Manchester United’s hierarchy have been strongly criticised for not signing a centre-back such as RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano – with the decision not to pay up for the Frenchman labelled “a huge failure” and “a disgrace” by ESPN FC transfer expert Julien Laurens.
The Red Devils made five signings on transfer deadline day, bringing Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles, Willy Kambwala, Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo, although the latter won’t join from Atalanta until January.
But throughout the rest of the summer, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer only added Donny van de Beek to his squad.
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And United’s frailties defensively have been exposed by Premier League defeats to Crystal Palace and Tottenham, who scored six at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Even in their win over Brighton, United conceded twice and have leaked 11 goals in just three matches, despite conceding only 36 times in 38 top-flight games last term.
The decision not to sign a new centre-half has been criticised, with France international Upamecano a long-standing target.
But United have opted to put off additions in central defence until 2021, when Upamecano will be available for around £40million due to a release clause in his contract.
However, ESPN’s Laurens insists United should have paid whatever it would have taken to sign the fleet-footed defender this summer.
And he thinks the club’s board should specifically have taken a book out of the decision made by Liverpool to stump up £75m to land Virgil van Dijk, who has since had a transformative impact on the Reds’ back-line to turn them into Champions League winners and Premier League champions.
“I think it’s terrible, it’s a huge failure, it’s a disgrace. It’s a sign of incompetence,” Laurens declared.
“Sometimes you have to overpay. I think at the time Liverpool overpaid Virgil van Dijk, he was not worth the price that they paid.
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“At that time maybe they thought he was going to become the best but you could not have put your house on it really at the time, so they overpaid.
“Maybe United could have overpaid for Upamecano, thinking, ‘Okay maybe he’s not worth £75m now, but he will be in two years’ time or in a year’s time because he will be that good.’
“Sometimes you have to overpay. PSG overpaid for Kylian Mbappe, that’s the way it is, now he’s worth that money.
“Same with Van Dijk and it could have been exactly the same for United.
“I don’t buy that they didn’t want to overpay or didn’t want to pay too much. Maybe [doing] the same for Jadon Sancho is right too.
“It’s a huge mistake they didn’t sign a proper centre-back and I think I could easily see them being haunted being by the fact they will be stuck for at least six months with Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.”
Speaking on Sky Sports News on deadline day, Arsenal legend Paul Merson stuck up for United’s defenders and declared that they need a defensive midfielder to help shield them.
“Everyone is saying we need someone to play next to Maguire,” he said.
“Maguire is not blessed with pace, he’s not like Liverpool – who try to play two vs two – Man United play on the halfway line and they haven’t got the pace to play that way.
“When Brendan Rodgers came in at Leicester, he did try and play him higher up the pitch, but he’s more comfortable when he’s playing deeper. You’re asking him to play on the halfway line without a lot of pace.
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“I feel sorry for Man United’s back four because they’re the ones getting the stick but they’re getting no protection. The midfield was non-existent.
“You look at the players they want to bring in, for me, this is all for now – there’s no future in it.
“It’s definitely a quick-fix with Cavani; he’s 33 years of age. You’ve got Mason Greenwood there who is gonna be a proper player, in my opinion, is that gonna hold him back?
“Cavani was a great player, he was top drawer. He’s 33 years of age, how many players are playing in the Premier League now at 33 years of age? You’ve got to have pace.
“Man United try to play a certain way, counter-attacking with the pace of Martial, Greenwood, Rashford and even when James is in the team. All of a sudden, if Cavani is in the team, he’ll hold the ball up.
“For me, it’s a panic. He was a great player and I hope I’m wrong and he comes in and does the business.
“But it’s not a future signing, is it? It’s not like we’re moving forward at Man United and in three or four years, we’re gonna catch up with Liverpool or Man City. This is not gonna catch them two up now.”
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