Manchester United today accepted that Chelsea had beaten them to the signing of Barcelona’s Pedro, and said that manager Louis van Gaal had simply not been convinced that he wanted the player.
The price of the 28-year-old forward would not have been a problem for United, with a €30million (£22m) buy-out clause which was a moderate lay-out in current market conditions. The buy-out was actually less than the figure which secured Marouane Fellaini’s exit from Everton to United, two years ago.
There was scepticism from supporters today about United’s suggestion that van Gaal had remained unconvinced. Yet a senior Barcelona executive has also said in the past few days that Old Trafford club’s manager was uncertain.
The lack of conviction from van Gaal would explain why United were quibbling over meeting the modest £22m buy-out clause, allowing them to begin agreeing the player’s six-figure personal terms would have brought a greater financial hit.
It was clear that United were some distance away from buying Pedro when the player was fielded in the starting XI for Barcelona in the Super Cup against Atletico Bibao on Monday. When United chief executive Ed Woodward flew out to Catalonia that day, it was assumed that a deal was imminent.
But he did not meet Pedro’s representatives. Meanwhile Chelsea, who are thought to have made contact on Monday or Tuesday in the aftermath of the Premier League defeat at Manchester City, began their own accelerated move to secure the player’s services.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was not thought to have been convinced that he needed Pedro either, one month ago. But Chelsea’s poor start to the season, combined with what may have been club owner Roman Abramovich asking why the player was not being pursued, has led to the club rapidly moving towards sealing the deal.
Pedro is thought to have been keen to leave Spain for Old Trafford, despite suggestions in Spain that van Gaal’s criticism of Victor Valdes and public discussion of David de Gea may have contributed to uncertainty on his part.