There’s something to be admired about Ed Woodward. It takes a certain kind of character to look at Manchester United’s dismal start to the season – in which they have conceded seven goals in just four games – and decide that what they needed was another world-class centre forward.
But that was the thought process of the Man Utd vice chairman, who signed Radamel Falcao – arguably the best striker in Europe – on a year-long loan deal from Monaco. At a time when Louis Van Gaal needed a cake Woodward went on a deadline day trolley dash and brought him back some icing.
Fiat v Ferrari …
And yet Woodward and United’s transfer policy – which also saw them splurge £60 million on Angel di Maria – is as brilliant as it is mad. You can’t help but applaud a club that can act with such ballsy disregard for common sense or rationality.
Yes, United could have spent the reported £12 million on a solid midfielder like Nigel De Jong. Such a signing would have restored at least some balance to their top-heavy squad, but that’s the kind of thinking of someone who wears gloves while holding a sparkler. It’s only fun if there’s a chance you might get burned.
You don’t turn down the loan of a Ferrari, even if you need new tyres for your Fiesta. You get behind the wheel and see how fast you can go without being pulled over.
The signing of Falcao is unabashedly reckless.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 2, 2014
Taking a punt …
But look at what happened the last time United were so impulsive in their signing of a striker. Robin van Persie was hardly what the club needed back in 2012 but he ended up winning them the title. Falcao is a gamble but like every gamble the reward could be significant. Wherever Falcao has been he has scored goals. He scored 72 times in 87 games for Porto, before netting 70 in 90 appearances for Atletico Madrid. And he started at Moncao with nine goals in 16 games, before a knee injury cut short his season. United are counting on goals as the currency of success. There was a point when the move appeared in doubt; when the 11pm deadline had long passed and Falcao still hadn’t been announced as a United player. Had they poked around the Colombian’s fragile knee and found something? A coin? Was it held together with elastic bands and blue tack? Did they find ex-Man Utd assistant manager Steve Round in there?
Opportunity of a lifetime …
Despite undergoing his medical on Sunday Daley Blind’s move wasn’t confirmed until late in the evening, as if Falcao had been ushered through to put pen to paper while the Dutch international was told to wait a few more minutes at reception. Both players were eventually signed, but it was the arrival of a player, who has scored 43 goals in his last 57 appearances that stood out. And van Gaal wasn’t slow to take it saying:
When a player of Falcao’s calibre becomes available it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
That might be true but Woodward does business in a strange way. Just as last summer’s deadline day closes he admitted that he was concerned by the lack of star power at Old Trafford, complaining:
I don’t like the fact that, in the list of 25 players in the Ballon d’Or, we’ll have Robin (Van Persie) and Wayne (Rooney).
And someone should tell Wayne Rooney to be careful what you wish for in future.
Star wars …
Such comments hint at a change of approach at Old Trafford, where players are being targeted for their billing – rather than their function. Woodward speaks like the chairman of some nouveau-riche club looking to announce themselves to the world in the style of a WWE wrestler. Not the man in charge of a team like Manchester United.
In the past week the Old Trafford side have become the closest thing English football has ever had to Real Madrid’s ‘Galacticos.’
United could become the footballing equivalent of Transformers. There will be very little substance or structure to what we see, but who doesn’t enjoy watching two giant robots kick shit out of each other for 90 minutes?
Most opposition fans reveled in watching United’s demise under David Moyes last season. For those who lived through the club’s 20-year long dominance it was like seeing the Death Star explode.
Even with Falcao’s signing the Red Devils probably won’t be much more functional than they were under Moyes, but the difference is that Man Utd fans might now enjoy watching what’s about to happen on the pitch. Even if it’s pure chaos.