The 2016 summer transfer window is now well and truly closed for Premier League clubs. Many millions have been spent, and many column inches published on the players who will grace England’s top division this season. Manchester United’s 2016 summer transfers, both in and out, have seen a squad of also-rans become serious title contenders.
Ivory Coast international centre-back Eric Bailley has hit the ground running so far. At a reported £30 million from Villarreal, his lack of Premier League experience was initially a concern. So far his partnership with Daley Blind has blossomed, and seen Chris Smalling languishing on the bench.
His aggressive style has seen fans make comparisons with United legend Nemanja Vidić. It’s far too early in his career for talk of that nature but his start has been encouraging. The derby against Manchester City on 10th September will be his toughest test yet, with or without Sergio Agüero.
Zlatan Ibrahimović finally put an end to all of the summer transfer speculation by moving to Old Trafford in July. It was the worst kept secret in football that he would be joining United this summer, following the expiration of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. With four goals in his first three games, any concerns about the fact that he had never played in England so far appear unfounded.
At £89 million, Paul Pogba became the world’s most expensive footballer when he returned to Old Trafford last month. The United fans were raving about his second debut, at home to Southampton. Despite a misplaced pass being his first touch, he immediately began to show exactly why United invested so much money in him. It also highlighted what a mistake they made by letting him move to Juventus in the first place.
The raw power and pace he brings to the midfield is something the Red Devils have been lacking for years. His level of technique and touch just add even further to his skill set. If United are to be genuine title contenders this season, he is likely to be key to that.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s signing caused much excitement among United fans, but he has so far been on the fringes of the action. The Armenian midfielder is yet to start a game, but had an impressive cameo in the win over Hull City. He is a great example of the attacking options José Mourinho now has at his disposal. If he shows the same form that won him the Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Year, the £26 million fee will look like a real bargain. Borussia Dortmund will no doubt miss such a talent.
Tyler Blackett was given his debut by Louis van Gaal in his first game in charge. After giving away a penalty in United’s 5-3 capitulation at Leicester City in 2014, he barely featured again. He spent last season in an unproductive spell at Celtic, making just nine appearances. In the summer, he was recruited by new Reading manager, and United legend, Jaap Stam.
Will Keane and James Weir have both joined their former United coach, Mike Phelan, at Hull City. Keane was the youth and reserve teams’ star striker over the last few years, before injuries halted his progress. He has since had loan spells with Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan Athletic and Q.P.R. He made just three substitute appearances for the first team, before suffering an injury against Shrewsbury Town in the F.A. Cup. It is rather ironic that this gave Marcus Rashford the chance to impress, which he grabbed with both hands.
Weir made his one and only appearance for United in last season’s home win against Arsenal. This was a late substitution for Ander Herrera. With the young midfielder up against an embarrassment of riches in the engine room, a transfer makes perfect sense.
Donald Love and Paddy McNair both made their debut under van Gaal, but neither did anything to convince him that they were going to be first team regulars. Mourinho clearly agrees and readily accepted Sunderland’s £5.5 million offer. They will reunite with former United manager David Moyes.
McNair is a Northern Ireland international and played for his country at Euro 2016. He made 27 appearances for United, although most of these were as cover for injuries. Love made one substitute appearance under van Gaal, ironically against his new club. The Scottish born full-back will get plenty of opportunities to impress at the Stadium of Light.
Striker Ashley Fletcher had a productive loan spell at League One side Barnsley last season. He scored in both the F.A. Trophy Final and the play-off Final, which saw the Tykes promoted to the Championship. He turned down a new contract at Old Trafford in the summer, and joined West Ham United in July.
Midfielder Joe Rothwell also played for Barnsley last season, but made only four appearances. He also turned down a new United contract, and joined Oxford United. Also leaving Old Trafford were goalkeeper Oliver Byrne, to Cardiff City and defender Jimmy Dunne to Burnley. Neither player managed an appearance for the club, and were given free transfers.
Adnan Januzaj has had a frustrating time since his debut season, in 2013-14. The Belgian was not rated highly by van Gaal, and spent part of last season on loan at Borussia Dortmund. The loan move to Sunderland, under the man who gave him his United debut, could shape his career.
Guillermo Varela was the first signing by David Moyes following his appointment as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor. The Uruguayan full-back made eleven appearances last season, and initially impressed. He was dropped following United’s Europa League exit at the hands of Liverpool, following a poor performance. His loan spell in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt will give him regular first team opportunities. It seems unlikely, at this point, that he has a long-term future at Old Trafford.
