It has been a summer of chaos for Manchester United — both good and bad.
Their transfer window started with the high-profile departures of Alessia Russo and Ona Batlle, who left on free transfers.
United tried and failed to convince both players to stay. Russo joined Arsenal, who had attempted to sign her in January only for two world record bids to be rejected by United, while Batlle signed for Barcelona.
After their most successful season, which included a first FA Cup final and Champions League qualification, it appeared United were going backwards rather than forwards. But as the transfer window shut on Thursday night, the club had brought in a total of nine players — four of which were announced on deadline day.
United’s business includes the signing of Brazilian striker Geyse from Barcelona, World Cup Golden Boot winner Hinata Miyazawa and Spanish midfielder Irene Guerrero. The club also held on to England goalkeeper Mary Earps, who was wanted by Arsenal.
Alessia Russo left for Arsenal on a free deal after Manchester United rejected two world record bids in January
Ona Batlle also left on a free transfer this summer, with the World Cup winner joining Barcelona
United managed to hold on to goalkeeper Mary Earps – one of the most marketable players at the club
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So, did United have a good transfer window? In many ways, the answer is yes. The signings they brought in add quality and depth — both of which will be important if they are to progress in Europe and compete for the WSL title.
One thing United have done really well is recruit talented young players on free transfers. Emma Watson, 17, and Evie Rabjohn, 18, both came in this summer and have incredibly bright futures ahead of them.
But while United have done much good in this window, agents still speak of a disorganised structure behind the scenes and there is much frustration with the way the club do business.
Whether Earps would stay or go became the transfer saga of the summer. The club’s stance was clear throughout the window —the goalkeeper was not for sale at any price. The problem was that Earps wanted to leave and has been left extremely unhappy with the handling of the situation.
The Lionesses’ No 1 decided she wanted to join Russo at Arsenal after the World Cup. United had already rejected a bid and there was a reluctance to look for a possible replacement.
In United’s view, Earps was irreplaceable. As well as being crucial to United’s success on the pitch, Earps is one of the most marketable players at the club — somebody who will sell shirts and tickets for games. From a PR perspective, selling her to a rival would have been a disaster.
The fee Arsenal were prepared to pay, which was more than £100,000, was simply not worth it. Earps is out of contract next summer and may leave on a free but United would rather take that risk in the hope they can convince her to pen a new deal, although that looks unlikely at present. United’s approach to signing players has been a cause of irritation to several agents who spoke to Mail Sport.
The main problem United had bringing players in was that quite often they would identify a target who wanted to join them, but would then struggle to agree a fee with their respective club.
Geyse’s transfer was delayed as the club went back and forth with Barcelona over the summer
Marc Skinner’s side also brought in former World Cup Golden Boot winner Hinata Miyazawa
Geyse’s transfer, eventually completed last month, was delayed as the club went back and forth with Barcelona over the price of the deal. One agent told Mail Sport that United’s handling of transfer negotiations was ‘one of the worst processes’ they had ever seen.
‘The club likes to do things on the cheap,’ said another. That said, United triggered a £150,000 release clause to sign Gabby George from Everton and paid a record fee for a goalkeeper to recruit Phallon Tullis-Joyce, so have demonstrated a willingness to compete with their rivals.
One big problem United have had is negotiating new contracts with current players. The main issue seems to be the sheer number of people involved.
Polly Bancroft, the club’s head of women’s football, was originally handling contracts and transfers last season. Sam Barnett, who works on the men’s side, was then drafted in to help before United’s new transfer negotiator Matt Hargreaves and women’s player recruitment lead Harvey Bussell also became involved.
‘It’s a case of too many cooks,’ one agent told Mail Sport. ‘We were given a person at the club to talk to, then four days later they told us they were no longer handling transfers.’
Compared to clubs like Chelsea, United are still playing catch-up in the market. This was the first window where they were recruiting with Champions League football in mind. On Friday they will find out their opponents for their second-round qualifying tie, which will be played next month.
Is United’s squad stronger than last season? Time will tell. On paper, there is no reason why they cannot compete.
The summer of chaos may have come to an end but the most anticipated season in the club’s history is about to begin.
Phallon Tullis-Joyce was signed for a record fee for a goalkeeper from NWSL side OL Reign
WSL’S MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Alessia Russo, Arsenal (Free)
Stealing an elite striker from one of your rivals on a free is always good business.
Daphne van Domselaar, Aston Villa (Free)
Netherlands No 1 and Ballon d’Or nominee Van Domselaar was wanted by top clubs while at Twente. Her signing is coup for Villa.
Geyse, Man United (£250,000)
United smashed their transfer record to sign Brazilian forward Geyse from Barcelona. She will provide pace, flair and skill.
Daphne van Domselaar’s move to Aston Villa from Utrecht is a real coup for the WSL outfit
Catarina Macario, Chelsea (Free)
Fans may have to wait to see ex-Lyon forward Macario in action as she is still recovering from an ACL injury. But the 23-year-old American has the potential to be a superstar.
Jill Roord, Man City (£300,000)
City desperately needed to strengthen in midfield and broke their transfer record for the Wolfsburg star who can tackle, pass and finish.