News analysis

Man United the biggest winners with rivals unable to plug their holes

Perhaps the end of the transfer window has been misnamed. Forget deadline day, this was the dreadful day. Not for every club, but for too many, including most of the high profile ones, in a frantic finale that produced more losers than winners.

In face-saving exercises, clubs may now be searching for illusory positives. They can try and present keeping unhappy players as a triumph, even if they may have stored up problems for the future.

Southampton still have Virgil van Dijk, West Bromwich Albion have retained Jonny Evans while Alexis Sanchez and Shkodran Mustafi are still at Arsenal. It is a question if they can be reintegrated to return to their optimum form.

If all four endured a day of waiting in vain, Thursday was defined by what did not happen, not what did.

Managers are still left with vacancies in their squads. Antonio Conte aimed for an extra striker and midfielder. Ronald Koeman targeted defensive cover. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp both sought another top centre-back.

However, a fine window for Manchester City ended with disappointment, and perhaps with Eliaquim Mangala an injury away from a return to their defence.

Guardiola may not have actually needed Sanchez, but he definitely wanted the Chilean. Had he signed the prolific forward, City would have had the potential to power to the title.

In face-saving exercises, clubs may now be searching for illusory positives. They can try and present keeping unhappy players as a triumph, even if they may have stored up problems for the future.

As it is, Manchester United had the best deadline day of the contenders, simply because they did not fail.

Arsenal's was chaotic. The disgruntled Sanchez may yet fire them into the top four, but there seemed to be little coherent thinking when they made a late £92 million (S$161 million) bid to turn Monaco's Thomas Lemar into one of the most expensive players ever.

Others could rue the ones that got away, and not just because Liverpool were also unable to recruit Lemar. Everton saw a £35 million windfall slip through their fingers when Ross Barkley turned down a move to Chelsea.

If some consider themselves the window's winners, it is because their successes came at the English champions' expense. Liverpool signed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after the Blues bid for him. Tottenham took Antonio Conte's target Fernando Llorente, and he promises to be a better backup to Harry Kane than Vincent Janssen.

Perhaps, in time, Spurs may get Barkley. It was chastening for Chelsea, who ended up paying £58 million for two squad players, in Davide Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater. It will be harder for them to retain their crown.

Liverpool should be buoyed about their chances of qualifying for the Champions League again. Oxlade-Chamberlain looks a quintessential Klopp player yet the key issue was always in defence, not midfield. The player they really needed was van Dijk.

Their successes may be financial, not footballing.

They did well to get a £6 million loan fee for Divock Origi and £26 million for Mamadou Sakho. The defender's arrival could help Crystal Palace avoid relegation.

Elsewhere, Swansea, in loaning Renato Sanches, did eye-catchingly good business and Leicester, in borrowing Aleksandar Dragovic, also fared well.

Brighton, who desperately needed a striker, and Newcastle, who required a forward and a left-back and got neither, cannot say the same.

At the bottom of the table, as at the top, transfer market failings could come at a cost. The lesson is clear. Do your business early. Just like Jose Mourinho.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline 'United the biggest winners with rivals unable to plug their holes'. Print Edition | Subscribe