James Wilson made an immediate impact when given his first team debut under caretaker manager Ryan Giggs in 2014. He scored twice against Hull City but has since found it hard to break into the first team. Even when United had a shortage of strikers, van Gaal never gave him many opportunities. Even winger Ángel Di María was preferred up front, while Wilson languished on the bench.
Last season’s loan spell at Brighton & Hove Albion saw him score five times. This season he finds himself at Derby County. As with Varela, this move is most likely to be for the purposes of attracting potential suitors into buying him.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson made his debut last season, deputising for the injured Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo. He was an immediate hit with the fans, who loved his attacking approach. He also showed real quality in his crossing. With Shaw now fully recovered, and looking back to his best, the young left-back probably wouldn’t have featured too often this campaign.
The fact that Mourinho signed him to a new contract as soon as he joined the club indicates that he rates him. It doesn’t seem probable that his new manager is putting him in the shop window. A season at Wolves in the Championship should give him the experience of playing every week. It will also toughen him up in preparation for future Premier League campaigns.
Dean Henderson is one of two goalkeepers that United have sent on loan this season. The 19 year old will spend the rest of 2016 at League Two side Grimsby Town. It is expected that he will be third choice behind James McKeown and Andy Warrington. If the club should have an injury crisis, however, he may well get some valuable first team action under his belt.
Portuguese goalkeeper Joel Castro Pereira impressed on loan at Rochdale last season. He was named man of the match against Morecambe, and even saved a penalty, despite a 1 – 0 defeat. He will spend this season in his homeland, with Primeira Liga side Belenenses.
Attacking midfielder Andreas Pereira is a player that United fans wanted to see more of last season. The Brazilian scored a stunning free kick in the League Cup against Ipswich Town, but played just 11 times under van Gaal. Mourinho has indicated that he wants him to gain regular first team experience, but cannot guarantee him that right now. He will spend the season in Spain, at La Liga side Granada.
Víctor Valdés will be happy to put his eighteen month spell at Old Trafford behind him. The Barcelona legend joined in 2015, and looked like he would replace the seemingly Madrid-bound David De Gea. He made two appearances for United before falling out with van Gaal following a disagreement in training. The result was that he was made to train alone, and not even invited to club functions. He has now joined Premier League new boys Middlesbrough.
Nick Powell once looked like he had a very bright future at Manchester United. After impressing Sir Alex Ferguson with displays at Crewe Alexandra, the legendary manager signed him in 2012. The midfielder scored on his debut against Wigan Athletic, and impressed in displays against Chelsea and Galatasaray. He was loaned to Wigan and Leicester City over the last three years but has seen his career go into freefall. Reports about his attitude were not encouraging, and saw his spell at Leicester terminated early.
A serious hamstring injury kept Powell out for almost a year before he was recalled by van Gaal for two games last season. After failing to impress he was once again loaned out, this time to Hull City. His contract expired in the summer and no renewal was offered. He has now returned to Wigan, this time on a permanent basis.
United also released goalkeeper George Dorrington and midfielder Oliver Rathbone during the close season. The players have since joined Huddersfield Town and Rochdale, respectively.
Plenty of players have been linked with moves over the summer, yet remain part of the United squad. Bastian Schweinsteiger is one such player, and has been told he has no future at the club. Mourinho is apparently not impressed that he turned down a free transfer to Sporting Lisbon.
A succession of injuries have seen the career of Phil Jones go backwards. Had United managed to secure another centre back, Stoke City’s inquiry may well have turned into a permanent transfer. Morgan Schneiderlin is another player who was linked with a move. His former manager at Southampton, Mauricio Pochettino, was reportedly keen on taking him to Tottenham. Mourinho has made it clear, however, that he sees him as a vital part of his squad.
The fact that Juan Mata was sold by Mourinho at Chelsea meant that speculation persisted all summer that he would be moving on. Everton were one club that were reportedly interested in his services. These rumours soon died down when his manager started him in all three Premier League games this season. Marouane Fellaini has also become a key player under his new manager, despite rumours that he would be leaving.
Manchester United’s 2016 summer transfers have made many headlines over the summer. This is no surprise given the amount of money they have invested. It seems that they have plugged a few gaps in their squad that have been leaking for years. Time will tell whether it is enough to turn them into title contenders, let alone champions.