Following a disappointing season for Manchester United, where they managed to finish second but failed to challenge rivals Manchester City for the title, this summer’s transfer window was supposed to be a time where supporters could begin to believe that their team would fight for the league once more.
Brazil midfielder Fred was certainly a step in the right direction, a player who Pep Guardiola had tried to sign in January, with him boasting an array of talents. He can pass, he can tackle, he can run with the ball and he has an eye for goal. With Jose Mourinho struggling to find a way to bring out the best in Paul Pogba, Fred has been hailed as the solution to all their problems.
Another early piece of transfer business was Diogo Dalot, although there is less reason the get excited about him. At 18 and with very little first team football under his belt, he is seen as one for the future, rather than the player who could usurp Antonio Valencia from the right-back role in the season ahead.
The World Cup understandably interrupted United’s transfer business but the club has managed to find the time to convince Marouane Fellaini to extend his current United contract.
The Belgian midfielder played against England on Thursday evening and put in an impressive performance. If he played like that for United more often, maybe the fans would have greeted the news that he had signed a new two-year deal more warmly.
As it is, they are frustrated. Fellaini has spent five years at the club, he’s played over 150 games, but you could probably count his top games on one hand.
He’s had his moments, with goals against Manchester City and Arsenal, as well as three semi-final goals in the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League, which helped United bring home silverware. But he hasn’t done enough to justify extending his stay, yet he managed to hold the club to ransom.
Mourinho spent the season praising Fellaini at every given opportunity, much to the bemusement of the supporters. Players like Anthony Martial, who have genuine talent and scored plenty of goals in limited appearances, were pushed to the side while Fellaini was hailed as an important player.
It’s no wonder the midfielder quickly realised he held all the cards, with Mourinho desperate to keep him and the club running out of time to stop him from leaving for free.
“The entire staff is doing everything so I can stay,” Fellaini said in May. “The club did not renew my contract last year. Now I am in a strong position, especially since Mourinho has stated that he wants to keep me.”
Arsenal, AC Milan, Roma, Monaco and Galatasaray were among the clubs who were apparently interested, as his agent looked to get him the best deal possible.
Cristiano Ronaldo has a tendency to play games like this too. Go back 10 years and consider how he flirted with Real Madrid as a United player. Or look at the seemingly annual event of his leaking stories to the press about his dissatisfaction with one thing or another at the Bernabeu. You’ll take it from Ronaldo though because he’s the best in the world, but from Fellaini?
He’s having a laugh.
Apparently none of the other clubs offered him a package that matched what United had on the table, so he’s agreed to continue at the club. Reports suggest that United didn’t up their original offer once he started casting glances elsewhere, but the way he has handled this situation makes the fact he is staying all the more irritating.
“I am pleased to be continuing my journey as a Manchester United player,” he said when the contract was announced. “I made this decision because I am very happy here.”
And just like that, the months where he has ignored United’s offer have been forgotten, with the possibility of a further three years at the club.
It’s hard to remember a time when a player who is as average as him has played as many games for United. There has never been a time when they’ve earned as much as he does, a reported £120,000-a-week.
He has improved as the years have gone on. He isn’t the train wreck he was in that first season or two. But he is a long way away from the calibre of player a team planning to challenge for the title should be keeping, let alone begging to stay.
But as Fellaini pointed out, the club knew it would cost £50m-£60m to replace him. To spend that sort of money on someone who won’t be in the first XI, which is the role Fellaini will play next season, doesn’t make a lot of sense. If United could spend that money to bring in new talent, then that would be logical.
Still, the idea of Fellaini inching closer to a testimonial at Old Trafford is fairly distressing for plenty of United fans and it will take a world-class signing in the coming weeks to ease their pain.