COMMENT: It takes a certain strength of character, a particular mentality, to succeed at Manchester United. So says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when assessing his players. But what of those above him? Those who have been working the transfer window this summer? Are the same questions being asked of them...?
No matter how you slice it, this market campaign has been dismal for Manchester United. Even with it extended over six weeks (and there's still a couple to go in terms of dealing with Football League clubs), United have botched this one. None of the team's weaknesses have been solved. There remains an extended list of overpaid and underused fringe players turning up every day to train. And the one deal United did manage to get over the line, Donny van de Beek, was for a position where they're already well stocked.
Indeed, Angel Gomes and his camp have every right to feel miffed. Solskjaer couldn't convince him to stay and establish himself. The argument being there was no room for a player of his type. Yet, a fee rising to £40m was committed to Ajax for Van de Beek, a player essentially to play in the same role as Gomes is now succeeding in with Boavista in Portugal. Three assists on debut. A wonder goal from the halfway line on Saturday. Everything the academy staff at Carrington knew Gomes was capable of. Yet it will be parent club Lille, not United, which will benefit from his time away at Boavista.
This is the window. The window that separates the football men from the amateurs. The fantasists. Coming off an extended European campaign. With next-to-no preseason. And a rush of fixtures to launch the new term. Managers' hands are full. The commitment has some at breaking point. Delegation was absolute key. The role of football director. Chief scout. Loan manager. They all took on greater value. Yet at United, none of these positions are filled. And yes, that's including chief scout. That's been watered down to a 'committee' of three: Jim Lawlor, Simon Wells and Marcel Bout.
Instead, we have stories of United being reluctant to bid for players like Jadon Sancho for fear of Borussia Dortmund rejecting the offer - and announcing it publicly. They just couldn't live with the embarrassment, so the story goes. Then there's the one about directors being concerned of how this market campaign has been played out on social media. That the reaction of 'missing out' on the likes of Tottenham's new duo, Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon, is creating a 'negative spiral' around the club's transfer plans.
Which brings us back to this column's original question: do those above Solskjaer have what it takes to run United's football operations? If they're so obsessed with the sewage pipe which is social media. If they're so vain, so vapid, that they're allowing unidentified feedback, bots and members of the ten-cent army, to shape their thinking... Then clearly the answer is: no.
We're not going to bang on about it. This column has long discussed Ed Woodward's reluctance to hire a director of football. The United vice-chairman exec still convinced the structure they have does the job.
Yet, this has been the window where Woodward's setup has been found out. And it may not be he who worries about what happens online. But it's obvious that some working around him do. And it's not a mentality, no matter the position, that should be tolerated at Manchester United.
Even Sunday's news raises a qualifier. Edinson Cavani, a free agent, was due to touch down at Manchester airport in the morning to finalise terms and undergo a medical. A great player. Potentially a great signing. But also a free agent. Off contract since June from PSG, Cavani could've been signed anytime. United could wait until after Monday's deadline to get everything done. If it is to be a rush job. If multiple offers are in and waiting for a response. A left-back remains on the agenda. A winger too. Why clog up the system finalising the paperwork for a deal that can be done outside the window?
Monchi, for one, is baffled by the situation. For Sevilla's famed sporting director, the role is "essential" for clubs of United's (perceived) status, "I think that clubs more and more are aware that they really need this position and also we are the connection between the technical staff, the squad, the board, we know the market, we get lots of information through the different scouts."
Tribalfootball.com has spoken to Javier Subirats, regarded as Valencia's greatest ever sporting director, about United's position - and he also couldn't understand it. That United have been left at the gate this summer, is no surprise in Spain.
The backlash those inside the club are fretting about? It's been a long time coming. Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, even the champions, they've all improved their squad this summer. Additions being made throughout the window. Yeah, there may be room for last-minute deals. But that's just it, they've given themselves the chance to make such signings thanks to what's been achieved since this market opened. Their counterparts at United, meanwhile, won't even answer calls from agents - as we've learned from Patrick Evra.
This summer, United have been found out. Woodward's approach has been found out. And changes must be made so such a campaign never happens again. In terms of results, those above Solskjaer have fallen well, well short of Manchester United standards.