In 22 years associated with the club as a player and working for their TV channel I have never seen United deal with transfers like they are this summer.
For some unknown reason United have become vocal and loud in the transfer window, which is totally un-United. It is very unusual for them, and never happened when David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson were running the show.
Now they are gone, certain people within the club are making a lot of noise with briefings and counter-briefings – they did it with Cesc Fabregas, and now they are doing it with Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines.
Teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich operate like this, but that is because they are utterly dominant in their regions; if you’re from a Latin country, you tend to favour one of Barca or Real, and if you’re from Germany, Poland or other central European countries it’s often all about Bayern.
So the policy of going public serves to unsettle the player and force the move, often for a lower price than the selling club initially wanted.
United don’t necessarily have this draw, because they have a new manager who – while obviously the right ‘fit’ for the club – is an unknown quantity as he hasn’t won titles.
Previously, everyone wanted to play for Fergie as they knew they’d win stuff and improve as a player, but that is not a certainty with Moyes. And even with the Fergie draw, United operated with discretion in the transfer market.
Ironically this new strategy would work with Jose Mourinho in charge – he is a mega-draw and players are desperate to work with him. But Mourinho is not a good ‘fit’ for United as he attracts too much of the wrong attention to the club, which inevitably becomes all about him and his personality.
I have no doubt that, with a couple of trophies under his belt, Moyes would find it easier to attract big players.
But what United are doing at the moment, in going public with bids, is putting pressure on Moyes before he’s even had a chance to get going.
United have played 90 minutes of Premier League football – which, incidentally, was a comfortable away win against tough opposition – and David is already finding himself up against it because of the embarrassing Fabregas saga, and this latest episode with his former club Everton.
It’s ridiculous really as, while United should add to the squad, it’s not as if they have to. There isn’t the desperation of Arsenal, for example, as this is a squad that won the league.
Obviously you should always look to improve your squad, and no more so than when you are successful – you cannot allow your players to become complacent, and the challenge of competition reaps rewards.
There are also a few positions where United need some more quality and depth – which are the positions they are targeting. They have conceded too many goals from the left-back position and lack depth, so Baines – who, with all due respect to Ashley Cole, is the best left-back in the Premier League at the moment – is the correct target.
Likewise, Fellaini would give the midfield that creative spark and bite that was missing in European games, although arguably United could be looking further afield for someone with Champions League experience.
In that sense United are looking in the right areas, at the right players. But, with the way they are publicly flogging themselves in the transfer market, they need to be careful that they are not drawn into overpriced panic-buys at the end of the window.
Also, Moyes is immediately becoming unpopular with Everton describing the bids as ‘derisory’. If you go in high it’s a panic buy; if you go in low it’s derisory. And anyway, the way these transfers are being dealt with is not Moyes’ fault, but club officials.
As a result, Moyes is under pressure, both for failing to get the likes of Fabregas, and irritating clubs with the public nature of the dealings. Neither of which are his fault.
You can bet that he will get all the praise if, as I suspect, United are top of the league in a few months. There is a level of hypocrisy surrounding the way people talk about United that is unparalleled in English football. But that goes with the territory of being the biggest club in the land – although United’s board need to start acting like it.