The transfer window is going smoothly for Manchester United so far. Almost too smoothly.
Supporters accustomed to agonising waits to see new players arrive will see Jadon Sancho’s £72.9million arrival confirmed this week and there is confidence that Raphael Varane could make it two players from the very highest level arriving at Old Trafford in the same window.
United have shed accusations of acting too slowly in transfer windows to seal a deal for Sancho promptly and while prising Varane away from Real Madrid won’t be as easy, progress is being made when the window still has seven weeks to run.
That could make the end of the window quieter than usual for a club that have made a habit of pushing through late deals in recent years. Edinson Cavani and Alex Telles a year ago, Bruno Fernandes in January 2020 and Harry Maguire in the first window of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign.
Sancho and Varane would solve two of United’s most prominent problems in this window, giving them time to push through one more signing, depending on budget. A right-back to provide competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka is on the radar, with Kieran Trippier a target from Atletico Madrid, as is a midfielder and United are monitoring 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga at Rennes.
But the early business United are trying to do in July doesn’t necessarily mean August will be quiet before the window is gently pulled to on the final day of the month. There is still plenty to be done, it’s just focused on going in the opposite direction.
Complete the signing of Sancho and it will take the United squad to 29 senior players. Varane would make it 30 and that doesn’t include any of the youngsters likely to train with the first team this season, such as Amad. Those numbers already present a problem when Premier League and Champions League squads are capped at 25, even if some of those under the age of 21 wouldn’t take one of those places.
The fact is the improvement in the top end of this United squad in recent windows has seen some players drop out of the bottom of the squad and they will need moving on ideally. There are also fringe players who might benefit from a loan move and some who could be sold to raise cash.
Pre-season after an international tournament is always difficult. United returned in the final week of the European Championship and Copa America and the fact that five of their players were involved in the final weekend of those competitions means numbers will be thin on the ground until the end of July.
That’s why Nathan Bishop and Tahith Chong, who have both agreed loan moves away from United, are still training at Carrington and might also partly explain why nobody has left the club yet.
Two players who had loan spells in Serie A last season could yet depart. Diogo Dalot’s future may well depend on whether United sign a right-back, but Andreas Pereira’s days at Old Trafford appear numbered. Finding a permanent transfer after a fairly underwhelming spell at Lazio might be problematic.
That shouldn’t be the case for Jesse Lingard, who was excellent at West Ham United in the second half of the season and the Hammers want to make the move permanent. As of yet that’s not happened and there has even been talk of a new deal for the academy graduate, who sees his contract expire next summer and is surely surplus to requirements.
Phil Jones should be another certain departure, but he hasn’t played a game in 18 months and was injured for virtually all of last season. He’s not been pictured back at Carrington for pre-season, even though Solskjaer said he would be “like a new player” this season towards the end of the last campaign. Fitness permitting the 29-year-old has to move on to kickstart his own career.
There could also be upheaval in the well-stocked goalkeeping department. Tom Heaton and Lee Grant now provide plenty of experience and excellent training ground conditions, but in the final week of last season Solskjaer admitted the battle between Dean Henderson and David de Gea for supremacy in goal was unsustainable. Neither will be keen to accept status as a No. 2.
United’s transfer window is certainly heading in the right direction, but there could be plenty more to do just yet.