Football: United losing grip as market force

Manchester United have turned their attention to signing Senegal winger Sadio Mane (right), after missing out on Spain forward Pedro. However, Southampton insist he is not for sale.
Manchester United have turned their attention to signing Senegal winger Sadio Mane (right), after missing out on Spain forward Pedro. However, Southampton insist he is not for sale.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Manchester United's desperation in the transfer market has grown after they were gazumped by Chelsea in a €30 million (S$46.7 million) deal to sign Pedro Rodriguez from Barcelona.

Southampton and Senegal forward Saido Mane, 23, is among the players United have inquired about as Louis van Gaal looks to add more pace and firepower to his attack before the transfer window closes on Sept 1.

United maintain that they walked away from the Pedro deal, on van Gaal's say-so, rather than it a case of being outbid by Chelsea. But it was reported in Spain that the forward was unimpressed by United's approach.

Spanish reports also alleged that the unhappy experience at United of former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes added to Pedro's preference for the Blues.

The champions' pursuit of Pedro was also helped by Cesc Fabregas, who, along with his girlfriend Daniella Semaan, persuaded his former Barcelona team-mate and his wife that he should move to London rather than Manchester.

As such, doubts persist over United's ability to play the market despite having made several new signings since last season.

They have missed out on a series of targets for the third straight summer. Defensive targets, such as Mats Hummels, Nicolas Otamendi, and Leighton Baines did not end up at Old Trafford.

More worryingly, United looked to have been played out by defenders seeking new contracts at their existing clubs. Dani Alves and Sergio Ramos were heavily linked with United but penned lucrative extensions with Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

United have also failed to attract several attacking targets in recent seasons including Gareth Bale, Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Wesley Sneijder and Pedro.

Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Mueller remains a target this summer but it remains to be seen whether he is attainable.

Mane has been identified as a younger alternative to Pedro, but Southampton said on Wednesday that they had yet to receive a bid and would not sell anyway.

Given the late deals United have struck in recent times, including those for Marouane Fellaini, Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao, the 20-time English champions do not inspire confidence as the transfer deadline looms once more.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2015, with the headline 'United losing grip as market force'. Print Edition | Subscribe