An inclement climate in Manchester means that precipitation is never too far away, with locals accustomed to having to take a waterproof jacket with them when leaving the house – just in case. For those setting up camp in the middle of Stretford, storm clouds have been hanging around for longer than many care to remember. Old Trafford has enjoyed many a day in the sun, but only the briefest chinks of sunlight have broken through in more recent times.
The 2021/2022 campaign was supposed to be different. Cristiano Ronaldo was given an emotional welcome back to his spiritual home last autumn, with Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho were also acquired in big-money deals. So it’s therefore quite the kick in the teeth that current Premier League winner odds have Manchester United priced at 500/1 in outright markets to be crowned victorious. This is not how the script was supposed to play out.
Few, though, can have any complaints at being written off in a race for domestic supremacy before spring has sprung. In truth, the Red Devils have been a long way off the pace. There are not many that can keep up with Pep Guardiola’s trophy-winning machine from across Manchester at City, but to be so far behind has become a serious cause for concern – especially as there is no imminent reversal of fortune in sight.
Another Premier League transfer window did provide a chance in which to get fresh faces on board and breathe new life into a campaign that could quickly fizzle out to nothing, but the opportunity was passed up without a chequebook being dusted off.
Maybe the right approach was taken there, with January recruitment markets notoriously difficult to navigate and find value in. Perhaps United have learned lessons from the past when it comes to throwing money at lost causes.
Realistically, what would investing heavily at the turn of the year have achieved in the grand scheme of things? United will feel as though they are already competitive enough to challenge for another FA Cup, while everyone is going to need a slice of luck in order to emerge victorious in the Champions League.
Ronaldo, Varane and Co know what is required on a European stage and appreciate the value of continuity and stability. Ultimately, it’s believed that by resisting any urge to splash the cash again, the Red Devils will also have added to a summer savings pot. History dictates that the off-season is a more productive time in which to conduct recruitment business, regardless of what the occasional expensive mishap may suggest.
United will be under new management next season, with Ralf Rangnick preparing to head upstairs, so why give the interim boss funds to spend on players that he will only be working with for a matter of months? Better to tighten the purse strings and play a waiting game.
Those at Old Trafford know that another rainy day will come – both literally and figuratively – and putting money aside for such an occasion is no bad thing. If productive business can be carried out when the current campaign comes to a close, with the potential still there for silverware to be secured, then the future may end up being brighter than the present.