded him but it feels like the learning curve will be steep.

The result has been a humiliating, humbing summer by the standards of such a proud club, in which attempts to sign Cesc Fabregas, Leighton Baines and Ander Herrera went south, the noises about luring Cristiano Ronaldo evaporated, a late loan bid failed for a left back  - Fabio Coentrao - whom Real Madrid are desperate to get rid of. And Fellaini was signed for £4m more than his Everton release clause which expired in July, as the club engaged in an undignified scramble in the last chance saloon.

The timing and negotiating of some targets has not smacked of Manchester United. The bid for Fabregas went in to Barcelona one day after Thiago Alcantara - whom Moyes didn't fancy - had left gone to Bayern Munich, thus increasing the Cataunians' need of Fabregas. Herrera had been tracked for several years at Athletic Bilbao, with his performances in the club's 5-3 aggregate Europa League defeat of United in 2012 key to their interest. That was long enough for United to know that the Basque clubs always demand the full asking price for their players, because their Basque-only buying policy severely limits their potential to buy replacements. United didn't raise the £26m bid they offered for Herrera late last week, leaving them $4m or so adrift.

Only when the dust settled on a night which lurchd ino absurdism did the full chaos become clear. When a profoundly angered Everton dug their heels in, insulted by the size of offer for Leighton Baines, United pursued Coentrao, whom Real had been touting all summer with Granada's Guilherme Siqueira lined up to replace him. Siqueira waited and waited for Real but when Coentrao couldn't be shifted, Granada packed him off to Benfica. When United made their late move for Coentrao, agent Jorge Mendes went into overdrive, trying to haul Siqueira back from Benfica. Definitely not, said the Portuguese. So Coentrao had to stay where he was. The pursuit of Real's Sami Khedira was less intense. There was an inquiry - no bid, as the player has claimed.

The general rule of engagement in the market like this is that two, three or four active targets will be earmarked for the positions where reinforcements are required. Clubs break rules to get all the groundwork done for perhaps two full-backs - medicals quietly completed, meetings held, terms agreed - so there are backups if the selling club cuts up rough.

United could have bought out of this mess by paying over the odds. Herrera could have been secured for another £5m and Baines for £20m, though it is part of Moyes' Everton character that he has always refused poor value. “If Everton waste 20 million we'll wait a long time to get anything like that again,” Smith told Calvin. “David Moyes spends the money like it's his own.”

  Ferguson will be pleased Moyes has stuck to that principle, having always argued that there was no value in the market. But all value has gone in the market. Yet £5m more seems very little for a club of United's commercial might to pay for the box-to-box midfielder. Time will tell but this might be very a long winter.

'Imposters' leave mystery hanging on Herrera

It will go down in the marginalia of Manchester United history as "Impostergate": the story of how four highly reputable Basque lawyers – Rodrigo Garcia Lucas, Alvaro Reig Gurrea, Francisco Salinas Mezquita and Jose Lasa Azpeitia – pitched up at La Liga offices early on Monday evening to help overcome the complexities of the Ander Herrera move to United. They all helped secure Javi Martinez's tortuous transfer to Bayern Munich last season. United denied all knowledge of them – "nobody had authority to represent Manchester United" the club said yesterday, leading to the notion in Spain that they were imposters.

Herrera's agent denied all knowledge of them. They denied anyone knowledge by refusing to talk. The most likely story is that a deal was closer than the clubs would like to say and that they had the four on hand. But their next pay cheque is too valuable to say as much.

Ian Herbert

 

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments